‘A successful start as we build for the future’ – that’s the view of Steve Woolcombe, Chichester College’s director of rugby as he looks back over the season.
Woolcombe was assessing the academy’s first full season since the college was unveiled as one of 21 RFU Focus Colleges, part of a programme which aims to support player development.
He said: “It’s been an exhilarating first season and the academy has gone from strength to strength. We are already looking forward to our open trial, which will be held on Wednesday, August 29 at Chichester College. The trial is for any students studying at the college from September.
“In September, we set upon the task of building a robust infrastructure to enable students across the college to benefit from the experience of being part of a rugby academy; from excellent coaching and equipment to a well-structured season. I’m delighted it has been a roaring success.
“We were over the moon to see more than 60 students – male and female – across a variety of courses sign up to join the squad, reflecting the diversity of students at Chichester College.
“We started the season with a tough training game against a well-established rugby academy side at Cardinal Newman. The creativity within Chichester Academy shone through, running in four well-earned tries and winning the second half.
We will then start the 2018-19 season with our open trials here at the college for all Chichester and Brinsbury college students on August 29, where we are expecting around 120 players.Steve Woolcombe
“The Academy played 19 fixtures across both Hampshire and Sussex and recorded 12 wins and seven losses, a fantastic achievement in our first season as an academy.
“Many of the losses were close fought, like our first league fixture at Alton where the game was lost on the final kick. But situations like this have added resilience.
“We can also boast beating our nearest rivals, Havant & South Downs College, and claimed many scalps at the Trojans event, beating teams from Itchen, Peter Symonds, Havant & South Downs, Isle of Wight and Southampton.
“Successes have outweighed disappointments; the coaching team of Mark Bonar, Finn Parry and Jamel McFarlane have been excellent all year and in Finn and Jamel’s case both have achieved RFU level two coaching status. Jamel is a student of Chichester University and strengthens our partnership with the university.
“We have several players who play for Hampshire or Sussex and many of our girls are playing in national finals, with Aliya Seehawong representing the south east regional squad.
“Our success is down to support from the RFU – as a focus college we receive annual funding and coaching support for the next three years.
“In our first year, our focus was in becoming established and succession planning. Next year, we will be taking ownership of new sponsored pitch furniture including international-standard posts.
“We’re planning a rugby tour to Spain or Portugal in spring 2019, where 30 players will spend a week playing rugby and representing the college.
“We’re looking to expand our rugby development with Lions Rugby Academy, our principal sponsor, and we will start running rugby camps here at the college for all junior players.
“As director of rugby for the college, I am thrilled to be involved and with the level of support from all college staff in ensuring our initial success.
“We are now taking a well-earned break but pre-season starts in June, using the expertise of our strength and conditioning lecturers.
“We will then start the 2018-19 season with our open trials here at the college for all Chichester and Brinsbury college students on August 29, where we are expecting around 120 players.”