As 2020 approaches its end and we get ready to celebrate Christmas and New Year as best we can it seems appropriate to reflect on the year gone by and look to the future.
The first few weeks of the year were as normal. Even though the 1st XV were struggling at the wrong end of Nat 2 North the clubhouse was buzzing and we had some excellent crowds for home games with hospitality virtually sold out.
We had had most of the Sesquicentenary events with the exception of the Golf tournament and Mike Forshaw and his helpers had made it incredibly successful. The spirit of the Hoppers was very much regenerated and people were having fun which is what the Club should be about.
We had even seen the return of the pantomime with youngsters upstaging the ageing stalwarts.
Then came lockdown and the cessation of most activity.
When we were allowed to resume some activity this saw Club members rallying round. There were huge efforts by volunteers to assist our employees in getting the Social Distance Inn up and running. This brought life back to the Club between July and October, perhaps not life as we used to know it but it showed that the Club could adapt and our food and beverage offering attracted not only members but a large number of new customers. It also demonstrated the potential of developing the west side of the Club.
Then we had to close again and remain closed for the remainder of 2020.
Throughout the year we have tried to play or train for as much of our various sports as has been permitted. This has taken a lot of effort from all involved to provide a Covid secure environment.
It is also appropriate to note the financial support from members who have renewed their subscriptions despite there not being a lot on offer in terms of sport or bar. The Management Committee is very appreciative of this and have in mind the need to recognise this support as and when it is possible.
I am in no better position than any of you to predict when we will be able to resume any sort of activity.
With the new mutation of the Coronavirus there must be severe doubt about plans to return to competitive rugby in the near future. Having said that if that is what the players want we will do our very best to provide it. While the adaptive laws that are being talked about might not suit everybody and combined with restrictions on clubhouse utilisation will not provide as spectator friendly a game as usual provision of anything must be better than nothing.
Realistically we are looking to season 2021/22 for a return to “proper” rugby. For our 1st XV this will be an important season as it will determine our place in the new national structure to be introduced in 2022/23 when there will be 3 divisions at Level 4 which is where we aim to be. Details of the structure can be found at:
but as yet there is no indication of how the make-up of the 3 divisions will be determined.
Although the Club will not be functioning normally for some time there will be a lot going on.
From mid-January for at least 13 weeks a Vaccination Centre will be set up in the Club. This is good news as not only will it provide some income but more importantly it will highlight our place in the community. Anyone interested in working or helping in the centre can apply using this link: Apply for a role at one of our Lancashire Vaccination Centres
We are also proceeding apace with the capital improvements I highlighted in November. The replacement of much of the roof will start in January and hopefully also the installation of a new toilet facility in the north end of the Club. Now the sale of the mound has gone through other major projects including a possible development of the patio area, improvements to the south east entrance and a refurbishment of the Wainwright bar are being progressed.
When all these are in place and coupled with the considerable work that has already been done the Club will be in a strong position to offer members a more enjoyable experience and bounce back from travails of 2020 and Covid.
Mini Juniors and Colts
I would single out the performance of the Mini Juniors and Colts who are the future of the Hoppers. Despite all the difficulties they have continued to turn out for training in record numbers.
- 400+ Mini Juniors (14 age groups) training in shifts on Sunday.
- 150+ Juniors (5 age groups) training on Wednesday evening.
- 40 Colts training on Tuesday evening.
- 80 volunteer coaches.
- Sessions compliant with RFU guidelines and coronavirus protocols.
Us greybeards can take considerable solace that the long term future of the Hoppers is in a good place.
It would be remiss of me not to thank on your behalf “The Executive” and Management Committee for all the all the hard work they have put in and to record my personal thanks for the support they have given me since I became Chairman in July.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish all members and their families a happy Christmas and here’s hoping we will have a more enjoyable 2021.