New facility at Woodbridge Rugby Club evokes memories of the past

THE cutting of the ribbon that heralded the latest step in Woodbridge Rugby Club’s devlopment, evoked more than a few memories on Saturday.

Club founder and honorary life president Mike Lubbock gave an emotion-laden speech, remembering those former members that had passed away, as he unveiled the club’s new extension which will enable a greater number of players to use the venue, and its three pitches, at the same time.

The brand-new facility houses six new changing rooms, first floor toilets for spectators, a gym and a segregated showering area for female players. And they are vital from the bottom up, with the club’s burgeoning youth setup now featuring almost 330 players.

It’s a far cry from the club’s humble beginnings. Founded in 1969, it would be another seven years before the clubhouse, Hatchley Barn, was completed.

“I remember watching my dad and uncle play (for Woodbridge) when we had to play on borrowed pitches across Ufford, Melton and Bredfield,” current club chairman Rob Simpson told me.

“A few years later, I would be picking stones off the pitch with a bunch of other children as our dads were building the clubhouse.

Lubbock, who was the club’s first captain added: “The early years were a lot of fun and a lot of hard work but it was all worthwhile as the club now has arguably the best pitches and clubhouses in Suffolk.”

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Woodbridge now fields three senior Warriors teams, a senior women’s team, the Amazons with a development squad, the Valkyries and a veteran’s team.

The club also hopes to launch female teams at under-18 and 15 level to help build on the three promotions the Amazons have achieved in their relatively-short five-year existence.

Another target is to exceed the current number of 328 youngsters that currently play, giving a good base on which to build for the future.

“We have another phase of development to complete which will allow the club to house more people in the social areas and we hope that the improved facilities and the spirit of the club that we can offer will attract even more people to come along and get involved,” explained Simpson, who played for the club between 1984 and 2009 and is now a youth coach there.

“We devised a development plan about five years ago and worked out that if we managed to recruit 330 children and 10 per cent remained at Woodbridge after finishing school, then we would have enough to field three teams.”

One of the success stories of recent years has been the club’s ability to attract new blood.

“We have been good at getting publicity and England’s World Cup win in 2003 also helped,” said the club chairman.

“We have also had a dedicated coach going into schools and working with the kids too and that has resulted in youngsters wanting to train with us.

“The facilities are better than I expected and more than I thought possible. I wish I was still playing.”

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