THE LOCKDOWN may have meant playing sport came to an abrupt halt.
But don’t think for a minute that members of Alton RFC took the opportunity to rest on their laurels...
Many members have been involved in voluntary activities within the local community, including providing invaluable support to NHS services.
Working with Alton Town Council, club sponsors Mid Hants and Earthline, work has been progressing to improve the Anstey Park surfaces for players and the community.
After receiving a NatWest Rugby Force award in 2018, the club have worked tirelessly to fundraise to make further investment at Anstey Park.
Mid Hants, based in South Warnborough, have been supplying sand – 200 tonnes at a time – while Earthline have been supplying machinery and staff to load it into the sand spreader.
“Both companies have done this to make a contribution to the local community – they have done it without demanding recognition and have been truly wonderful,” said Nigel Youell.
The pitch will be well used when rugby is allowed to get under way again.
Last season, before the March lockdown, the club had more than 100 senior players and were running two senior men’s sides playing most weekends and training twice-weekly at Anstey Park.
At the season’s start, the first XV, the Silverbacks, were promoted – for the second year running – to Hampshire Premiership.
And even at that challenging level they performed superbly, being promoted to London SW3.
Meanwhile, the club’s new, vibrant ladies’ touch/contact sessions, often involving 50-plus players each week, continued to go from strength to strength.
As an RFU accredited club, Alton continued to provide a Kids First (for under-sixes to under-12s) and Age Grade (under-12s to under-18s) fixtures and training programmes for more than 400 boys and girls – and with ever-swelling numbers.
The club were proud to see their under-16 boys’ team – who included nine boys previously selected for the Hampshire squad – become county champions for the sixth year running and the colts make it into the final eight of the National Cup.
The colts included the under-15 boys’ squad who approached the Hampshire finals as previous winners before facing the blow of lockdown.
The girls’ squads – under-11, under-13, under-15 and under-18 – took part in successful tournaments, with five under-15 players selected for the Hampshire squad.
Next year the club hope to have a squad of almost 30 at under-18 level.
That has only been possible thanks to the massive input of Alton’s dedicated volunteer army of coaches, officials and helpers.
They include the most recent Hampshire RFU’s Age-Grade and Senior Coach of the Year award winners, as well as recipients of the prestigious Mitsubishi Volunteer of the Year awards.
And, from time to time, the club have their coaching capacity supplemented by inputs from some real rugby legends – including, in recent times, Jonny Wilkinson, Ugo Monye and Danielle Waterman.
All forms of rugby will be back at Alton – and at Anstey Park – as soon as government safety guidance permits.
To see what the club have to offer, log on to their website at www.altonrfc.club
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