by Tim Nuttall
A renewed vigour both on and off the pitch has led to a resurgence in support for Withernsea RUFC as the club continues to successfully navigate its way through the 2023-24 season.
With four consecutive wins under their belts in as many games, Withernsea RUFC start 2024 undefeated and second only to Scarborough in the Eastern Merit Table.
Not only are the team enjoying a well-deserved winning streak, they have also benefited from a strong turnout of players which has enabled them to approach each game with a full team, plus an accompanying array of replacements to cover injuries.
It is a strong start to the year following a particularly difficult 2022-23 season which found the club struggling to field a team for many of their planned games. A reduced fixture list and a collaboration with Hornsea Rugby Club, which saw the two sides sharing players in an effort to bolster their numbers for away fixtures, helped the club weather this storm.
Meanwhile, in an effort to widen the appeal of rugby in the Withernsea area, an opportunity for players, both experienced or novice, to participate in weekly Open Age Rugby League training was launched with great success in May 2023. This too contributed to the revival of the Union team by helping to raise the club’s profile and recruit new players.
Bob Wardman of Withernsea RUFC said: “There was a real concern in the 2022-23 season that the lack of players could have sounded the death knell for the club. This would have been a massive loss to the local area and to the many players, both past and present, who have garnered a real sense of belonging from the club – both for them personally, and their friends and family.
“We are all delighted that thanks to the support of our wider community, and the strategies implemented to help save the club, we have been able to recruit a number of new players – some of whom had trained for the league team and others who had just turned up to training and received such a warm welcome that they have now stayed to become regular members of the union team.
“With many new players playing alongside experienced stalwarts from previous seasons, it has been fantastic to see how the team has gelled to produce some excellent rugby against some strong teams with greater experience.”
With two friendlies, and a run of five games scheduled in the next eight weeks against teams from Bridlington, Scunthorpe, Driffield and Hull Ionians, the 2023-24 season will see Withernsea play more games than the previous year – with the ambition of achieving a place in the play-offs.
Beyond the on-field success, the support received by Withernsea RUFC off the pitch has been equally instrumental in the club’s resurgence. This has been aided by the reopening of Hollym’s Plough Inn, a venue that has been synonymous with the club for more than 30 years. Bob added: “Ian Robinson, a previous landlord, was a player and longtime supporter of the club. He sold us some land behind the pub so we could build our clubhouse at Fouracre Park, with accompanying access rights for 100 years.
“The Plough has always been a hub for the local rugby community and we are delighted to see it reopen.”
Following the pub’s refurbishment and reopening under new management in September 2023, the Plough Inn has offered a warm welcome to players, supporters, and friends and family of both the home and visiting away teams.
Bob said: “The pub’s new owners are right behind the club and are doing everything they can to look after players and spectators. It has been great to see an increased number of people, including both new and old supporters, plus a good number of ex-players, coming to watch the team play.
“In fact, it was one of our former players who suggested that it would be good to hold a reunion to celebrate the pub’s reopening and the club’s resurgence – offering an opportunity for some of our current players to meet former players and friends of the club.”
A reunion has subsequently been arranged for Saturday, January 27, at The Plough Inn. Starting at 4pm, the reunion is open to players, past and present, and their families.
Bob said: “Since its reopening, The Plough has once again become a place where our local rugby community can come together to socialise. After many years of camaraderie and enjoyment of rugby, it would be great to see past players, whether they played five or 35 years ago, at the reunion.”
A spokesman for the Plough Inn said: “We want the Plough to be a real focus for the community and the rugby club is very much part of that. The pub has long been associated with Withernsea RUFC and we have seen the benefits that it can bring to those who play.
“We want to help the club develop as it rebuilds, especially as there are a number of local youngsters enjoying playing in the Open Age. A lot of new players have brought some real energy to the games, and four wins out of four is a great start for the team. We will support them as much as we can.”
Meanwhile, with the wet winter weather continuing to prevent weekly training from taking place outdoors, Withernsea RUFC are grateful to East Riding Leisure Withernsea who are providing an indoor venue for training every Tuesday evening, between 8pm and 9pm. New and old faces are welcome and each session is only £2 per person to attend.
Following its successful launch last May, it is anticipated that Open Age Rugby League training will return later in the year.
For further information about Withernsea RUFC, contact Dan Wardman on 07415 993597 or search Withernsea RUFC on Facebook.