Frant Road club wins £270,000 community sport makeover

RUGBY ROUND-UP: Plans for a community sports ground at Streatham-Croydon rugby club in Thornton Heath will become reality next month with a £90,000 grant from the Rugby Football Union’s capital investment programme.

England captain Chris Robshaw: local clubs will be glad that this weekend's Six Nations match in Dublin is on Sunday

England captain Chris Robshaw: local clubs will be glad that this weekend’s Six Nations match in Dublin is on Sunday

The grant will ensure that work can begin on the development of the Frant Road club’s dilapidated changing rooms and stand at the end of March, to be completed in time for the new season starting in September 2013.

Streatham-Croydon’s success in earning funding for the project has come from displaying a commitment to working with the local community and increasing the number of people playing rugby across all age groups and genders. The club is open to schools, charities and community groups who can use the pitches for games, it has a growing women’s section and has seen numbers at mini and junior levels triple in two years.

The first phase of the project will cost £270,000 and will centre on the club’s changing rooms and grandstand.

Phase two will see work to develop the old squash courts into more changing facilities and phase three will see the Victorian clubhouse receive a much-needed overhaul to provide more community facilities.

Grants from Sita Waste (£60,000), the Mayor’s Legacy Fund (£70,000) and Sport England (£50,000) have enabled the project to go ahead.

Jeff Greenleaf, the club’s head coach, paid tribute to the efforts of London Assembly Member Steve O’Connell to winning £70,000 from the Mayor’s Legacy Fund. “Steve has been very supportive of the project and knows the importance of the development to the local community,” Greenleaf said.

“We’ve worked very hard to recruit new players and it is obvious to anyone that the facilities needed to improve if we are going to keep players, develop them and keep growing. Boris Johnson has also visited the club when we hosted the School of Hard Knocks, helping unemployed people get fit, get into rugby and get jobs, so has seen the benefit of rugby and what it can give back to the local community.”

The club has also worked in partnership with the Croydon Sport for Social Change Network (SSCN) in gaining the funding for the development. “Rob Hardy and Brian Dickens of the SSCN have been key in proving that our work with the community is a long term aim and that the facilities will benefit the community as a whole.

“Streatham-Croydon was once one of the biggest clubs in the country; the talent that lies untapped in the local community can help it return to the London leagues at least.”

One-way Street: Warlingham player-coach Tom Street (pictured with the ball) has decided to take a break

One-way Street: Warlingham player-coach Tom Street (pictured with the ball) has decided to take a break

Rick Bruin, the RFU’s Area Facilities Manager, said: “Streatham-Croydon is a prime example of a thriving community rugby club whose playing and coaching numbers had outstripped their existing facilities.

“There is a direct relationship between quality of facilities and participation levels. Improving the quality of facilities for rugby makes it more likely that people will participate and stay involved in the game.”

STREATHAM-CROYDON are currently fourth in Surrey 2, the lowest-ranked of the local clubs, and so still have their work cut-out to climb the English rugby ladder. After a week off last weekend, today, they travel down to Chipstead, eight points ahead of them in second place in the division in a key promotion battle.

Three divisions above them, Warlingham, the area’s top-rated side, probably enjoyed watching their old boy, Chris Robshaw, lead England to victory over Scotland in last Saturday’s Calcutta Cup game rather more than the 44-15 drubbing that their first XV suffered at Lewes in London and South-East Div 2SE.

With eight league matches of the season remaining, Warlingham are comfortably in sixth place in their division, out of danger of relegation but out of the promotion hunt.

The club is having to come to terms with another mid-season coaching change – something that seems to happen on a regular basis at the Hamsey Green club. Player-coach Tom Street, the mainstay of the club’s back-row for the past decade and regularly his side’s best player, has stood down.

Street, a teacher at John Fisher School, has decided to take a break from club rugby for a period, coinciding with he and his wife having just had their first child. Peter Wrightson and Ben Stobart, a former coach recently returned from Hong Kong, have taken up the reins.

Warlingham travel to Medway today.

One tier down, in London 3SW, Old Mid-Whitgiftians are away at Bognor, while Purley John Fisher get a chance to check out the venue for the next parliamentary by-election at Eastleigh.

After a 38-3 thrashing at Weybridge Vandals last Saturday, MidWives will be hoping to get some key players back after injury and look to get a win at Bognor – one place above them in the league table – to avoid getting sucked into a late-season relegation battle.

On the basis of last week’s performance, though, that could prove to be a tough ask. MidWives had taken the lead from a Dan Crouch penalty after two minutes, and then went the remaining 78 without scoring a further point.

MidWives were regularly out-muscled by the Vandals pack, including a first-half driving maul that went 20 yards before the referee was forced to award a penalty try against the overpowered visitors.

PJF enjoyed a 23-13 win in the New Forest at Ellingham and Ringwood to go to third in the league table, just four points behind Weybridge in the promotion spot. This repeat visit to Hampshire, and fifth in the table Eastleigh, may define their season.

Two local sides were in action last Saturday in Surrey 1: Old Whitgiftians winning by a single point, 21-20 in a thriller against Tiffinians, while the grim season for Croydon continued, as they lost 12-15 to Cranleigh.

Croydon are at Old Wimbledonians today, while Whits have an Old Boys’ local derby at the Clock House, Woodmansterne against Old Walcountians.

All the local clubs will no doubt be glad that their top players will not have the distraction of Six Nations action today, with England and Ireland playing in Dublin tomorrow when, doubtless, the bars at the clubhouses will all be open for business.

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