- Barnsley O2 Touch sessions thriving
- South Yorks Sevens take-up doubles
South Yorkshire is proving to be a very fertile patch for rugby development, with the thriving O2 Touch programme at Barnsley RFC growing by the week and Saturday’s (July 7) final of the South Yorkshire 7s at Thornensians RFC underlining the community’s expanding interest in two different strands of the sport.
Interestingly, both competitions have benefited from the use of social media promotion to broadcast the opportunity for clubs and individuals to take part, with the numbers involved in both projects well in advance of last season.
Attendances at the Monday night O2 Touch get-togethers (6-7pm) quickly exceeded last year’s figures and while the plan is to run the sessions until the end of September, further increases in support will almost certainly bring an extension into the new rugby season.
“We only had a couple of teams in the first week, but that has now grown to six,” says Community Rugby Coach Andrew Gilmore Appleyard. “The programme is open to anyone in the Barnsley community and has attracted a number of rugby beginners, which is really pleasing.
“It’s great to see people signing up to the touch. I see it as a way for current rugby players to keep on top of their fitness levels and keeping their attacking and handling skills sharp, but is also a great way of introducing beginners to the game.
“A number of Barnsley College football players and some of the town sports workers have been involved and improved noticeably since Week One. The experienced rugby players have helped them along the way and so far it’s been a really positive project at the club.”
Dave Drumgoon, a Sports Development Officer and rugby novice endorses that view.
“We’ve had a really positive experience with a wide cross section of community players engaging in a worthwhile activity.” he says. “I have used the sessions as a way of increasing my fitness levels and meeting up with people I haven’t seen for a while. It’s been an accessible, inclusive, safe and most enjoyable experience.”
In recruitment terms, the sessions have attracted four rugby newcomers from Barnsley College and a handful of ex-players in the "vets" age-group have also become involved. The sessions are ‘pitch up and play’ so team numbers vary, but with more time to plan the promotion this year, the organisers have attracted a much better response.
While the focus of the O2 Touch is on attracting newcomers to the game, the South Yorkshire 7s will freshen memories of one of the district’s most popular rugby figures from an earlier era when the Dick Endall Trophy is presented to the winners on Saturday.
Dick, a dedicated supporter of schools rugby from Ecclesfield Grammar and a former Yorkshire President, made the trophy for use as a trophy for the South Yorkshire Under 15 Sevens in the Sixties and that eventually found its way to the Senior Clubs Sevens when it was started in 1989 and won by Doncaster RFC.
Last year the trophy went outside the county for the first time when Bakewell Mannerians emerged victorious, although a different name will be going onto the trophy this season as the Derbyushire club did not make it from the two qualifying tournaments at Barnsley RUFC and Dinnington RUFC.
The growth in the entry list from 15 clubs last season to 32 this underlines the burgeoning interest in the sevens format, a fact endorsed further by the fact that guests from Keighley RUFC, West Leeds RUFC and Scunthorpe RUFC have qualified for the Thorne final.
Qualifiers for Saturday are: Pool A - Barnsley TMS, Team Amaze Balls (Wath), Keighley, Dinnington Velociraptors. Pool B - Dinnington All Starrs, War Lords (West Leeds), Thorne Panthers, The Pigs (Stocksbridge). Pool C - Wheatley Hills, Team Damage (Scunthorpe), Hemsworth, Sheffield Oaks.