My overriding emotion, as we close out the season, is extreme pride at how far we have come as a team and I enjoyed every single minute of it!
This was my first season as a coach. I did play the game (some would argue otherwise) in my younger days, retiring in 2001 after discovering in great detail what a cruciate ligament was and what happens if it snaps. Since then I have been approached to take up the whistle (mmmm, maybe not) and have been looking for a reason or excuse to get back into rugby.
My older son, Matthew, started to play rugby at school and I was delighted when Harry stated he also wanted to play. Eccles as a club was recommended to me by Mark Greenhalgh (first team captain) and Shelly Powe (women’s first team) and so Harry and I ended up at Gorton Street, our new rugby home.
On our first day at the tail end of last season, we were made to feel very welcome by Paul and Chris (now U8s coaches). Harry started to find out about rugby (or was it how to run round like a headless chicken) and I was given the opportunity to get involved on the coaching side helping out in the last few sessions of the season and the rest, as they say, is history.
My highlights, in reverse order, for this season seem to revolve around unexpected individual performances.
In third place was the emergence of Michael. Prior to the Heaton Moor game in October he was very shy and would not get involved in any game or exercise in training let alone play in a match. He turned up on the morning and again refused to play as the game kicked off. I still have no idea of what, how or why a change happened but he decided to play and he was awesome! Side steps, jinks, swerves you name it, he did it. The downside is I think we have created a monster as there is nothing shy or retiring about him now!!!!!!!!
For my second place highlight I have chosen the Blackburn/Vale tri team tournament. In November we travelled up into the Ribble Valley on a perfect winter’s day. The performances from everybody were outstanding and this was the first taste I had of being really competitive and wanting or even needing to win each game. I still feel sorry for the Blackburn player that decided to try and stop Ben in full flow, was not his best idea!
My highlight for the whole season has to be the away game at Trafford. Individual performances, during this fixture, from Lewis (Under 7), Peggy, Sandy (both Under 6) and Little Josh (Under 5) were a sight to behold as they took on three different full on under 7 teams. Nobody took a step back and everybody played out of their skins and there was nothing between the sides in any of the games. Reliving my memories of this fixture still give me a buzz, as there were so many significant and season making moments.
The freight train was back on track! Lewis’ early season form was nothing short of excellent. His straight powerful running put the fear of god into the opposition and earned him the nickname as nothing can stop him. In previous weeks the enthusiasm had fallen but on this day everything was back with a vengeance. The look of disdain as he was tagged when bursting though the defence exemplified the new competitive nature in the team.
Sandy became “Super Sensational” scoring at will, chasing everybody’s tags and really getting stuck in. This was his first game he played with an understanding of what he was supposed to do and gave everything in the process which showed in his play.
Peggy had her best ever game, dominating the play and leading the team from the front. “Give ME the ball” is one phrase that still sends shivers down my spine as it was said with such ferocity and aimed at her own team. In the next play, she ran past the whole Trafford defence, scored the try and walked back with such a strut of arrogance.
Even that performance did not get star of the week. That honour went to little Josh. As Hong Kong Phooey was a meek and mild mannered janitor that turned into a superhero so did Josh on that day. One minute he was more interested in playing with his own ball and the next he was storming into the opponents, scoring his first try for Eccles and making full on tackles..
The final three games of the season demonstrate just how far we have come as team. The momentum gained at Trafford carried on through the Bury game at home and into the final game of the season at Broughton Park. Both Trafford MV and Broughton Park played better than us at the start of the season and to take them on and turn them over in their own back yard was impressive to say the least.
Since the start of the season we have grown as a squad, in more ways than one. We started with about 9 regulars and now have a core of about 15 players week in, week out with on occasion over 20 attending. During that period the squad has become more and more like a “bunch of mates” rather than kids that just turn up on a Sunday. They have grown together and are hopefully all on the same Eccles rugby journey for a number of years to come.
It has been a great privilege to have been involved with the Under 7s team, seeing them improve, gain confidence and above all enjoy the game. Next season there will be a split in the current squad with some moving to under 8s and others remaining at under 7s. Whilst this may be difficult initially for those remaining at U7s, the experience they have gained this season playing against other teams in the next age bracket can only be beneficial and set them up for a dominant season.
Well done to Max, Peggy and Ben scooping the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards respectively.
May I take this opportunity to thank Sean “Griffalo” Griffin for pitching in due to the numbers and those “roving reporters” that have added content into weekly reports.
I would also like to thank Martin for the work he has put in this season and I hope that between us we can keep the kids going in the right direction, onwards and upwards.
Finally I would like to thank (this is becoming an Oscar’s speech) you, the parents, for your support over the season and the gift at the presentation. Without you bringing your kids and standing about in the cold whilst they get to run about the highs (and lows) would not have happened, friendships would not have been made and Eccles would be a poorer club.
Have a great summer and I am ooking forward already to next season (Oh … the new film “Eccles U7s – The movie” will be in the cinemas soon)