- Rugby newcomers appreciate O2 Touch at Hallamshire RFC
- Scheme praised by new male and female players alike
A rugby union development initiative being piloted at Hallamshire RFC in Sheffield is winning support and praise from newcomers to the code who have been involved in the first tranche of sessions run at the club’s headquarters at King Edwards School Sports Centre in Crosspool.
The O2 Touch programme has been trialled at 15 centres nationwide, with Hallamshire RFC, Scarborough RFC and Chester RFC running sessions in the North to help gather intelligence ahead of the launch of a much wider programme in 2013.
The Hallamshire project is the most recent stepping stone to further development at the club and a testimonial from one of the newcomers involved in O2 Touch – ironically a rugby league enthusiast – explains why the club has been so successful.
“As someone who hadn't picked up a rugby ball in anger for 20 years, I was a bit nervous about playing again,” said Zack Wilson. “Thankfully, the O2 touch sessions at Hallamshire provided a straightforward way back into the game for me.
“Contacting the club was really easy, thanks to the contact details provided by O2. There was a real warm welcome as well from O2 organiser Brian Spolander and the others at the club – even for a rugby league type like me!
“The sessions themselves have been great - challenging as well as enjoyable, proper training. We've had some good coaching as well as playing a lot of touch.
“Overall, I've found that I can still handle a rugby ball, even at the age of 38, and my fitness has improved no end. I'm even looking at playing some rugby union Vets games and friendlies for the club in the New Year.
“The whole thing is highly recommended. People from other sports should come down and give the game a try too – you might find a new sport for yourself. We've even got an ex-Aussie Rules player with us now.”
The Hallamshire project has also earned applause for being women and novice friendly. Says Megan Staley of Sheffield Hallam WRFU: “Getting involved with the O2 Touch scheme has been great for us as it caters for all levels of experience - whether you’re brand new to the sport or wanting to improve on old skills.
“The friendly, relaxed atmosphere at the Sheffield base also makes it appealing, especially to both men and women who may have been nervous to start with and are still picking the game up. It’s definitely worth heading down to give it a try.”
The club’s successful O2 Touch programme follows inaugural fixtures for Vets and Under 12 teams, important milestones for the fledgling club, which recently passed the threshold of 18 senior team fixtures required for full membership of the RFU well ahead of schedule.
“We’ve really enjoyed hosting the O2 Touch programme and it’s been going really well,” said Brian Spolander. “The programme has given us something extra and has brought new faces to the club, not simply to enjoy the mid-week touch sessions, but also to get involved in playing the full version of the game on Saturdays.
“We’ve had four or five O2 Touch players who have joined the club and started playing, which is a big influx at our stage of development.
“We’ve also established a good relationship with the girls who have come down and we’re looking at trying to arrange a women’s fixture. We’ve had conversations with the women’s team from Sheffield Hallam University who have been coming down and we’re hoping to have more of them involved when we re-start on the second week in January.”
With 38 players involved on their best night – exceptional given some of the weather they’ve had to contend – and the strong prospect of growing that number when the programme resumes, the mood in the camp is very optimistic.
The Hallamshire club is still less than a year old, but with First and Second XVs and a Vets now operational, the club leading the South Yorkshire Merit Table, Junior rugby in place and an Under 12 team active and now the O2 Touch initiative helping to spread the word, the future looks very rosy indeed.
To become involved in any of these strands of activity contact Brian Spolander at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the club’s website www.hallamshirerufc.com or find them on Facebook for more information.