Stoke’s rugby youngsters back from the brink

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Stoke-on-Trent’s under-16s Rugby Club are celebrating a rags to riches success story after a turbulent year which they hope will now end with success in a prestigious county competition.

In January 2018 the junior team was down to 12 players and struggling to remain in existence.

The club nearly closed as troubles continued, but through sheer determination and grit they have more than doubled their numbers. In addition, the club has made it to the final of this year’s Staffs U16s Rugby Cup.

After beating Burton earlier in the season, the team is now set for the semi-finals and will be facing Walsall at Leek on 7 April.

Stoke RUFC minis and junior’s chairman Damian Hopkins said: “We’re on a roll now, I don’t see why we couldn’t win the cup.

“We have a real rags to riches story here. I think it’s our strong ethos and values that have helped us get to where we are 12 months on from almost shutting up shop.”

Even when times were tough, everyone from coaches, to players and their parents rallied together. The community reach of the club has provided a great opportunity to bring on new recruits.

Damian added: “From that phenomenal support, we now have a successful team of old and new players. We have managed to get sponsorship from local businesses and a parent. Thanks to Moody’s 1883 Jewellers, MAC Groundwork Contractors Limited and Security Plus, we were able to buy new kit and boost morale.

 “The ethos of rugby is at our very core: teamwork, respect, sportsmanship, enjoyment and discipline. We really stick to that and everyone gets to play every game.

“It’s difficult to recruit players but we’ve done it, giving us a good mix of players who are new to rugby as well as those with experience. And because of our strong values we are retaining all our players.”

The community spirit for the rugby team has really shone through and the help given to Stoke RUFC has really helped the team to achieve their best. They have even had help from other rugby clubs, which included them arranging more matches, so the team could get experience.

Other teams have also leant their players to Stoke RUFC when they were low on capacity and needed the numbers to be able to play.

Damian explained: “It’s come full circle because we are now in a position to help out the other clubs in return if ever they need it. But the support was fantastic, they didn’t just give us any player, sometimes they’d give us one of their best players to make sure it was a fair match.”

The club has a history of success and it is still continuing. Recently they’ve proudly seen an ex-Stoke RUFC minis and junior’s player, Dan Robson step up to play for England. They also currently have three players in the Midlands under-18s team and one in the England under-18s.

Damian commented: “It’s great to be able to show our team that there is a pathway to success here but also, a lot of the kids just love the sport and the club. The way the kids have changed and grown this past year is unbelievable, they’re really starting to shine.”

Stoke-on-Trent Rugby Club continue to recruit new players at all ages and experiences and more information about the club can be found on their website.

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