‘A successful start as we build for the future’. That’s the view of Steve Woolcombe, Chichester College’s satisfied Director of Rugby as he takes a look back over the season.
In his season review, Steve assessed the highlights of the academy’s first full season since the college was unveiled as one of 21 RFU Focus Colleges, part of a programme which aims to support player development.
Steve said: “It has been an exhilarating first season and the Academy has gone from strength to strength. Although we now have a bit of a break, we are already very much looking forward to our open trial, which will be held on Wednesday 29 August at Chichester College. The trial will be for any students who will be studying at the college from September.
“Back in September, we set upon the task of building a robust infrastructure to enable students across the college to benefit from the experience of being part of a Rugby Academy; from excellent coaching and equipment to a well-structured season, I am delighted to report it has been a roaring success.
“We were over the moon to see more than 60 students - male and female - across a variety of courses sign up to join the squad, reflecting the diversity of students we have here at Chichester College.
“We started the season with a very tough training game against a well-established Rugby Academy side at Cardinal Newman. The game started completely in favor of the well-drilled Cardinal side, but the growth and creativity within Chichester Academy shone through, running in four well-earned tries and easily winning the second half.
“The Academy played 19 Fixtures over the season across both Hampshire and Sussex and recorded 12 Wins and seven losses, which we considered a fantastic achievement in our first season as an Academy.
“Many of the losses were closely fought, like our first league fixture at Alton where the game was lost on the final kick in extra time. But situations like this have added resilience to the squad.
“We can also boast beating our nearest rivals, Havant & South Downs College and claiming many scalps at the Trojans event, beating teams from Itchen, Peter Symonds, Havant & South Downs, Isle of Wight and Southampton.
“Our successes have far outweighed our disappointments; the coaching team of Mark Bonar, Finn Parry and Jamal McFarlane have been excellent all year and in Finn and Jamels case both have achieved their RFU L2 coaching status. Jamel is also a student of Chichester University and strengthens our ongoing partnership with the University.
“We have several players that continue to play for Hampshire or Sussex and many of our girls are playing in national finals, with Aliya Seehawong representing the South East Regional Squad.
“Our success without doubt is down to the support from the RFU, as a focus college we receive annual funding and coaching support for the next three years, which has guaranteed our status.
“In our first year, our focus was in becoming established and succession planning. Next year, we see more exciting developments.
“We will be taking ownership of brand new sponsored pitch furniture including international standard rugby posts.
“We are also planning a rugby tour to either Spain or Portugal, which will take place in Spring 2019, where 30 players will spend a week playing rugby and representing the college.
“We are also looking to expand our rugby development with Lions Rugby Academy, our principle sponsor, and we will start running rugby camps here at the college for all junior players.
“As Director of Rugby for the college, I am thrilled not only to be involved but also with the level of support from all college staff in ensuring our initial success.
“We are now taking a well-earned break but also you will be able to see the Academy undertake their pre-season starting in June, using the expertise of our strength and conditioning lecturers.
“We will then start the 2018/19 season with our open trials here at the college for all Chichester and Brinsbury college students on Wednesday 29 August, where we are expecting around 120 players, based on course sign up so far.”