Wheatley Hills RUFC do their bit for the community

Wheatley Hills RUFC's girls and volunteers are pictured after the litter pick.Wheatley Hills RUFC's girls and volunteers are pictured after the litter pick.
Wheatley Hills RUFC's girls and volunteers are pictured after the litter pick.
Wheatley Hills RUFC are the focus of our latest Q&A session.

We caught up with Olly Dixon, head of age grade rugby, to discuss how the Brunel Road club has played in an important role in the community over the last year.

How do you reflect on the last 12 months and what impact has coronavirus had on Wheatley Hills RUFC?

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It has been a difficult year both on and off the field for the club. Both the senior and age grade teams have been limited in their training activities.

Wheatley Hills RUFC out litter picking.Wheatley Hills RUFC out litter picking.
Wheatley Hills RUFC out litter picking.

Our senior teams have only manged to play in a Ready4Rugby tournament at Ashfield and a modified 15-a-side game with Dinnington at both 1st and 2nd XV level.

Our age grade teams, including both boys’ and girls’ teams, have only been able to play an internal Ready4Rugby festival.

Through the heat of last summer all of our teams had trained very well, following all guidelines, with the hope that we would be able to start our season as usual in September. We had lots of new players and, although training was a lot of fitness in small groups and with limited skill based training, spirits were very high.

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Not being able to get the season going was tough but training numbers were still good until this last lockdown. We have worked hard to maintain links with players and do some online fitness challenges. But rugby players are competitive people and they thrive on that competition.

Volunteers man the foodbank at Wheatley Hills RUFC.Volunteers man the foodbank at Wheatley Hills RUFC.
Volunteers man the foodbank at Wheatley Hills RUFC.

How has the club coped with the pandemic financially and from a social perspective?

Financially, it has been very difficult for the club, as you may have expected, as we have no bar takings or functions during what would have been our playing season.

However, it looks like we will be ready to open soon, once the restrictions start to ease.

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We are in the same boat as many other institutions who have had no or limited income over the last year. Our senior players have been a major help to the club having paid their annual membership, regardless of the fact that playing opportunities were limited.

Fin Garner clears up a vandalised bus stop.Fin Garner clears up a vandalised bus stop.
Fin Garner clears up a vandalised bus stop.

The social aspect of rugby union is an integral part of the sport. You play together as a team with regular socialising. Not having that team environment is tough for all concerned both mentally and physically.

When we have been able to, we have encouraged members to help in the communities. During the pandemic we have held two foodbank collections and litter picked Sprotbrough and Cusworth. One of our junior members, Fin Garner, received praise from the local community and a video message from England coach Eddie Jones relating to cleaning up after vandals in Sprotbrough. We also have volunteers at the Covid-19 vaccine centres.

Do you feel the RFU handled the 2020/21 league season in the best possible way?

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They didn’t really have any choice. The RFU first and foremost must safeguard all players’ health and wellbeing. So, despite the fact that we were all keen to finish the season, it was the right decision. The safety of our players has to come first, it is our first priority.

What are your plans for the return of community rugby?

We will have a schedule of training ready and raring to go for the week commencing March 29, which will incorporate all senior and age grade teams.

It will take a period of time from returning to training until players are fit and ready for games, so all training will look to ease players back into the fundamentals of rugby, so they are raring to go when the time is right for full contact games.

This will be underpinned by some work on getting all of our coaches up to speed with the latest regulations and providing support on how to make sure all sessions stay within Covid guidelines. We are determined to maintain a safe environment and respect the spirit in which community sport has been allowed to return.

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How is the first XV shaping up ahead of the new season and what is your target?

We have provisionally planned some friendlies for our 1st and 2nd XVs in May against Pontefract and Dinnington.

It is looking increasingly likely that we will return to competitive action in September, which we are looking forward to and will be putting the building blocks in place for a solid start and a run at promotion back to Yorkshire One.

What else is going on at the club?

Having constructed a purpose-built function suite and wedding venue (The Dunkerley Suite) two years ago, lockdown has allowed us to further enhance our already excellent facilities.

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We have extended the kitchen to better enable us to cater for large events, as well as totally remodelling the toilets in the Clubhouse Room, which now look fantastic and better match the rest of our great facilities.

The car parking area has been extended through the reclamation of an overgrown section of our grounds.

The grounds team has also worked tirelessly to maintain our pitches so they are in great condition ready for the return of rugby.

We certainly intend to come back with a bang on the pitch and a party off it!

*Visit wheatleyhillsrufc.co.uk for more information.