A ‘Rusty’ return to rugby at Ballyclare makes for challenging fun

A gamified approach to rugby at Ballyclare, assisted by the some thought-provoking chats with Russell “Rusty” Earnshaw and John Fletcher have assisted in creating a fun, challenging framework to touch rugby in small side games.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 12:36 pm

Gavin Hogg of Ulster Rugby has also been a keen advocator for this approach to sport, emphasising the importance of “laughing, smiling, debating and just good fun”.

Kris James, Ballyclare RFC manager: “At club level we ran a “jersey week” to wear your oldest jersey, retro, football, NFL, League tops… bit of fun but scary when you define what is retro to certain age levels.

“To me a 2005 footy jersey is 100% NOT Retro… but it is to the kids.

Dave Clarke, 1st XV club captain: “With the disappointment of missing out on a full season, it’s been great to catch up and just have a laugh with everyone again.

“It’s been refreshing to see so many new faces that have joined over lockdown and look forward to getting to know them over the coming weeks.”

Joel McBride: “Training sessions have been really enjoyable. Starting off with fun games of end ball and football, then ending with a few games of touch rugby, encouraging offloads, kick passes and high tempo.

“Tough on the body but great fun.

“It’s always hard to go back to training, no matter how much individual fitness you do beforehand, it’s hard to replicate that rugby specific fitness. Although seeing all the lads again made it much easier this time round.”

Matthew McCullough: “U20s has been very enjoyable and great to see good numbers coming back to play even somewho haven’t played since leaving school.

“The training has been extremely good craic so far but hard work especially since it’s been a while since we all played but hoping we can get into more game or competitive scenarios soon.”

Jordan McKinstry, U20 coach added:“We had 24 training at U20 level each night and on April 27 we will open the opportunity for U18 club and school leavers to join in and play some rugby. ”

One of the recent training sessions at Ballyclare

Callum Hull, new player who joined from Randalstown said: “It has been great to get back into things and enjoying the different touch rugby rules.”

Budge Poutney, former Scottish international who is involved in coaching at Regent House, was a guest on Thursday night and joined a team as a player said: “Brilliant, it’s fun, its exactly what they want and need.”

Mike Orchin-McKeever, head coach of Ballyclare RFC and director of rugby at Ballyclare High School, said his pupils and club players have enjoyed it.

“I’ve had a great week, getting back into school and club rugby. Catching up, chatting and providing rugby sessions to ages of U12 – U18 at school, U20 at club and 21-year-olds plus.”

Over give days the coach ran nine school sessions, two U20 sessions and two club sessions playing games from four-aside to seven-aside.

“Yeah it’s been awesome to get the step counter going that doesn’t include the usual seafront walks listening to podcasts,” he added.

“It has been great to provide rugby to players but it has also been equally important for the staff and coaches.

“The school staff are getting out in the fresh air to interact with colleges and bring their own coffee for a catch up.

“Similarly, at the club we have great people helping provide a safe environment for the return to rugby and getting that time together too; David Campbell, Aaron Weir, Ricky Lutton, Kris James and Geoff Eakin.

“I am really looking forward to when spectators are allowed to attend at a safe distance and catch up with some of the people at the club who are so heavily involved behind the scenes, those who gave so much to the club over the years who now get so much from coming along to watch a game - the likes of Aran Blackbourne, Simon Baird, Chris Millar, Pete Kirk, Bob Beckwith, Robin Byers, and Eddie Simms.

“It is important we get to reconnect with them too and get them some rugby to watch, even if it is touch rugby at training. And get the barbeue lit!” said Mike.