Whitehall Rugby Club
Whitehall Rugby Club was founded on the 11th May 1931. The original chairman was Mr A Hamlin who was the games teacher at Whitehall School. The majority of the players at this time were 16 years of age and the club was originally called Whitehall Old Boys, this was later changed to Whitehall Rugby Club.
In the early days games were played on council owned land and a local pub served as the clubhouse. By the 1980s, as the Club continued to grow, they approached the council to build their own clubhouse on the land where they played. They were offered an alternative site, a filled in quarry at Foundry Lane, this was accepted and eventually after being built by the players themselves the Clubhouse was officially opened in October 1984. We are located a stones throw away from the heart of the City of Bristol, less than a mile from our local rivals.
My involvement with Whitehall Rugby Club began on a Sunday morning in October 1996, when my eldest son, then aged seven, had his first taste of playing rugby, with the minis. My youngest son followed two years later. I helped with coaching his team and held the role of Junior Chair for a number of years until they were both playing senior rugby. This season, twenty one years later, I have the honour of being the Club Chairman.
One of the first things I noticed in the clubhouse was the family friendly atmosphere. There is a long tradition of families playing for the club. Men who played or who are still playing sit amongst their children and sometimes grandchildren on a Saturday or Sunday enjoying the post-match discussions. There are at least thirty pairs of brothers who have or are still playing for Whitehall, the majority of these coming through the Junior Section.
Our Junior Section has always been a valuable source of players. It was established in 1970 and has always been a vibrant and integral part of Whitehall RFC, endeavouring to teach girls and boys how to play skilful rugby in a safe, competitive and sporting atmosphere, endorsing the RFU’s philosophy of fun first, results second.
We are proud to have had several players who after playing as juniors, have gone on to play for Bristol Rugby Club. We do not currently have a ladies side but a past player Danielle Burrows represented Wales and Lucie Skuse who has been at the club from the age of seven, plays for the England U18 touch rugby team; she already has her level one coaching and has joined some of our Junior coaches alongside the RFU’s local Rugby Development Officer, at an after school club at the local City Academy School. We are hoping this will develop our ties further with the school and provide another source of young players.
Our third team is very much a vehicle for the colts players to find their feet in the senior game where they can be overseen by older players, who are probably in the twilight years of their rugby. At this age they are also given a gradual integration to senior training.
Last season was very disappointing for us as the first team was relegated from Western Counties North to the Gloucester Premier League. We started full of confidence despite initial losses but by Christmas it soon became clear that we were going to struggle, we had lost too many players to long term injuries.
This had a knock on effect to the Second and Third teams resulting in some games having to be cancelled for the Thirds. Despite relegation looming the team continued to play with belief in themselves and their team mates. The lack of success on the field did not affect the atmosphere in the clubhouse – home or away the players continued to remain buoyant, often outstaying our hosts in their own clubhouse!
Although we do not enjoy the sort of community connection that many rural or small town clubs do we offer the clubhouse for hire to a variety of groups and since 2000 we have held a Cider and Music Festival to promote local bands and bring the community together. We have much needed and valued support from a variety of sponsors.
As Whitehall’s first lady Chairman, I am aware of some pressure, to stand up to the “plate”. I am under no illusion that things may be tough at times but feel well supported by our longstanding President Chris Scott, who has Myrtle and Gold in his blood.
I believe we can achieve promotion in 2-3 seasons and will work with the committee to provide the means off the pitch, to help this happen. I recognise that without rugby there is no WRFC so I would say my greatest challenge is to keep Whitehall a great place to play rugby.
We have the potential to regain a place in the Western Counties League over the next five years. This will not be without hard work on and off the pitch. This season will be about consolidation. We need to build on existing skills and hope to have a consistent group of players for team selection.
We have recruited several new players who have given a boost to our aims of injecting pace and precision to our game. There are still a few players to return from injury and we hope that the colts that played in those difficult games last season will develop their skills under less pressure.
For now, I wish all our teams an enjoyable and successful season.
Article provided by Beverley Colton