On the 19th October 19, I was one of three Staffordshire referees to have the honour of officiating the first matches at Stafford RFC’s new home ground at Coopers Park. As I came along the drive, a large glass-fronted building appeared in the distance and my first thoughts were ‘Wow – this is impressive!’.
I entered through the front door and was met by Martin Lennon, SRUSR sponsor and Stafford member, who showed me to one of the two Match Official changing rooms!
After placing my kit in the changing room, Martin kindly gave me a guided tour of the new ground. Firstly, taking me into the 1st team changing room, which made me think I was at Twickenham, but decked out in gold and black. We then headed outside where I was shown the Artificial Grass Pitch and the other 3 full-size grass pitches. We went back inside and back into the main foyer where we bumped into Paul Hill and Simon Redford AKA Fester, who had arrived even earlier than me! There was a tour of the changing rooms, including the second match officials changing room. The tour continued heading upstairs to see the professional looking gym and President’s Suite with its own viewing balcony. Back downstairs there are two bar areas and a ground level external patio.
The first 1st XV league match on the AGP was against local rivals Newcastle RFC. It was a close affair with Stafford edging a win 17-16 after overcoming a significant half time deficit. Both sides played positively in a competitive match, played in a mixture of sunshine and rain. There is a bonus to being on an AGP – there is no mud!
Newcastle took the spoils in scoring the first try, with both sides struggling with a slippery wet ball. The match remained competitive until the very end with Newcastle just missing a long-range penalty in elapsed time that would have secured a tight win.
After the match everyone piled into the changing rooms to try the new showers. Unfortunately there was a slight snag, the showers in both my changing room and Newcastle’s didn’t work! In the spirit of rugby Stafford offered the Newcastle players to come and use the ones in their changing room and I ended up sharing with Paul and Fester, so the jelly babies didn’t go to waste in the end! Speaking to Paul and Fester, they both had enjoyable matches with Stafford 2nds and 3rds comfortably beating Uttoxeter 2nds and Cannock 2nds respectively.
With all matches played in the right spirit, I would say it was a good day for Staffordshire Rugby, 6 Staffordshire teams and 3 Staffordshire Referees!
When we were showered and changed the three of us enjoyed the generous hospitality of Stafford RFC, Martin Lennon, Andy Lewis and various others. Both bars were packed full of people in jovial spirits, so we ended up staying late, chatting and enjoying their company for the ‘home warming party’.
On behalf of Paul, Fester and me, I would like to thank all at Stafford RFC for your excellent hospitality and making us part of your day.