Oxford Rugby Football Club has seen many ups and downs in its 107 year history and the club founder, Alfred St George Hamersly, would be rightly pleased to see that it continues to flourish today.
Alfred played for England in the first ever international rugby match between England and Scotland at Inverleith in 1871 and then for the following three years. He then emigrated to New Zealand where he was responsible for founding the Canterbury Rugby Union after realising that distances were then too great to form a New Zealand Rugby Union before moving on to Canada where he was responsible for the formation of the British Columbia Rugby Union. So he had a background in organising Rugby Union and, having retired to Oxfordshire in 1904, the time was ripe to set up a club in the city.
The club was formed as Oxfordshire Nomads, given that name because it had no home field but played its games on various grounds where it could. The club colours of one inch green, white and black hoops still hold good today. The club survived two World Wars and became Oxford RFC in 1947 when a meeting of local clubs decided that a new club level should be introduced to improve standards so that the Oxfordshire County team could be accepted into the County Championship.
At this time the club were involved with a number of sports under the heading of Oxford Sports Club and a ground was bought just off the Southern Bypass in Oxford when ‘Bunny’ Cole, the then President paid for the deposit from his own pocket. The ground became an obvious choice for the newly named club that went on to buy outright the land and buildings in 1970, and the club continues to own these premises today.
The club won the Oxfordshire Cup eleven times and played in the final on another six occasions. Since then competition from other local clubs took its toll on the playing side and in 2007 the club offered the facilities in a ground sharing project with another local club. This brought thoughts of an amalgamation that many expected but did not take place when the sharing club returned to its council owned pitches on the other side of the city in 2014.
Oxford club players had been swallowed up in this time but under the leadership of Simon Bagnall a senior team was reformed and played a season of friendly fixtures which proved very popular with returning players, many of whom had come through the club’s vibrant mini and junior section.
To show their ambition, the players voted to re-join the league structure and have been led in this venture by the experience of the new Director of Rugby, John Brodley, former Oxfordshire County Coach.
Playing in the Oxon, Berks and Bucks Championship the team won just one match in the return season but this galvanised the players and this season has exceeded all expectations with the team winning twelve matches and the club fielding two separate teams on a number of occasions. With the larger core of players willing to move forward the club is looking to enter a second team, the Nomads, into the league structure next season.
With this current season slowly coming to an end the club is now looking beyond although there is still much to look forward to. The club’s Under 15 team has reached the Final of their County competition for the third successive season, and now meet Henley in the Final. The Under 16 team has reached the semi-final with all to play for and on the back of these successes the club is creating a Junior Development Centre for 14 to 18 year old players with a focus on the transition into senior rugby.
All this has been done while a group of parents from the mini and junior section made a successful appeal to members for funds, which was matched by the Rugby Football Union, to enable the clubhouse to be completely revamped.
The club is ambitious and within a five year period has given itself the target to field three teams with the First XV being promoted two levels up the playing structure.
Article provided by Club President Richard Tyrrell