And it’s farewell to three stalwarts of Webb Ellis Road
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Rob Dignum’s reflections on the game - and the season
Midlands 3 West (South)
Rugby Lions 46
Lions progress as league champions for the third consecutive season.
On the final weekend of the league campaign, Lions played host to Ledbury RFC aware that a win would secure promotion, writes Player Coach Rob Dignum.
Not to dwell on matters, but it has been a funny old season in many ways; at times joyous, similarly on occasion a testing journey.
As a rule, rugby players are made of tough stuff, you get what you are given, do not point the figure of blame and bleating is a firm no, no.
For these reasons, throughout the tough times, we have taken our medicine and not made excuses… it seems fitting now at the end of the season that some of these truths be laid bare, however.
It will come as no surprise to learn that at the start of the 2015-16 league campaign we were in a dark place, the loss of my mate of three decades and our fellow Player Coach Rob Walton rocked us all in dramatic fashion.
In short we were all over the place and not wholly prepared for the season. Add to this the fact that for every opposition we face, it is very much their ‘cup final’ and that they falsely assume money and bigotry, then nothing comes too easily.
With happy reporting, we are in many ways one of the most grassroots of clubs, any players that pull on the shirt are either a product of Lions mini/juniors or I have asked along to follow me in playing for this wonderful club.
To assume that we might be any good just because of events that happened long before anybody’s current time of playing, or because Billy Webb Ellis picked the ball up a mile down the way would be naïve and untrue.
The opening fixture of the league campaign back in September saw us travel to Ledbury and lose by a single score 35-33, conceding countless penalties and playing poorly a fortnight on from losing our Head Coach, to be beaten by a better side on the day.
Fast forward seven months and this game should have been a close encounter, Lions 46-5 Ledbury therefore makes for cheery reporting.
The game tough throughout, Lions simply had more to play for. Suffice to say for all the nerves going into the fixture knowing what was at stake, we are all over the moon to be promoted along with local rivals Southam in second, who ended Evesham’s promotion hopes, winning 13-0 in their ‘winner takes all’ encounter.
The game was close early on, but over with Lions 24-7 in front, try bonus secured at the half way point.
The half time chat was simple… more of the same please, which Lions at their imperious best delivered when they had to, adding a further four scores, ultimately all the fretting in vain.
Cue celebrations and liquid refreshment as we again look forward to pastures new.
In three seasons of revival, Lions’ committee have been overjoyed with the playing side; Lions Development Team, in its second year have just been promoted for the second time, similarly new look, post-renaissance Lions three leaps in three seasons.
To the Lions faithful, please do not misconstrue this as negative or unambitious, but we might just have found our level for the time being, take some time to find our feet, settle, build the club as a whole yet further and be better for the experience. That in mind, there is never much standing about at Lions, continually adjusting in this current time of rebirth.
With this ongoing adaptation there have been countless individuals come and go in my three seasons involved.
It is with a very heavy heart that we have to bid farewell to some real club stalwarts that will be difficult to replenish. Steve King has been at the club for nearly three decades and done just about every job imaginable, his departure a toughie to take in.
If you get talking to anyone about Lions, it’s not long into the conversation that you will hear Steve’s name mentioned… Steve, thank you for everything.
Also departing, Kingy’s sidekick Tony Smith, who likewise has done a sterling job for a number of years, our thanks to Tony. 2015-16 Head Coach Wayne Mitchell moves onto greater things and will be missed more than he will ever know. Wayne, thank you personally for all that you have done in a relatively short time. I have enjoyed working with you and have learnt loads. Wayne’s arrival was timely indeed during a period when the wheels were threatening to come off; our promotion therefore is very much down to Steve, Tony and Wayne.
And a final farewell and appreciation extended to captain and stalwart Ben Everton, a Lion of 30 years. Ben epitomises all that is good about our great game and will be sorely missed also. Something tells me ‘never say never’ about this retirement, however, and the Everton family home extension could always wait another couple of seasons, surely?!
For all the farewells, I am overjoyed to welcome Dave ‘Aggy’ Addleton on board for 2016-17 and beyond. Dave is current forwards coach at Coventry RFC and has done pretty much everything one can do in the game. His arrival is proof indeed that we at Lions are serious about our future. To a very small minority of players that have potentially not given all of your effort, I offer you some friendly advice; google ‘Aggy,’ then make it along to more Tuesday nights next season!
To all that have supported Lions this season, as a club, thank you, we look forward to seeing you again next season.
In the meantime we will enjoy our recent success, take stock and enjoy the club dinner before kicking on again next season. I have said it before, I will say it again: a wonderful, wonderful time to be a Lion.