- New Norton College pitch is milestone for RDO
- Growth of rugby underlines long-term project
Photo: RFU Archive
The opening of a new pitch is a significant milestone in the history of any rugby club or school, but for RFU Rugby Development Officer (RDO) James McKay, the creation of a dedicated rugby playing area at Norton College in North Yorkshire was a particularly gratifying event.
That the RDO for East Yorkshire and York should be invited to handle the formalities was both entirely appropriate and somewhat emotional for the Kiwi, who can point to the growth of the game at the college as a barometer of his work since he arrived in Yorkshire over a decade ago.
“This was one of the first schools I worked in when I came to England in 2001,” he recalled. “Back then I was a YDO and Norton School was a football school with football teachers, although Jonathan Newton, who was a soccer man, helped me get a foothold for rugby.
“After a lot of hard work and relationship building, rugby became part of the curriculum and the school started playing regular fixtures. Now they have a Rugby Academy and a rugby pitch.”
The growth of rugby at the college has owed a great deal to the support of local club Malton & Norton RFC, who have provided a home venue since rugby was introduced into the Sixth Form in 2009.
The additional wear and tear inflicted on the pitches at The Gannock meant that the association was not an ideal state of affairs, but with the college gradually developing its rugby provision and investing significantly in the sport, the creation of a rugby pitch was part of the development programme.
For Phil Loftus, Head of Norton College, the new pitch is a further step on the road to making Norton a centre of excellence for the game in North Yorkshire following the launch of the Rugby Academy team in 2010.
That was supported by the development of other teams across the school spectrum and thanks to this new facility, Norton teams are now looking forward to playing home fixtures at their own ground in the future and to hopefully replicating the outcome of the first home game, when a Year 11 team beat local rivals Malton School 22-5 to cement a successful debut.
The depth of rugby’s current contribution to the college is reflected in the fact that the Academy Sixth Form Team now get eight hours a week of rugby coaching split between strength and conditioning sessions in a state of the art fitness suite, Wednesday games and training and sports science sessions as part of the curriculum.
“It has been a long and hard battle to get this pitch at a school dominated by soccer coaching, but we see it as a stepping stone for the future and hope to run coaching courses in the future as an Approved RFU Centre,” said Director of Rugby Dave Kirk. “We had a long wait for the new pitch, but it was worth waiting for.”