Southwark Rugby Club & the LancersA big thank you to Chris Callaway for this contribution, which is a great story of how he and a few friends set up Southwark Rugby Club in London’s inner city Borough of Southwark.
Looking back it was a strange decision to start playing rugby after 15 years of inactivity but I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of playing again over the past 4 years, I only wish that I had continued to play whilst I was at school. The catalyst to strapping on my boots had been the fact that as a business we wanted to sponsor a rugby team but had no real allegiance to anyone in particular. I decided to watch a local match and immediately knew that I would love to get involved with rugby again.
Not content with just wanting to play again I decided that the team we would sponsor would be one of our own creation. To this day I really cannot accurately describe how or why this decision was made but the club has just finished it’s 3rd full season.
Having contacted the RFU and asked for advice on setting up a club they pointed me in the direction of a junior team in inner city London who had been running for 5 years but had no senior team for the children to progress to. I met Vernon Neve-Dunn (founder of the Southwark Tigers www.southwarktigers.org) in the unfamiliar surroundings of Burgess Park which is situated just off the Old Kent Road and a million miles away from the leafy surroundings that you would normally associate with rugby. His brilliant vision had been to create a club for children who would otherwise never have come into contact with a rugby ball.
November 2007 saw the very beginnings of the Southwark Lancers, 4 friends throwing around a rugby ball on a cold Saturday morning in Burgess Park, nothing at all inspirational but a start. Friends of friends started to join and some replies to adverts meant that we had a motley crew of players ready for our first season playing in the Kent Metropolitan Merit Leagues. In fact we had managed to put together a useful team, many of whom had been out of the game for a number of years and had been keen to get back into the game. Our attractiveness was our central London location that can be reached in 10 minutes from Elephant & Castle tube.
We were pipped to top spot by Beckenham in our first season but managed to get promotion. At the beginning of our second season we had enough players for two teams, we were also approached by Niall O’Doherty who wanted to get involved with the club and who became our full time coach. We saw an immediate return and the 09/10 season saw us go undefeated and gain promotion mid way through the season.
Season 10/11 witnessed the club entering the proper national league structure and taking their place in Kent 2. We finally started to find our feet after the first couple of matches and strung some good results together ultimately finishing in 4th position.
This coming campaign will see us pressing for promotion but also looking to get our club structure in place. We rent our pitch from the council and at the moment we train once a week, the club has no club house (the excellent local pub is more than sufficient) and manages to field 3 full teams. I have been utterly shocked by the great success of the club and we hope to improve each year. It is a harsh reality that at grass roots level, participation is down and many clubs are folding so I continue to hope that Southwark Rugby Club will continue to buck the trend.
Whether you want to play or not Southwark Rugby Club are always looking for new players and social members. If you want to join a vibrant, friendly and welcoming club in Southwark please contact:
Chris Callaway on 07740419539