AGM Thursday 20st July 2023
High Wycombe RUFC Annual Chairman’s Report for 2022/23 Season
Firstly I am delighted to be able to write to you after a completely normal operating season with Covid now a distant memory, however as you will find detailed in this report, the fallout from the interruptions and restrictions experienced in 2020 and 2021 has severely aﬀected membership numbers at the club causing a drop in revenue and playing numbers in virtually all sections.
We are now well into the recovery period and sadly I am fearful that Rugby has been permanently damaged by the perfect storm of Covid, the link being made by some ex professional players to Brain disease, the inability of our governing bodies to be able to eﬀectively deal with the bad publicity and of course 3 Premiership clubs going out of business.
Surely this is the beginning of the end for Rugby Union in England?
With the professional game in chaos, now more than ever the role of community clubs have become even more vital and it is absolutely our responsibility to ensure that Rugby is made available to all of our young people in schools and in clubs promoting the huge benefits that being part of this great sport can provide. We need to showcase how the game has dramatically improved oﬀering a safe, enjoyable team sport with enormous social, physical and wellbeing benefits.
The Rugby Family must prevail and hopefully thrive once again.
Our coaching in the community programme is now over a year old being delivered by our partners; The Community Group and planning is complete for the new season where we will be delivering in schools, coaching to over 500 children.
In addition we are continuing to develop other aspects of non contact rugby in the form of Walking Rugby, Touch and Tots for the little ones!
Please keep a look out for regular updates on our email and social channels.
Around the Clubhouse you will see we have continued our upgrades, the shop will be converted to a Gents Toilet in August and the existing downstairs toilet will become unisex and provide convenient facilities for girls and woman during their games.
In addition a storage area will be created in the main clubroom to house our tables and chairs quickly enabling the room to be cleared for 3rd party activities and club functions.
The re-laid pitch adjacent to the clubhouse is now complete and being prepared for the new season, new posts have been delivered and new post protectors and pitch markers are on order.
Our new Balcony is now open and operational as hopefully you have all now experienced!
Jerome Bartlett will stand down at the end of 2023 season as Treasurer handing over to Mike Banton.
I would like to publicly thank Jerome for his huge eﬀorts and diligent work, he has been a very valuable asset to this club and I wish him a very happy and calm “slowing down” in his new surroundings of Bridport.
We are very fortunate to have a very able replacement in a true clubman as Mike, the hand over will take place over the year and Mike will formally take over at our next AGM in 2024.
Neil Weston continues as Commercial Chairman, we continue to be supported by our main partners; Revere Homes, Ethypharm and Hurst Estate Agents, in addition, the 200 Club continues to grow steadily and generate funds to continue the clubhouse improvements and maintenance. More 200 Club members are always welcome!
Neil has also overseen the promotion of our Balcony “buy a Brick” and the prestigious glass plaques campaign. This has resulted in well over £25k being pledged by our fantastic and loyal supporters, sponsors and also friends in the rugby fraternity, a massive thank you to you all on Neil’s and my behalf.
We also enjoyed a very successful Annual Dinner fundraising event in May, I would like to formally thank everyone involved for all your eﬀorts to make these vital events so successful to us.
On the Pitches..
Mike Kirby stepped up to Director Of Rugby supported by Joﬀ Forber, Dan Dudley and Toni Fiori as his Assistant Coach, 1st and 2nd team managers respectively.
It was recognised that the role of DOR and also managing our community programme was a huge challenge for 1 person so it has been agreed that for next season, Mike will continue as head of Development, a new exec role focussing entirely on the Community Programmes and managing the transition from our Juniors to Seniors and Matt Wardle steps up to the role of Director of Rugby.
Matt has appointed Mike Cussell as 1st Team manager with Dan Dudley continuing with the 2’s.
Joe Openshaw has been appointed 1st Team Captain, huge congratulations Joe, it is well deserved and I’m sure you will enjoy your responsibility as captain.
And a huge “well done” and thank you to Mike Fradgley for another completely committed season as Captain, Fradge is a true leader on and oﬀ the pitch and a big pair of boots to fill - is every sense of the word!
Ty Sterry returns as head coach for the season as unfortunately our existing coach; Harry Green was unable to continue due the travelling involved.
I would like to thank Harry for all his work during last season.
The 22/23 season started with a changed timings format from the RFU and leagues with competitive games starting 3 weeks earlier at the start of September. With this and what was an extremely hot summer, the ground was very hard and provided challenges that we would see right up to the new year with postponed games and a dramatic increase in injuries seen by all clubs in the area.
In spite of this, we played a pre-season game over at the recently promoted Reading, and a competitive training session at Amersham & Chiltern, both with really promising outcomes at clubs playing a level above us for the season.
The schedule of league games for the 1st XV saw us with games we were looking to target over the first couple of months of the season, followed by a tough stint leading up to Christmas. We also saw a great showing from the senior men’s players across our 2nd and 3rd XV over the first couple of months, getting 3 matches played on a number of occasions, which during this season was an impressive feat when compared to other similar local clubs. Unfortunately the rest of the season proved challenging with regard to player availability, which saw our 3rd XV withdrawing from the league to focus our eﬀorts on sustaining 2 senior men’s sides.
The lead up to Christmas provided further challenges with enforced breaks due to frozen pitches, however the appointment of Harry Green as head coach provided some fresh focus and enthusiasm for the players.
Following the Christmas break, we saw some great performances from the 1st XV, pushing high performing teams such as Bicester and Marlow, but coming away with frustrating losses. Our 2nd XV also saw a resurgence towards the end of the season with the players rallying to ensure the team could fulfil fixtures and not be removed from the league.
The season finished with some great momentum in successive wins vs Thatcham and Gosford with the 2nd XV also winning the games on those same days.
Unfortunately results in the level above us and a localised league restructure resulted in 5 teams relegated from Southern Counties North and relegation to L8 - BB&O for 23/24.
At the end of the season, our 1st team experienced a decent run in the National Papa John’s Cup, eventually narrowly losing to the very good Thanet Wanderers in the semi finals, one game away from the final at Saracens’ Home Ground.
In summary the 22/23 season was undoubtedly a challenging and frustrating one, marked by various external factors such as league restructures and adverse weather conditions. Despite these obstacles, we remain optimistic about our immediate future, the 1’s and 2’s look much improved in terms of numbers for the new season and our Social Vets side under the stewardship of the ever-enthusiastic Steve Swindells will play 5/6 games against local opposition in the newly formed Bucks Vets - ish League!
I’m delighted to confirm Kayleigh Winslade continues heading up the women’s section as Director of Women’s and Girls Rugby.
Another season done and dusted for the High Wycombe Women. The enthusiastic coaching team and high, consistent numbers at training provided a great platform as they took on the league challenges. With some outstanding team performances and the help of some individual brilliance our Women’s 1st team are now proudly this year’s league Champions! With hopes of promotion on the cards our sights are fixed on the new season, they take a short break to have some fun in the sun during summer touch, then it's back to the grind to prepare for the season ahead. Congratulations to the Women for a fantastic 2022/23 season, looking forward to the adventures of 2023/24 where they usher in their 10 year anniversary and the huge celebrations that milestone brings.
The girls' section have seen an action packed 2022/23 season in the Bucks Invitational League (BIL) and beyond. The U14s have played some tough opposition this season and picked up a few great wins along the way. They also enjoyed a trip to Twickenham and played a touch game on the hallowed tuﬀ as a curtain raiser for England vs Japan. It was a try fest for the girls which must have inspired the England men.
The U16s smashed through their opposition for most of the season dispite being outnumbered most of the time. The teamwork and resilience these girls showed us is second to none. When the chips were down these girls rose to the challenge, and for the most part, came out on top! High Wycombe hosted the U16s finals day for the BIL, which saw well over a 100+ girls playing rugby on a sunny April afternoon, which finished with the girls taking home the plate after their win on the day.
Despite the lack of numbers, our U18s have had a fantastic season. Their love of the sport has seen them seeking games when their schedules allowed it and representing High Wycombe for a number of other clubs across the county and beyond. The Women’s team are lucky enough to have a couple of these gifted players eligible to play senior rugby next year. Everyone is excited at the skill, strength and dedication they will bring to senior rugby setup.
Looking forward to next season it is all about growth. Reaching out to schools and social clubs amongst other places to introduce more girls to the best sport on the world! Thanks to the wonderful Fiona Czakan and her team for her continued hard work with the girls’ section.
Ben Moss took over from Mike Kirby as Youth Chairman in September and I am delighted to confirm he continues for the 23/34 season
Now that participation across Mini and Youth rugby has stabilised following the recent pandemic and its after-shocks, we are in a position to build again after significant and long-term investment in Community Coaching, club facilities and of course the ongoing support of parents and players. Certain age groups still remain under pressure, and steps have already been put in place to make sure the club (and other age groups) provides the necessary support.
On the field, our U11s won the prestigious Land Rover Cup - an excellent achievement, which also meant free tickets to the Premiership Final. And our U13s played strongly throughout the season and start league rugby when they move into U14s rugby in September. Several of our U16s move on into Rugby Academies in Oxford and Henley, and we wish them all the best; but the core of the side will be heading up into Colts rugby where we expect them to be joined by other players returning to Wycombe.
In summary a season not without its challenges, as the wider game of rugby and all professional and amateur clubs deal with various on and oﬀ field pressures that continue to test us. I continue to humbled by the many dedicated volunteers that have kept our club moving forward, and with that continued investment in time and energy I think we are set for a really positive 2023/24 season.
And finally from me, Natalie and all the committee; we look forward to seeing you all enjoying Rugby from our new Balcony in September for what promises to be another great year for our club.
Martin Good Chairman
High Wycombe Rugby Club 2022-2023 Season Awards
The Paul Russell Memorial Cup: Antonio Collinao and Sam Akerman
The Derek Stubbs Award for best Clubman: Michael Fradgley
Don and Min Dickerson Volunteer awards: Bob Gregory and Jen Lyons
Honorary Life VP: Kevin Green
Tankard For Services to the Club: Rob Purtill
Club Player of the Year: Sean Tolhurst
Club Trainer of the Year: James Roach
Club Leading Try Scorer Forwards: Tom Boardman
Leading Try Scorer Backs: James Shuck
Club Kicking Cup: Joe Openshaw
1xv young player: Aron Nuthall
1xv Players Player: Will Outten
2xv young player: Kieran Taylor
2xv player of the year: Matt Lovett
2xv Players' Player: Josh Bromage
Barry Nunn brace of Ales (best result v Marlow): 1st XV 3-26
Club top Team: Women 80% win rate
Top try scorer Forward: Jessica Tapping
Top try scorer Back: Laura Evans
Coaches' player: Franziska Vonhöne
Players' Player: Nieves Acero
Best Newbie: Maria Ward
Most Improved: Victoria Edington & Abigail Green