James McGeough, Chair at Cheltenham Civil Service RFC

Chairman’s Report 2021/2022

I’d like to thank all of those who have contributed their time and efforts in helping run the club over the past season. An awful lot of things have to happen for us to put matches on, both on and off the field, in all sections of the club. Whilst I can’t call out everyone, I’d like to especially call out Becky Parsons, who ably supported by her mum Joanne has provided excellent post match food, plus also providing first aid support (including a broken leg on the next door football pitch) and helping coach the Sharks. I’d also like to thank Nat who has ably filled Peter Shortell’s boots as Club Secretary and has really helped with increasing our engagement with members and supporters. A special mention to Cameron Janes, who’s created our new Walking Rugby section which has proved very popular, and something personally I enjoy taking part in when I can. 

There are a number of our volunteers who have made a significant contribution to the club over the years and are now standing down. I’d especially like to mention Paul Stickler who’s retired as men’s head coach. The amount of work he put it will be much missed. I’d like to take this opportunity to present Paul with club colours to thank him for his efforts. Rhod Broad has also stood down due to moving away from his role as Treasurer and sadly Alex can no longer serve due to work commitments and we will miss their contributions. I hope that they may be able to support us again in the future. 

I’d also like to call out the actions of several of our players who in the hour of need, stood up to help a teammate. They know what they did and they can be rightly proud of their actions. 

On the field, I’d like to repeat some of the comments I made at the recent awards dinner. The return to rugby post COVID brought both challenges, success and new beginnings. The men’s 1stXV had a memorable season, securing a league title win with a game to spare with a fantastic thumping of Stroud. Given the historic status of Stroud, to so comprehensively beat them represented a fantastic achievement. Ollie Wilton scored an extraordinary number of tries from number 8, including a most satisfying one against Norton North. He scored 31 tries for 155 points in matches, an extraordinary performance. Matt Baker topped the appearance chart, playing all but one game and captain Ross Ruck played his 100th league game for the club. I’m also delighted to confirm that two 1stXV players have reached 50 appearances – well done Isaac Lewis and Will Markey. 

The 2ndXV had a turbulent season, with us sadly being unable to field a complete Service 15 most weeks. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Ash and Arron, we were able to combine players with Westbury, Smiths, Sarries (and probably others I’ve forgotten) to get players regular games. Sadly, this wasn’t always at home, but at least games were possible. At least for the 1sts, 36 different players pull a shirt on over the season and it would be fantastic to see at least most of them back next season. 

The Ladies XV faced similar challenges to the 2nds, with playing numbers fluctuating weekly both for us and opposition teams and injuries and COVID really hurting us. Not helped by the distances needing to travel for some games. I’d like to especially recognise the efforts of Dolly and Amber in getting games rearranged and teams on the park and despite the challenges we played all available league games and at times played some really good rugby, with the Greyhounds match demonstrating our potential.

The Sharks had a great season and it was a great pleasure and honour to attend their awards event and help hand out medals and awards. It’s a real testament to Lee and all those that help run the Sharks to see the great progress they’ve made over the past few seasons. Next season should see both our first girls team and the U15s boy side entering a league for the first time. I look forward to seeing their progress and look forward to both the boys and girls playing in the adult teams in a few years. 

We were not unusual in having issues getting adult teams out last season as lots of clubs have struggled for players and I’d like to applaud the efforts of captains in getting games played. Unfortunately, I expect next season to be somewhat similar, so I would request that all players let us know their availability as soon as possible pregame. I’ve requested that the mens section review how we obtain and monitor player availability and match subs (do we keep using Spond etc) to make it as easy as possible for everyone. We will try and get you games as often as you want them. Please note, the number of full contact games we play directly influences the number of International Tickets we are awarded by the RFU. 

We also understand that financially times are hard for many right now. As a committee we decided that we would not increase adult match fees or club membership for next season (Sharks will likely be the same). We will also continue to offer a discount for those that pay before 1 September and direct debit options to help spread the cost over the season. However, if membership or match fees will remain an issue for you, please reach out to either myself or someone you feel comfortable talking to, and we will do all we can to help you remain playing. We will treat such requests with the utmost privacy and respect.

I’d like to finish this report with a plea, in order to keep the club going and ideally move it forward, we are in urgent need of additional volunteers. At present, too few people are trying to do too much. We can tailor roles to suit interests and skill sets, but we are especially in need of a club treasurer and support regarding sponsorship and partners. If you would be interested in helping the club and giving back to the game, please consider taking on a role or asking how you might be able to help. 

Thank you. 

Cheltenham Civil Service RFC