Waterloo Road may not have seen any rugby since May but despite the lack of rain for most of the period, much to Shane Cook’s chagrin, the club has not let the grass grow under its feet. According to Shane "it grows by the inch but is ruined by the foot!" Mind you as of this week it is starting to look lush again a tribute to the great mans work.
Much of the summer break has been shrouded in uncertainty arising from a reorganisation of the First XV league structure and at one stage the club looked forward to over indulging in Wainwrights, not the beer but playing clubs throughout Cumbria. However, great effort from Chairman Steve Olive and Hon. Secretary Bill Nichol has seen the team placed in Lancashire & Cheshire Division One. And what a strong league this promises to be with fixtures against strong clubs from last season Bowdon, Glossop, Hoylake, Leigh and Sefton alongside Altrincham Kersal, Bolton, Fleetwood, Liverpool Collegiate, Rochdale, Tarleton and Winnington Park.
Last seasons mixed efforts showed that the club needed to strengthen throughout the Seniors to maintain the progress of recent years. Head coach Neil Ryan, himself a former England u20 international player and one of the best up and coming coaches in the region has added the services of backs coach and centre Chris Mayor from North Champions Sale FC who has a stellar dual-code rugby career at Wigan Warriors, Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints and Wasps and England U21s, England 7’s and Barbarians representation together with ex Orrell, Grenoble, Neath, London Scottish and Fylde second row and Lancashire u20 coach Adam Jackson now Director of Sport at the clubs iconic summer training base in the grounds of Scarisbrick Hall School. With a pedigree in line with what current and emerging players wanted in terms of improving individual and team performance the effect is already being seen with increased numbers and intensity in training and interest from quality new players to add to the strength and unabated spirit of the current squad.
The new first team captain is born and bred Sandgrounder Dan Whalen who has taken over the mantle from another, the excellent Joe Mawdsley. Dan, aged 24, joined the club whilst still a babe at arms at Farnborough Road School and with many of his age group has given unstinting hard work and commitment whilst progressing through the ranks also laying the foundations within the emerging set up at Birkdale High School, which is now reaping rewards too. Dan even found time last weekend to make his debut as a musician at the Cheshire Lines in aid of Queenscourt Hospice although his post match 'clubhouse' talent has never been doubted. Having been mentored over the years by the likes of Joe and the evergreen former Captain and enduring legend Gareth Lang, now approaching his 20th season in the First XV, Dan's vocal chords will be put to good use barking instructions on the field.
He is joined by retained Second team skipper Andrew Boland as his team looks to build on a solid finish to last season’s campaign boosted massively as the emerging Colts progressed seamlessly into senior rugby, likewise the infectious Graham White who along with former skipper, now retired through old age and injury (although not necessarily in that order!) Brian Henry have completely galvanised the Third XV set up. So much so that strength in numbers will mean the club is hoping that the Shipwrecks are able to contribute to the cause with regular Friday evening fixtures against like minded opposition with fixtures against the likes of Chester and Wilmslow in the offing.
The Colts go from strength to strength with this season crop finding the team placed at the highest level in the NW and a daunting fixture list that goes with it. The Ladies too, who are now recruiting for new players, prior to commencing their season in the RFU Women’s Championship North 2.
Sitting behind all this is the extraordinary effort by new Club Captain Jason Keating. Building on the strong foundations laid by Colin Toohey ‘man mountain’ Jason has been a whirlwind of activity in galvanising the club in organising players, sponsors, social events even finding time to sort out the odd blazer or two.
Also superb commitment by current and new commercial partners led by local company EFT and others with their name on the smart new kit embracing the traditional red, black and amber hoops. With all the first team matches spoken for there are still opportunities with the other teams, pitch side boards, memorabilia and other initiatives.
A mention too for the unsung volunteers throughout the club without whom none of this can happen including the Executive led by the relentless Chairman in pursuing and backing plans on and off the field within and beyond Southport including establishing relationships with local school, colleges, employers and Edge Hill University. The club is proud that the EHRUFC First XV captain James Wright will again be playing for the club throughout the season and hopefully the President of the Students Union Joe Bradford too ad others.
But the talking is done and attention now rightly turns to Saturday and Sunday on the pitch with the Firsts and Thirds away at Fleetwood and West Park respectively, the Seconds at home to Fleetwood. On Sunday the Colts are away at Caldy.
Lets hope it's all new boots and no panties! "The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot. A little drop of claret - anything that rocks"
Updated 19:09 - 3 Sep 2018 by John Kenny