- North Devon Barbarians drawn from a range of clubs
- Part of RFU's drive to retain young players
Photo: RFU Archive
Devon County RFU has presented the North Devon Barbarians with a new set of shirts featuring the colours of the five clubs from which players are drawn – Bideford, Ilfracombe, South Molton, Tiverton and Torrington.
North Devon Barbarians are the brainchild of North Devon Community Rugby Coach, Wayne Reed. They are a team of Colts from local clubs that do not have enough players to field their own Colts teams. Reed decided to act as he saw that these young players would be otherwise lost to the game – and so the Barbarians were formed.
Reed explained how the team is formed each week: “The team runs itself by using social networks and at present there are over 80 members of our Facebook group, all of whom are players or coaches.
“The aim of the team is firstly to keep the club players playing until they are seniors and hopefully, recruit enough new and former players so that some of the clubs are able to field their own teams again.”
Reed’s initiative goes to the heart of the RFU’s drive to retain players and also to attract players back to the game, which is vital in the younger age groups. He quickly identified the reasons why there had been a drop off in player numbers locally.
“I have identified many reasons why there has been a drop off of players at this age group, including player migration, work or college commitments and other activities being available. But one of the main reasons I found was the shortage of volunteers to coach and run these teams and also that the qualifications of those who were coaching could be improved.”
As well as arranging fixtures for the Barbarians, Reed has been organising local coaching courses and is looking to get 18 coaches from nine clubs up to level 2 during the summer. The focus will be to target coaches that are willing to coach at this age group.
Local coaches fully support Reed’s initiative. Gary Bucknell, senior coach at South Molton RFC, said: “If it wasn’t for the Barbarians keeping our players playing then we would potentially lose 5 senior players next season.”
This week the Barbarians played a really entertaining game against Tavistock RFC eventually losing 38-7, the lone Barbarians’ try being scored by Joe Andrew from South Molton RFC. The score did not reflect the massive effort and commitment from the Barbarians players and they were a credit on and off the pitch to themselves and the clubs they represent.
This was also quite a special game for the team as it was the first time they had worn their new strip provided by the Devon RFU. The shirts were presented by Dave Butt, Chairman of the County Community Rugby Committee. He was keen to show his support: “North Devon Barbarians are a great example of how a CRC can help small clubs and maintain their youth playing base for everyone's benefit.
“This initiative in North Devon could well be a template for others to follow and is a great example of true partnership between CB, Development Officers, supported by the RFU, and most importantly, the Clubs - and youngsters putting aside local rivalry to get a game of rugby played.
“I am delighted to be associated with this initiative and wholeheartedly support the Barbarians.”
Not only is the team made up of players from different clubs, but the games are rotated between the clubs that have players involved. This latest match was hosted by Ilfracombe Rugby Club who are celebrating their 135th anniversary this year.
So far the Barbarians have played 5 fixtures and have another 3 planned before the end of the season. This means that 18 to 25 young players will enjoy game time and their opposition have meaningful and enjoyable fixtures.
The Barbarians have enjoyed widespread support. Derek Keeling, who refereed one of the Barbarians game said: “It's good to see clubs in North Devon pulling together and supporting this set-up. After all, the clubs can only benefit in the long run from this initiative, or lose out on future players if they don't! I hope they enjoy their rugby for the rest of the season”.
Reed summed up by saying: “It is great to hear from different people within the game that they feel the Barbarians are worthwhile.
“I would just like to take this opportunity to thanks all the players, coaches, clubs and the County committee for their help and support in this project.
“I don’t intend for the Barbarians to be a permanent team and hope at least 2 of the 5 clubs providing players will have their own sides again next season. We just need to ensure as many players are getting games as often as possible so we don’t lose any more of them from our beautiful game.”