While rugby’s elite battle it out on the various summer tours – which for the first time in memory are so far going better than we (the northern hemisphere) could ever have hoped for (unless you’re Wales) – the glorious grassroots of the game return from a couple of months off to the slightly less glorious prospect of pre-season training.
One such club is Aireborough RUFC, which plies its trade in Yorkshire Division Three.
A mixed 2015-16 season saw the club placed second from bottom in the league in mid-February but a remarkable late-season turn-around – 10 wins out of their last 13 games, including triumph in the Aire-Wharfe Plate – allowed for a comfortable finish. Indeed comments on the Yorkshire Rugby forum had their opponents questioning what it was Aireborough had started drinking, but whilst this end-of-season run-in will seem remarkable to the onlooker, the turn-around didn’t come as a surprise to those embedded within the club.
As part of a series (of two!) interviews, Take The Three has caught up with the Aireborough coaching team to get their verdict on the upturn in form and what’s to come for the club.
In particular, the recruitment of player-coach Simon Davies at no.8, a well-known figure in Yorkshire rugby circles and whose rugby CV includes Bath University 1st XV, Yorkshire and Bradford Salem, has helped the Aireborough forward pack assert its dominance over its local rivals.
Take The Three: Simon, hello! What was it that brought you to Aireborough?
Simon Davies: As is often the case I suppose, my coaching was slightly enforced by injury. I ruptured my ACL and was potentially facing a year or so without playing. I’m based locally, and have existing close ties to the club, through my partner (Heidi), who is the physio at Aireborough, so I came down and watched a few games. I thought that maybe I could be an influence so spoke to Matt [Trevithick, Head Coach] and he agreed that I could do a little coaching. It kind of just happened. Matt T’s coaching record speaks for itself, so the opportunity to work alongside him at Aireborough, while growing my own coaching experience, will be an exciting challenge in the years to come. Also, I’d like to mention how welcome everyone has made me feel at the club, from Matt, Martyn [Booth, club captain] and Rich [Lister, 1st XV captain] down to everyone else who has been involved on and off the field throughout the season.
TTT: You’re still playing and seemingly going strong, so what was the attraction of getting into coaching?
SD: I wouldn’t say going strong but thanks. I had been considering coaching for a while so with the injury and the fact that I am no longer a spring chicken that coaching was the next logical step for me. I still feel that I have something to offer in a playing capacity, though that will be going on the back burner for the next 12 months.
TTT: How does being on the field affect your ability to coach on matchday?
SD: I am a firm believer in leading by example. On occasions things that I was trying to relay may not have come across in the right way so I thought I would (for the short term) play and demonstrate where I was coming from in a live situation. Sometimes that can add credibility to what you are trying to relay to others. It was just my way of enforcing my ideas and to a certain extent I think it worked well. Credit to the players though because they really upped their game and made it easier for me to do what I was doing – mainly hobbling around the field and barking orders! That said, I am only trying to tweak small aspects of the game; Matt is the one who has to put it all together and our relationship has worked well.
TTT: What are your goals for the club in the short-term?
SD: Who knows? Lets enjoy playing hard and fast rugby, get the results we want and then see. I am just enjoying the new challenge.
Photo credit: Andrew Wood.
New players and volunteers are always welcome at Aireborough RUFC. For more information about how to get involved, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit pitchero.com/clubs/aireborough.