Just pick the bloody ball up!
Each year as Summer approaches, the fixture list runs dry and the season comes to a close, parents, players and coaching staff reflect back on the highs and lows of the preceding nine or so months rugby. Some years you have to squeeze the pips out of the good news lemon in order to spin a story of positivity. Other years, and this is one of those years, you look back and see nothing other than positivity.
There have been low points. The lack of control and sportsmanship of opposition parents and players when we travelled to the Wild West; that feeling of a kick to the noodle what the lads dropped from B to C following the preliminary fixtures; the narrow loss at Ormskirk on day one; most of all, the loss of some of the Junior Colt players, The (not) Wright Brothers, Ellis Pearson (unquestionably not right), Albert, Alex etc.
Those high points though! What a season we have had as the City of Salford’s only representatives at Colts / Junior Colts. Lots of wins, a few losses and lots and lots of Trys. So many Trys that the lads have accumulated more points than any other club, Junior or Senior Colts. Conference C league winners Ormskirk are the only team to have got within a hundred points of the Eccles points tally. Defensively too Eccles have shown their resilience averaging no more than18 points per game conceded – that is less than 3 converted Trys per game. This plays out to an average match score across the season of 42 points for vs 18 points against – an outstanding team achievement.
The lads have proven time and time again that they are a hardworking and honest group who to a man are willing to put the effort in, constantly putting their body on the line. By way of example, just consider how many different profiles Harry Candland’s nose has had.
But in addition to hard work and endeavour there is an abundance of ability, skill, knowledge and rugby guile. Whether is is the Lieutenant Spiers type of runs of Shea Skillicorn, the uncompromising bulldozer charges of Keiron Reed or the FogHorn LegHorn backchat of Dan Aspinall, Eccles Junior Colts have never failed to bring an exciting brand of attacking rugby to the field, more often than not, paying dividends with well deserved and convincing victories.
The playing squad wouldn’t properly function without a team of backroom volunteers and staff who work tirelessly to ensure that the lads a prepared for each and every game:
Coach Kevin Walker – every Wednesday he ruthlessly drills the lads, every Sunday we hear him screaming “just pick the bloody ball up”
Coach Mark Candland – supporting Coach Kevin week in week out like a personal and direct line to the Samaritans
Mark Skillicorn – the team physio following his claims (has anyone seen the paperwork) of some kind of medical knowledge and a bottle of squirty, has been providing medical support for the lads, tending to knocks, bumps and Harry’s nose
Leeann Aspinall – fixture secretary, manager and all round Good-Egg. Without Leeann the whole thing would collapse overnight. Leeann is the foundations of the Junior Colts.
John ‘the suds’ Aspinall – the kit mans ‘kit man’. Eccles very own Barry Scott armed with industrial strength Omo and a bottle of Cillit Bang, John ensures that the Navy and White of Eccles kit is super clean, bright and smelling fresh for every game.
I feel like I’ve missed somebody out here so apologies, but the Rum is kicking in.
Finally I feel I have to mention the catering team at Eccles RFC. We have traveled to many clubs up and down the length of Lancashire, many of which clearly have more wealthy benefactors that Eccles and without fear of contradiction I can state that the post match food at Eccles is second to none
Of the individual players – there will be the formalities of a Players Player of the year etc but the truth is every player has contributed to the seasons successes. Some players contributions are highlighted more often than others, Kieron with his string of Man of the Match performances, Matthew Walker, Captain, 10 and lethal from the tee, Joe Rapinett – masterful in the Line Out, Brad Palmer – so often the last man and so often the difference between conceding a Try or not; Josh Green – Powerhouse of the Front Row. The list goes on and extends further to the U16s who have represented at Junior Colt level, Joe Borrett, Chris Gillard etc.
However there are those players though who regularly fall under the radar of the match report and plaudits but who have contributed immensely to the success of this Junior Colts Squad. Without wanting to single anyone out – I am going to single a couple of lads out.
Jack Williams. In terms of character, commitment and resilience, Jack must be at the top of the tree. He has played right across the Backs and also the Wing but it was his outstanding performance away to Oxton Parkonians at Full Back which in my opinion was one of the stand out individual performances of the season. Jack was immense!
Max Riley. Must be a Coaches dream player. Max will play and put a shift in anywhere on the field. He plays at the Back, as a Centre, as a Second Row – I think on one occasion he even joined the Big Lads in the From Row
The list could go on but in no particular order, (and I know I will have missed people of – apologies) here is a roll-call of the lads who have stepped up and represented the 2017/18 Eccles RFC Junior Colts
- David Smith
- Josh Green
- Dan Aspinall
- Chris Gillard
- James Fletcher
- Joe Rapinett
- Matty Lee
- Keiron Reed
- Joe Borrett
- Harry Candland
- Tom Bates
- Jack Williams
- Josh Stafford
- Shea Skillicorn
- Daniel Delaney
- Jordan Burns
- Max Riley
- Ed Hampson
- Will Toone
- Rob Strickland
- Brad Palmer
- Nat Kelsey
- Matthew Walker
- John Grundy
- Cameron Williams
- Albert Tonoyan
- Ellis Pearson
It has been a fantastic season for Eccles Junior Colts and I have enjoyed doing the occasional match report this and previous years however I have utterly exhausted my book of witty quips and will be hanging up my reporters cap at the end of the season – especially as I have recently found out that Josh Green is studying A Level English Literature.
So, what next?
Well despite a rotund lady gargling the TCP in anticipation of an aria, the season isn’t over yet. The final fixture for Eccles Junior Colts is todays Alan James U17 Trophy which sees Eccles come face to face with the hugely powerful Conference B side Kirkby Lonsdale Junior Colts. Kirkby Lonsdale have had a mixed season, finishing mid-table but securing some impressive victories against Blackburn, Altrincham Kersal and Heaton Moor.
Unfortunately for Eccles, the Alan James Trophy went the way of league standings with Kirkby Lonsdale running out winners by a couple of Trys in a fiercely contested game. Eccles started slowly, conceding a soft Try early in the first half. This was soon followed by a second Try before some excellent running from Tanny Kelsey inside the Lonsdale 22 opened up their defence enough for Dan Aspinall to find his way in to the corner.
Kirkby Lonsdale extended their lead with some intelligent penalty kicking before Matthew Walker seized the opportunity to close the gap again with a converted Try and Penalty.
Eccles scored a final Try towards the end of the second half with a powerful run straight through the middle of the Kirkby Lonsdale defence from the fabulous Will Toone.
The lads were clearly upset at the end of the Final having lost a game that each and every one of them knew was well within their grasp. But this has been an encouraging season for the Junior Colts with some great victories and stunning individual and team performances.
The recent decision to field a single Senior Colts squad for the 2018/19 season, drawing together some fantastic young talent from across the club, together with the introduction of the experienced Chris Gaffey to the coaching squad can only serve to strengthen the squad , create competition for places and increase the expectations for the coming season for all involved.
Eccles 20 – 36 Kirkby Lonsdale
Quote of the day – in fact its a contender for quote of the Junior Rugby years.
5 minutes in to the game and my good lady, Lindsay asks me “who is the new lad, the tall number 6 playing for Eccles?” 🤔 🤔 👓
How much have we enjoyed junior rugby Joe?