You will know there is a tradition that at each AGM of Taunton RFC your Club President will present a report giving an overall picture of the state covering the playing side as well as all other aspects of our proud rugby football club. In the current unsettled climate with corona virus impacting upon all aspects of our lives, there is no prospect of being able to proceed with our regular date for an AGM in July and there is a doubt constitutionally whether we can postpone it until the late Autumn or even for twelve months so on that basis your Committee will endeavour to fulfil its task of communicating to you recognising the need to dispel any unfounded rumours or uncertainties.
Without any doubt the headlines centre around the wonderful fact that as a result of finishing top at the end of a slightly curtailed playing season Taunton were declared Champions of National League 2(South) and in consequence have been promoted to National League One, the third tier of English rugby. This is the highest position our Club has ever been and it is a huge reward to all who have contributed to this success and is wonderful news for the County town, areal lift for West Country rugby and a matter of great pride for the Club. You will know this is my first year as Club President so I will enjoy the moment but the real plaudits should go to my predecessor who patiently grafted for many years to see his Club fulfil this ambition (he tells me he has used several boxes of Kleenex to dab his moist eyes!).
We must all raise our caps to Head Coach, Tony Yapp, his forwards’ coach Chris Brown, and the entire team of backroom staff who have worked tirelessly together to bring about this great success. The quality of our players is unquestionable but their commitment and togetherness has been vital and they will draw huge satisfaction from the position they now find themselves. It would be invidious to pick out individuals but this is inevitable when you note that Isaac “Sniffer” Dalton was named as National League 2(South) Player of the Year and Gary “Donkey”Kingdom was the leading points scorer in the League. In addition all the players will acknowledge the part played by their skipper, Dan Lee, whose quiet urgings and “lead from the front” example set the tone for the season.
On the wider Club front the Warriors, the Titans secondstring, played an unbeaten piece-meal season, being unable to play regularly due to the lack of regular second team string fixtures and a failure by some Clubs to fulfil their Zoo League commitment. This is now a matter being pursued vigorously by Yappy and others to ensure regular games in the forthcoming season, something which the RFU and regional league officialdom has failed to address adequately in the past. The Wanderers remain in Somerset One having played their hearts out to keep their spirits alive and they were rewarded by beating the relegation drop. Colts rugby has proved difficult to sustain and Steve Frost is to be congratulated for his efforts to keep it alive as numbers fall away. This is a problem common to rugby across the board at the moment and with attention more at the top end of the game over pay caps and “ring-fencing” the development side of the game has suffered some neglect. Time to re-focus?
Junior rugby continues to flourish at Taunton RFC and the resemblance to an ant-hill on a Sunday morning at the Club is not misplaced, such is the enthusiasm. The coaches of all the junior teams are tireless in their efforts on behalf of their charges and the thought of a regular flow of local rugby talent feeding into the Titans is mouth-watering and heart-warming. Success on the field has been echoed by success off the park on the commercial side. You will recall an adjustment of the constitution over the past couple of years reduced the size of your Committee from a top-heavy 15 down to a slim-lined 7 and there is no doubt this has brought about a sharpening of decision-making which has been reflected in the efficiency and effectiveness of James Tolman, our General Manager, and his team. Claire Sperring has managed the Club accounts in exemplary fashion and Nick Mason in his role in commercial and sponsorship development has proved to be highly efficient. The net result is the Monday to Friday side of our business has proved to be very supportive of the Club’s financial need and this needs to be nurtured and supported to further the benefit of the thriving rugby club. Pat Sweeney atFront of House and Adam Cole in our kitchen have been key to this success and we are grateful to them.
The Friends of Taunton Titans continue to make their invaluable contribution to Match Days with their organisational support and the financial benefit which flows from those events contributing directly to the benefit of the Titans. It therefore goes without saying that we all raise our caps to our wonderful band of Taunton faithful who bring such joy to Match Days with their noise, their banter and cheerfulness.
You will have seen from Chairman, John Wrelton’s, recent message that we are anxious to retain their goodwill and support as we venture into pastures new. There will always be a temptation to push prices up on the gate and raise subscription levels as we rise up the ladder but we recognise how important it is to retain our support base and even bring new faces in from the town and elsewhere so we hope to wrap a comforting arm around them and keep them coming to see us.
I wish to pay tribute to that often unsung band of heroes,our sponsors. The contribution they make is not only tangible in terms of their financial contribution but their unfailing support is vital for the success of our teams week in and week out. I won’t single anyone out but their support is obvious for all to see on the shirts and around the ground and in the programmes. Thanks to one and all.
Let me round up this message to you by saying we are not naïve when it comes to recognising the level of rugby we are soon to begin to encounter. There are some seriously good rugby teams waiting for us but we should not, and will not,shrink from the challenges and we know, and they will find out soon enough, that we know how to play our rugby - Taunton Rugby Club has arrived and will make its mark.