Nestled discreetly in the Mendip Hills in deepest Somerset, lies the sleepy village of Winscombe. With a population of only 4,500 and boasting 1 pub it certainly doesn’t appear to be a hot bed of local rugby.
But try telling that to any of the members of the local team Winscombe RFC. In boxing terms…..this is definitely a team punching above its weight!
Established back in 1962 the club has been steadily growing over the years despite having to compete for players with illustrious local clubs with National League experience such as Weston-super-Mare RFC, Hornets RFC, Clevedon RFC and Bridgwater & Albion RFC. Despite the competition from these and many other local clubs, Winscombe can boast a large and loyal following of both players, parents and members alike.
It would be true to say that over the past 3 or 4 seasons they have been on the verge of something very special at the club but have just been pipped at the post each time. The season of 2015/16 saw them finish runners up in the league and they were only beaten to promotion in a play-off by missing the very last kick of the game!
Some teams would have buckled under such disappointment but not the men from Somerset. They picked themselves up and put the memory behind them to record 25 wins from 26 league games last season in Somerset Premier losing only to Weston RFC 2nds on a Friday night under lights when (allegedly!) 7 or 8 Weston 1st team players had a cheeky run out!
Most teams would have cried foul but that’s not the Winscombe way. Winning promotion in such emphatic style to Western Counties North for the upcoming season is the highest league position in the clubs history. Impressive indeed you might think, but the story is by no means over…..
About 4 seasons ago Winscombe RFC introduced girls teams into the club under the guidance of Head Coach Gareth Waterfield. He came with extensive experience having been capped for the England Deaf team and was keen to make an impact. That he certainly did!
He told Rugby Monthly “I had experienced coaching junior sides before but Girls rugby was pretty new to me. It was good to be starting with a blank canvas though. I was impressed and encouraged by the number of girls who turned up to play as it enabled us to put a cohesive plan together. I had a feeling they would be a bit special!”
He wasn’t wrong. After building slowly, last season the Winscombe RFC Girls U15 and U18’s teams BOTH became National Champions beating Worcester and Lichfield respectively. An amazing feat when you factor in the size of the defeated clubs, their infrastructures and strength in depth in coaching.
Reflecting on the HISTORIC success Gareth said “This is without doubt my finest achievement in rugby to date.
To end up with 2 National Champion winning teams in the same season is just amazing given the size of the club. Huge thanks must go to all of the players, parents and coaches.
I would also like to mention both Captains Evie Roach and Alice Low for their leadership and support throughout the season. They both play prop and I have no doubt they will have a long and successful career ahead of them in rugby should they choose to continue”.
Gareth has every right to feel proud of what he has achieved at the club as he was further recognised by the RFU in being presented with the RFU President’s Award for his work in Grass Roots Rugby. Thoroughly deserved.
As if these were not achievements enough, current England & Bristol Ladies rugby player Chantelle Miell started her playing career at Winscombe and certainly seems to be inspiring the latest crop of girls within the club.
We have no doubt at all that there will be further success in the girls section at the club ….so watch this space! As a side note, the club have actually produced 6 players with International Honours throughout their history!!
All in all not a bad season then for the junior club nestled in the Mendip Hills. Certainly one that any of their illustrious neighbours would be right to be envious of. Club Captain Louie Hooper told us “What we have achieved over the past few seasons is pretty remarkable for a club like ours.
We seem to be able to keep players involved and WANT to play for the club not only because of the success we have achieved but also because of the social side of the club. We know how to enjoy ourselves off the pitch and that is one of the reasons players come back year after year!
We make sure everyone feels that they are an important part of what we are about and that creates a positive attitude for all involved.” Head Coach Graham Buller echoed these sentiments but also knows there is a tough road ahead “Getting promotion was important for us but the real work starts now.
Unless we consolidate and remain in this league we will feel like we have let ourselves down. We will be taking each game at a time but our target will be to compete with every other side in this league.”
The final word went to club Chairman Kevin Rosser “We are very lucky to have a strong and dedicated committee. The support of the players and parents alike also helps in the success of the whole club. We have a “One Club” ethos here and it’s certainly seeing us flourish.
We are continuing to grow each year on and off the field. Everyone involved gives of their time and energy freely for the success of THE CLUB. We have 3 senior teams, 2 VERY successful girls teams and have over 450 minis and juniors at the club.
This season we are also starting a Women’s team. Naturally, we are all very proud of what we have achieved”.
We wish Winscombe RFC continued success in everything they do. If you wish to follow them you can on Facebook and Twitter.