THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
This is a proud moment in the club’s history. Not only does 2019/20 mark our 90th season but also the first team’s arrival in the third tier of English rugby for the first time. Many people, both on and off the field and throughout the years must take credit for our rise and, of course, the squad who fronted up so magnificently last season. It has been some journey. Now, after the celebrations and excitement surrounding our achievements, we start to face up to reality. National Division One presents a huge challenge to a club like ours which has taken pride in punching above its weight. Make no mistake, we will need all that spirit and more to establish ourselves at this new level. Many outside observers will have already marked Canterbury down as relegation material and the fixture makers have handed us one of the toughest opening months possible. In the next four weeks we have been paired with the sides that finished second, third and fourth in last season’s table, Old Elthamians, Blackheath and Rosslyn Park. Come October we will know much more about ourselves. If that prospect seems a little daunting it instructive to look at what has happened to clubs who have been promoted from National 2 in recent seasons. Today’s visitors, Old Elthamians, have not only survived but thrived. Chinnor, albeit through heavy recruitment every season, are still there while Bishop’s Stortford, a club more akin to our own in financial terms, were expected to struggle but are now entering their third season as a National One side. With the exception of Sale it is National 2 North clubs who have largely failed to stay the course in recent times. Is then National 2 South a better training ground for the challenges ahead? We shall see.
Welcome back all to what is an historic season for us and a milestone one too. It’s great that our first two matches at this level are against Kent friends Old Elthamians and Blackheath. Both had wonderful seasons last year with OEs pipped to the post to the Championship by Ampthill late in the season. A great performance in only their second year at this level – I’m sure they’ll be looking to go one better.. Our ambitions will be different but just as challenging. We have a steep learning curve but with the wonderful support from the side lines, our sponsors and the club we are confident we can prove ourselves at National 1 level.. We approach the challenge knowing we will need to show great character, humility, resilience and hard work. It should be a great journey which we’re looking forward too. Enjoy the game!
Andy Pratt, Head of Rugby
We have a new President, Greg Mayne, who undertakes his first official duty at today’s pre-match lunch. He takes over from John Scurr who has done a terrific job during his spell as the club’s figurehead and has been busy advising Greg on his new role and how to avoid the Dickie Ovenden joke book.
Greg was elected as only the tenth president in the club’s 90-year history at the Annual General Meeting in August and like his predecessors the former hooker is steeped in Canterbury rugby “Having joined the club as a fresh-faced, innocent Christ Church College student in 1984,” he said, “and having played for every team from 1st XV (yes, they were desperate that day!) through to the mighty 7ths (basically a Christ Church XV) and all stops in between, coached minis and juniors, been treasurer for a year, propped up the bar on both sides, given blood, sweat, tears (mainly of laughter) and made friends for life, I am honoured and privileged to have been made president and by glorious coincidence our first ever season in RFU National League 1. A tremendously exciting adventure for me personally and for the club generally, I look forward to a thrilling ride this season and for many others to come.” In his business life Greg is the VAT expert with Wilkins Kennedy, the accountancy firm which is one of the club’s sponsors. Now he will be adding value to Canterbury rugby – no fee of co
INS AND OUTS
One of the bonuses of the summer has been the number of familiar faces at pre-season training with last season’s successful squad still largely on board. Those who have left are lock Louis Whetton (New Zealand), Ben Neville (Australia) and fly half Ollie Best who has a new job which restricts his availability. Second team skipper Joe Craig has moved to Westcombe Park seeking regular first team rugby while Jonathan (JJ) Murray is taking a break from the game and we hope to see him back at some point.
Adding depth to Andy Pratt’s squad will be several newcomers.
The latest is former Connacht prop Jamie Dever who has been playing in the American professional league with Houston, as has lock Rob Meesom. Also joining the ‘engine room’ of the scrum is Will Scholes, a product of Cinderford and Bury St Edmunds, while prop Bill Young crosses from Sidcup. The back division has acquired former Nottingham Trent fly half or full back Max Craven, wing Dwayne Corcoran from Italian club Viadana and ex-Chinnor scrum half Mike McDonald, who unfortunately suffered a training injury and misses the opening games. There will be another front row arrival in October when Gene Symington joins from Manawatu once the season in New Zealand is over..
The club’s 90th year will be celebrated in style over a huge weekend in October. On Friday. October 11th we plan to hold a special dinner and with Oktoberfest scheduled the following day the festival marquee will be the dinner venue. Former England prop Jeff Probyn will be the speaker and there will be a four course meal. On Saturday the first team fixture against Cambridge coincides with the first ever game played by Canterbury in 1929. Organiser Steve Uglow has already had responses from many former players and would like as many as possible to organise tables. Together with president Greg Mayne and Chairman Giles Hilton, Steve will be contacting everyone individually. He is currently researching and writing a definitive history of the club and intends to have a display of our glorious past on view at the dinner. So get organised and make this the landmark occasion it deserves to be.
There have been physical changes at the ground over a busy summer, thanks mainly to the great work done by volunteers during the Natwest RugbyForce weekend in June and our sponsors. With England captain Dylan Hartley adding his construction skills there is now an accessible and dedicated viewing platform for wheelchair users at the top corner of the main car park next to the disabled driver bays. No longer will those great supporters have to strain to get a decent view of the game over the advertising boards. Talking of which we have new, raised pitchside hoardings opposite the clubhouse where the main bar area has been redecorated. A word or praise, too, for the small but colourful garden that as sprung up by the lunch marquee.