Valley are full of Hope as training returns

Hope Valley RFC chairman Luc Charmasson says the spirit at the club has remained strong during the COVID-19 pandemic and that there is a sense of optimism as the club’s players return to training.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 8:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 8:25 am
Hope Valley RFC in action. It is hoped this scene will once again be seen before too long.

As with many other sports, Valley’s 2019/20 league season was curtailed due to the pandemic and it is not expected the club will play any matches until pre-season begins in earnest over the summer.

But Charmasson says everyone is raring to go whenever action can recommence.

He said: “Hope Valley RFC is a small club but with fiercely loyal members so while we were in the same boat as everyone else during the pandemic in terms of being physically isolated, there was a real sense of community on our social media platforms which encouraged constant chatter between members.

Hope Valley's squad pictured before COVID-19 struck to halt their season.

"This helped to ensure that our sense of club remained strong throughout the past 12 months and kept our members’ mental health as positive as it could be.”

Nationally, the RFU laid out plans across the country for localised clusters of teams to play in mini-leagues over the spring, helping to bridge the gap until the new campaign.

But those plans were shelved once the second lockdown took hold and are not likely to be revived.

Charmasson said: “The clusters idea that was presented to us at the beginning of the year was a positive concept but it was likely that we were never going to be playing matches within its structure.

"The main issue was the length of time that our players had been away from the game and our focus was on getting players back to training and back to contact drills as soon as it was permissible, with a goal of re-entering our league structure at the end of this summer.

"We are still maintaining a flexible approach to our summer plans, with players only back into training for the last two weeks, but the hope is we can arrange at least one, if not more, friendly fixture for August with a goal of shaking off a full year of rust and getting us ready for our upcoming season.”

Overall, Charmasson says he hopes the impact of the pandemic on Hope Valley RFC as a whole has been minimal.

He added: “We're still at the stage of figuring out the impact that the pandemic has had on our club in general. There obviously could be a number of players who were already near the end of their careers and who will not come back on the pitch, however there is hope that the year away from our social interactions will draw out a number of club members who have drifted away in recent years and crave the benefits that playing team sport bring to our lives.

“We have also, in recent years, been building up a small junior programme and there is hope that a number of these players will start to graduate to the senior team.

“At the grassroots level of rugby where we play, the ability to put together an experienced front row is always a concern so the worst case scenario is that after 12 months of inactivity, we will have gained a number of props from our backline!

“Financially, we are lucky to be a club with limited ongoing expenses so we have been able to weather the lack of our seasonal income without having to tap too much into our reserves. This means that hopefully we can hit the ground running as we exit the pandemic and get back to what is most important, playing the game we love.”

In terms of the future, Charmasson is keen to ensure Hope Valley RFC continues to provide the local community with a successful sporting focal point.

He said: “Our hope for the club as we get up and running again is that we get back to providing Hope Valley and the surrounding area with a thriving rugby club which provides all that comes from grassroots sports: the social, physical and community benefits.

"Especially after such a difficult year for everyone, being able to meet with old friends and make new friends on the pitch and on the sidelines will be a welcome relief to all of us. Mental health has been at the forefront of the conversation recently and our hope is that a thriving rugby club will continue to bring those benefits to all involved.”

*Hope Valley RFC was recently left mourning the loss of one of its longest-serving club members.

John "Joris" Gladstone was described as ‘a true character on and off the pitch’ and it is understood a full celebration of his life will be announced once restrictions permit.

*The club’s junior rugby programme is still in preparations for returning to training on Saturday mornings in Hope. Contact Phil Edge for up to date information on 07901 577 990 or [email protected]

For senior men's rugby, training is Thursday evenings between 6:30pm-8pm at the Hope Sports Pavilion. For further information, contact Ben Somerton on 07794 824 890 or [email protected]