TOO MUCH RUGBY?
Ahead of the Rosslyn Park match there were twelve senior squad players on the injured list and potentially unavailable for selection. Some will, hopefully, be returning soon; others in the medium or longer term. We are not alone. This week Richmond Director of Rugby Steve Hill, a former captain of the Kent County side, pleaded for a shorter season for all National League clubs before wear and tear on players does permanent damage to the game. Steve believes that unless changes are made players at the semi-professional level will start to walk away from rugby and that will have an impact at every level. While clubs will always find ways to field a first team many are already cancelling second team games after senior team calls have left them short of players. Our own Pilgrims squad have experienced cancellations this season with both Chinnor and Cinderford unable to raise second teams. The heavy injury list has also left the Pilgrims themselves struggling to make up the numbers and we were forced reluctantly to forfeit the scheduled game against Rosslyn Park 2nd. Steve’s solution is to reduce the leagues to fourteen teams from the present sixteen, bringing down the number of games from 30 to 26 per season, and a rethink on breaks. He points to the sixteen games played in the first half of the season without a single Saturday off. He has plenty of support, too. After conducting a poll of other clubs he found that almost seventy per cent were in favour of a reduction in the number of games.
The clubs who argued for maintaining the status quo did so mainly on financial grounds and the loss of four games would affect revenue. However, the real issues here are the welfare of players and where rugby is heading. Those players, like those in our own squad, who play part time and have jobs and families to consider may feel that too much is being asked of them as the game gets ever more demanding. Will the National Clubs Association listen? Time they did.
EDDIE HARDY: CANTERBURY MAN
In the week before Christmas the club lost one of its own, Eddie Hardy.
His connections with the club go back over 60 years and he served as a fine player, as fixture secretary, bar steward and ultimately as President .
Eddie , who was 85, was the soul of Canterbury rugby. He joined the club in the 1950s and quickly established himself in the first team as a talented and mobile hooker. He captained the side for four seasons and was the first Canterbury player to be capped by the county. In the opinion of many good judges he should have been selected for Kent far more often.
His exuberance and joie de vivre was infectious and in the 1970’s Eddie’s pub, the Nag’s Head, was the happy meeting place before away matches.
When his playing days ended he became a great club servant, running the bar, serving as fixture secretary for the club and the East Kent Fixture Exchange, refereeing (perhaps not his greatest skill) and as our much loved president between 1991 and 1996.
This genuine and lovely man will be missed by all of Kent’s rugby community and our thoughts are with Anne and the family at this difficult time. Family members are with us at the Rosslyn Park match and we ask everyone to join them in remembering and honouring this real Canterbury man with a minutes’ silence before kick-off.
Eddie’s funeral will be at Barham Crematorium in Tuesday, January 28th at 11.20am followed by a reception at the club.
HALF TERM REPORT
Most of us know the feeling; the school report that always seemed to say ‘Could Do Better.’ Clearly, that must be the verdict on the first half of our season. No one doubted that promotion to National Division One would present a challenge and it has proved even more demanding than many anticipated. We go into the New Year at the bottom of the league table with only one victory from sixteen matches. The question is, are we good enough to compete in National Division One, a league that is probably stronger than it has ever been? To answer that it is necessary to look beyond the statistics. We have been handed one or two salutary lesson by teams at the top,, yet in four matches we lost by only one score. We were in positions to win against Blackheath (home), Birmingham Moseley (away), Darlington Mowden Park (home) and most recently Rotherham (away). The game at Chinnor was another that should have gained us a bonus point. Had we won those games we would now be out of the league’s bottom three. So despite the frustrating failure to close out matches our ability to survive at this level is there. The remaining four months of the season is an opportunity for us to grow as a team.. It will take a great leap of faith and masses of hard work to avoid relegation but nothing is impossible.
CASUALTY ROLL CALL
The busiest place in the club this season has been the treatment room. At the latest count there were up to twelve senior squad players on the physio table so here is the roll call.
Max Craven, muscle rupture; Freddie Edwards, bicep; Charlie Grimes, ankle, Tom Guest, shoulder; Sam Kenny, knee; George Micans, shoulder; Aiden Moss, knee; Jarvis Otto, knee; Sam Rogers, prolapsed disc; Will Scholes, dental surgery; Gene Syminton, concussion; Elliot Lusher, shoulder. In addition, Aaron Cooper has been sidelined with a blood pressure condition but is now on the mend.
One or two of those listed may beback in action immediately but with so many absent spare a thought for the selectors who are struggling to find any continuity. Hopefully the five front row men on the list will soon be back as that specialist area is subject to its own rules and restrictions.
A Happy New Year to everyone and a big welcome to Rosslyn Park players, staff and supporters.
It’s been a while since we’ve been at The Marine Travel Ground so it’s good to be back after a well-earned (if brief) rest for everyone. The trips to Rotherham and Blackheath prior to Christmas were full of promise following the win over Cinderford last time out at Merton Lane. The loss in Yorkshire was agonising, particularly considering the Rotherham turnover that led to their winning score was clearly illegal. However, we should have made more of our opportunities.
A vital ingredient in the win over Cinderford and the near miss at Rotherham had been our excellent discipline. We let this slip at Blackheath, particularly in the first half and it took the game away from us. Some decisions may be debatable but others were not – we simply cannot expect to come away with anything against teams at this level and give away soft and avoidable penalties. A huge thank you to the travelling support who came down.
Andy Pratt, Head of Rugby