Junior History

On the evening of Monday 13th September 1971 Sidmouth became the pioneers of Mini Rugby in Devon, and one of the first in the country, when a group of players and ex-players, under the leadership of Club Captain Terry O'Brien, welcomed the first batch of eager younsters for their first taste of the game of rugby. About 40 boys between the ages of nine and fourteen attended that first session and within two weeks the number had doubled to eighty. 



There were no inter-club games played in that first season simply beacuse there were no other clubs with teams to play. However an exhibition game was staged between two ten-a-side under 11 teams prior to the 1st XV game on Boxing Day. Also the Pullin Cup was revived and played for at the end of the season by four teams, three drawn from different areas of the town, and one from those who came from outside. 



The following season the first inter-club matches were held against teams from Exmouth. Further games were played against Tiverton and Hele's School. In April 1974 Sidmouth staged the first Junior Rugby Tournament in Devon with ten-a-side Mini Rugby for Under 12s and a seven-a-side competition at Under 14. 



Other regular coaches in the first few years were Tony Taylor, a player who was a teacher at St Nicholas School, and ex-players Les Cody and Des Bridgeman. For the 1974-75 season they were joined by David Keast, who took charge of the Under 16s when the first cohort of boys reached that age group. Sidmouth was now fielding teams from Under 10 to Under 16 as more clubs followed the trend and provided regular opposition. 



By 1976 the first cohort graduated to the Colts. The success of the venture was shown in 1978 when the Colts reached the final of the Devon Colts Cup, where they were defeated in a thrilling match by Plymouth Albion Juniors. By then products of the scheme began to filter into the senior teams and players of the calibre of Graham Bess, Kenny Bradley and Graham Denner appeared in the Chiefs. 



In 1979 Terry O'Brien stood down and Derek Marchant took over the administration of the Junior Section. It continued to thrive, and in 1981-82 the Under 16 team, coached by Geoff Retter, won the Martecia Trophy for clubs in the east and north of the county. 



In the mid 80s the Juniors went into decline due to the lack of willing coaches and administrators. However in 1986 Bernard Holland came on the scene to help out and soon found himself taking over the reins. His hard work and dedication breathed new life into the set up. He was also fortunate that at the same time a particularly talented group of boys were starting their rugby careers. In 1989 the Under 10s won the Devon Tournament and went on to repeat the feat as Under 11s and Under 12s. They eventually completed their time in the Juniors at Under 16 level in 1995 by winning the Jewson Cup and going on to win the Devon Shield to become County Champions. In the same year the under 15s team, coached by Colin Nice and managed by Stuart Hayman won the County seven-a-side Tournament. They repeated the performance in 1995 when they also reached the final of the Jewson Cup. 


There began to emerge a growing number of parents who wanted to get involved. Among them were Stewart Hayman, Darryl Dumenil, Bill Wilkinson, and Ian and Annette Trim. Annette's administrative skills took pressure from the coaches and set a blueprint for the future organisation of the section. Under the leadership of Peter and Sharon O'Brien a structure was set whereby each age group had at least one manager and one coach. Relieved of the burden of administration, more coaches came forward. This allowed for a rapid growth in the number of players, with more and more coming from outside of the town. Despite this there were not enough to field teams in all age groups. 


In 1996 the Junior section celebrated it's Silver Jubilee under the new leadership of Malcolm and Sally Barratt. They continued to develop the administrative structure and the growth in playing numbers. By the time they stood down in 2001 there were teams in all age groups from Under 8 to Under 16. They were replaced by another double act, Chris and Carol Dunford. They coped well with increasing beaurocracy, particularly those notorious growth areas of health and safety, and child protection. They also saw the membership of the section grow to over 300 players. 

With increased numbers and better qualified coaches came success on the field. Teams were regularly winning tournaments and cup competitions. As the Club celebrated 125 years of existence, Jed Stone took over the chair of the Junior section. He is still in charge of a thriving organisation as it celebrates its 40th birthday with a brand new pavilion being built at Sidford, where the majority of Junior section training and playing takes place. The Club is grateful to Craig Morgan for his determined leadership in bringing this project to fruition. The pavilion will be a fitting memorial to all those who have contributed towards making the Sidmouth RFC Junior section what it is today.