For those unable to attend the glorious 2002 Colts Reunion game on Saturday, here’s a piece from the match programme written by Andy Brunt, FRF, Eccles RFC Colts Captain 1974-75.
Since their first ever game in 1881 and the subsequent establishment of regular fixtures from 1897, Eccles teams consisted of mainly adults with those who had some knowledge of the game, picking it up at school, church teams or for example in the forces during national service. In the 1960’s Eccles formed a Colts team which played on a Saturday at the same time as the adults. At this time rugby, either League or Union, was played in virtually all schools, Clubs had a ready supply of 16 -19 year olds looking for Saturday games and Mini and Junior rugby hadn’t been thought of.
Following the substantial changes to secondary education in the late 1960’s with the creation of many comprehensive schools, sport in general and rugby in particular fell by the wayside in many of our local educational establishments. Gradually Eccles Colts, like many others, dwindled in numbers as new recruits became hard to find. The last Captain of a regular Colts team in the 1982 – 83 season was none other than the current President Paul Thorpe. A few games were put together in the following seasons with the last game being one match in the 1987 – 88 season.
Understandably, this affected the adult’s team as the standard and number of adult players began to suffer the knock on effect as the club moved into the nineties. The solution? Minis and Juniors!
Started at Eccles in 1991 by a few Dads and lads (girls rugby hadn’t been invented yet) Eccles Minis and Juniors grew to be the fantastic set up it is today. Many, many committed coaches and managers made this possible, but particular mention should go to Dave Nichols and Brian Wilkinson whose tenacity over 10-20 years helped keep the show on the road. At the turn of the century the Juniors produced their first Colts team, Captained by Simon Donovan, who went on to become Club Captain (can you see a pattern emerging here?). We have had a Colts team since then with today’s marauders being the 2002 graduates.
Of previous Colts from the combined 40 years, eight have gone on to captain the club. One, Sam Simpson to be Director of Rugby, two to be both Secretary, Chairman and President, two to be Treasurers including the current incumbent Mike Bateman. We have had countless coaches and volunteers. It’s no coincidence that on a Thursday at the Fossils Work party, three ex Colts, one over 70, can be seen putting something back into the club.
The camaraderie built in a Colts team is a special bond both to each other and hopefully, for mutual benefit, to the club. Cherish these special friendships and the day. I will.
Andy Brunt. Colts Captain 1974-75.