I hope your friends and families have managed to stay safe, and we should take pause to remember those who weren’t so lucky. The last couple of seasons in the community game have been incredibly challenging, with little or no rugby being played, however I’m really pleased to report that the OC’s is in healthy order, and I’m looking forward to welcoming everyone back to play a wonderful season of great rugby!!
The new fixture card has been sent out but if you do not receive one let me know, it’s packed with useful information and handy contact details. As your new Chairman, I welcome back all the players, support staff, committee members, directors, volunteers, coaches, grounds staff and bar staff, and I look forward to seeing you at the matches, training sessions, pre-match lunches and other social events that we have planned as we gear up for the new season. I would also like this opportunity to thank Dave Hodgkiss.
After 8 years of impeccable service to the club as Chairman, Dave Hodgkiss has decided to step down. His support, commitment, and drive will be a very hard act to follow. Undoubtedly during this tenure, Dave has left the club better organised, significantly increased membership across all areas of the club, improved the facilities, whilst increasing investment in critical areas such as coaching and programs with the ‘all schools’; ensuring disadvantaged kids get access to rugby. He was also instrumental in setting up the girl’s rugby to OC’s. Thank you for your service Dave! Later in this letter, I share with you some thoughts for the future, I hope you will equally share my excitement and passion in what lies ahead for OC’s!!
Pre-season training is already well underway, with a host of new talent joining from other clubs, as well as our OC development programs contributing heavily towards the 1XV selection. Games against Sidcup and Old Reigatians have already been organised for the 1st & 11th September – please see the website (or message me) for further details.
After the great Intermediate Cup and Spitfire Vets Cup runs of the last playing season (2019/20) all the senior sides are hoping for a good start to the season. We are aiming to improve the league positions for all the teams, with an ambitious London 2 campaign planned for the 1XV. Our Colts look on fine form as they also look to improve their results, with many of the older lads looking to play senior rugby this season.
Our Minis and Juniors are exuberant regarding the return to Horn Park. They have never looked so healthy in terms of numbers. We continue to integrate the RFU ‘AgeGrade Rugby’ concept and are part of the Quilter Kids First Rugby programme. As part of the return to rugby, we are hosting a ‘Pitch Up for Rugby’ Event on the 11th/12th September, where we are open to everyone, boys, girls, ladies, and men, with lots of exciting sessions planned!! I must thank all of the managers and coaches for keeping contact with players and parents during the lock down, as it feels due to their hard work, we have actually gained players and are in a strong position.
The girls’ teams are also in a good position hopeful that competitive games can resume soon. We are looking to expand the number of players in all the age groups. The next target is to get our senior Ladies team up and running so we have a pathway for the girls to aim for in playing senior and quality rugby.
The usual thank you must extend to Vicky Fleetwood and Tom Chapman who have held numerous touch, fitness, and non-contact rugby sessions during the break. Both are heavily involved in the coaching down at OC’s, are a constant source of good ideas, and have also been helping me out in an exciting new project to improve the facilities. Thanks once again!
I promised to share with you some early thoughts about what lies ahead in the coming months and years:
A new 5-year plan for OC’s. With the help of you, I want to make OC’s the best amateur club in SE London. We will do this by offering the highest levels of coaching standards, having top class facilities, with having great socials!! I plan to openly share and communicate the principal aspects of the plan/vision with you soon, so that everyone knows the direction we are heading and the objectives we are all trying to achieve.
- We are currently going through the final stages of planning permission for a new state-of-the-art training facility (“The Barn”) to help with strength and conditioning, whilst running classes for the wider community. With the right approvals from the stakeholders, I’m hoping to get approvals by the end of the year. More updates on this to come, but no doubt you will see the ‘fund thermometer’ in the bar soon as we look to raise additional funds (we have already raised a significant amount!!).
- With the help of Tommy Chapman, we have implemented a new Business Directory (https://www.ocrfc.co.uk/business-directory/) allowing firms to not only offer their business services to the club, but a way in which the members can search and find useful businesses to use, often with a club discount! Longer term, we have visions of extending the use to facilitate apprenticeships and jobs for our younger members too.
- We have other, but equally important, projects underway such as, recognising and celebrating our diversity, new ladies changing facilities, improving the website with video content, improving social media content, partnerships with other clubs and universities, and improving our schools outreach (new members joining and schools wanting to make rugby a part of their curriculum)
- There are even whispers of a club wide tour to Argentina being plotted for the 2023 or 2024 season……
So, some very exciting new changes to look forward to. Please do come and see me if you have any ideas, I promise I will listen and consider them.
One thing that is for sure, is that none of this amazing work could be achieved without the countless number of volunteers that work in the OC’s team. A personal thank you from me for the time and effort you put in to make this place special. We always need more help, so even if you can spare just an hour a week, please come and find me and join the team!
We are still working in five local schools as part of the Schools Outreach programme and are building on a plan to expand this, the funding for this will come from the Rugby Camps that we run ourselves with Ben Hutchings and Tom Rameaux.
Can I encourage you to become a social member of the rugby club and to thank those who already are, also a massive thank you to our sponsors!! The Rugby Club is a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC), this gives us tax benefits similar to those for charities, including Gift aid. Also, those who are in the 200 Club are making a further contribution to the club, over £15,000 at present. Please join if you have not already. Peter Davies is the contact for this (firstname.lastname@example.org), just £5 a month with a chance to win some big cash prizes.
We continue to adhere to extremely high standards the RFU set around safeguarding, and we are still heavily involved in various charities like Wooden Spoon, and CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), a charity with recent prominence given the events in the Euro’s.
Even during the recent covid restrictions, and during the constant monsoons, we have still managed to get some great social underway. We are doing our best to regularly update the website http://www.ocrfc.co.uk so that is always up to date, plus there are countless WhatsApp’s groups that are available with news and updates, or if you are a bit old fashioned like me, you can also speak to me in person Rob Gardiner (our brilliant new Vice Chairman) is also available to answer any questions too.
I’m energised and enthusiastic about the next few years ahead, buzzing at the thought of seeing rugby return to OC’s next month, but most of all, it’s the thought of seeing you all again having fun at Horn Park.
Best regards and come ‘on OC’s!!
Bill Blythe – OCRFC Chairman