The Evolution of A-Team – The 2016/17 Eccles RFC U16’s

In May 2014, a semi-retired Firefighter took charge of a crack team of lads who, following some poor performances and even worse results, needed a change of direction.

Some of this group of lads started playing together at Under 7’s, but like to many other clubs, numbers were inconsistent and at the point when my lad joined Eccles as an Under 12 there was a real danger that the age group would fold despite the efforts of the Club and relentless recruitment that Trevor Parrot had been doing amongst local schools.

The team was struggling. We have to look at the lads who were playing at that time and applaud their refusal to give up. We also have to recognise the contributions from the coaches during those difficult times Keith and Mike Farn who persisted with the lads and kept the team together despite rarely being able to field a full side or secure a positive result. Results for the first couple of years were disappointing, losing to Rochdale by over seventy points and to Sedgley Park by a similar count.

The turning point for the team was when Coach Kevin Walker stepped up to the plate and took on the full time coaching duties. Coach Kevin’s first action was to convince occasional first team player James Wright to join him on his Coaching staff. A couple of good performances were soon rewarded by wins against Bury and most memorably for the lads Sedgley Park. The lads season at Under 14 level was capped by an appearance in the Blacksticks Plate Final where they were narrowly defeated by Bolton.

Most importantly though, was that this group of lads had now established themselves as a team who would not roll over and have their tummy tickled, they were becoming a rugby force. The 2015/16 season at Under 15’s cemented this position further with fine wins against Buxton, Sedgley Park, Rochdale and others.

If you were to draw a time line from the point that Coach Kevin took over through to today you would see a number of things; You would see a steady improvement in results; you would notice a huge improvement in performances; you would see a spine of a team that has remained fairly constant, and you would see the gradual and sustainable increase in squad numbers with players joining.

As clubs known across the North of England such as Orrell, Bury, West Park and Blackburn to name a few, struggle and ultimately fail in their quest to field fifteen lads at Under 16 level, Eccles RFC can boast twenty three regular players – only one of which plays the sport at school. The success of these numbers at Eccles is not an accident.

The U16s season so far has been consistent with last season; some fantastic performances, some disappointments and so many good times. Everyone involved in Eccles U16s will have their favourite moment or game from the season so far. It may come as a surprise that my personal favourite was a loss in November 2016. Liverpool Collegiate were an unstoppable force at U15 level and came to Eccles at a time when our lads were playing rugby to be proud of. The scoreline of 0 – 17 hugely flattered our visitors and the Coaches and Parents of Liverpool Collegiate were quick to point this out, congratulating Eccles on their defensive resilience and attacking style of play.

A couple of wins against Sedgley Park and Huddersfield brought 2016 to a close with the lads full of positivity for the coming year. The positivity is being borne out by some great performances as Coaches Kevin and James try new line-ups, moves and tactics in readiness for the forthcoming competitive fixtures.

Despite the preparation the new year brought new challenges and a couple of disappointing results in the Quarter Finals of the Lancashire Cup competition saw Eccles competing in the final of the Development Plate against Rossendale RUFC after a phenomenal win to nothing against Clitheroe RUFC. Disappointingly Rossendale couldn’t raise a team and Eccles were duly and deservedly crowned and recognised as Lancashire Development Plate Winners 2016/17.

These lads have come a long way. What a journey!

There is nothing but positivity around the future of this group of lads. They have progressed from the very youngest of tots rugby through the age groups, maturing at each stage and will go on to be a force at Colts in the coming seasons.

Match reports are published after most fixtures and the majority of the players have an on-line profile, both of which can be seen on the Eccles RFC website.

Rugby is a tremendous sport. It’s a sport that calls on young lads and girls to stand shoulder to shoulder with their cohort in battle. The demands of the game on its participants are immense; Rugby can bring pain, disappointment, exhaustion but more often than not exhilaration, euphoria and a sense of belonging.

No matter what the demands are, these are all forgotten when you don the Navy & White of Eccles RFC and take to the field alongside your team mates, ready to face whoever stands in front of you.

The 2016 / 17 Eccles Under 16’s are brought to you by:

  • Kevin Walker – Coach
  • James Wright – Coach
  • Leeann Aspinall – Manager & Fixture Secretary
  • John the Sudds – Kitman & Assistant to the Manager
  • Mark ‘it’ll be right’ Skillicorn – Physio

If you have a rugby club, if no one else can help, and if you can find them….maybe you can take onThe Eccles U16’s.

  1. Josh Green
  2. David Smith
  3. Ellis Pearson
  4. Alex Hardman
  5. James Wright
  6. Joe Rapinett
  7. Matty Lee
  8. Kieron Reed
  9. Dan Aspinal
  10. Matt Walker
  11. Max Riley
  12. Harry Candland
  13. Shea Skillicorn
  14. Ed Hampson
  15. Brad Palmer
  16. Albert Tonoyan
  17. Ross Acton
  18. Alex Thornton
  19. Jack Williams
  20. James Fletcher
  21. Rob Strickland
  22. Oliver Wright
  23. Tanny Kelsey

I hope you all remember this TV show or my joke has fallen on its bum 🙂