Withycombe’s future looking bright despite current woes

PUBLISHED: 09:44 05 December 2018

Rugby action. Picture TERRY IFE

Rugby action. Picture TERRY IFE

Archant

The only way is up from now on for Withycombe, who hit bottom in the Cornwall & Division after conceding their game against Penryn two weeks ago and are still there after a 50-point drubbing at Torquay last time out, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

Withycombe have been struggling for numbers all season due to a combination of summer departures and an ever-lengthening injury list.

Withies were in an impossible position last Saturday when they were down to their last two, fit front-row forwards when they needed four to start the game.

Penryn were handed a walkover and declined the offer of a friendly rather than having a day off.

Hayle, who were bottom, defeated South Molton, to move past Withies in the basement slots.

Mervyn Richards, the Withycombe chairman, said the club may have hit a low point, but he remains optimistic for the future.

“Most clubs go through ups and downs and it just happens to be our turn at the moment,” said Richards.

“We are starting to see players coming back from injury now and know which games we need to target to get out of trouble.”

It is less than three years since Withycombe ran out at Twickenham against West Leeds in the final of the RFU Senior Vase, easily the biggest game in the club’s history.

Said Richards: “We have certainly had our good times, but you know they will not last forever.

“We knew before the season started it was going to be tough for us as we lost two players to university, two to the Marines and two down the road to Exmouth.

“Since then we have just had injury after injury and, without a second team at the moment, you just run out of players.

“Numbers are not the problem – we have 35 registered – but keeping them fit and available is.”

Key players such as Chris Gibbons, Alex Taylor, John Parkin and Danny Sansom have been out long term.

The good news for Withies is that Parkin is within sight of being match fit again.

More good news is that prop Liam Cullen, who departed for Exmouth in the summer, is back and was in the squad for the Torquay game. And it won’t be long before play-making stand-off Glenn Channing is back playing having recovered from a broken arm.

Short term, Withycombe have work to do to preserve their Cornwall & Devon status. Long term, said Richards, the club is in a good place.

“We have got our own colts team playing this season, which is a first for our club, and within a couple of years, we will see some of them in the first team, said Richards. Below that, we have teams at most of the youth age groups and our junior section really is thriving.

“In time, we need to get a 2nd XV running again, but that may be a year or two away.”

Richards said changing attitudes among players were one of the reasons clubs like Withycombe and others in Devon are struggling to get out more than one side.

“It is not just us,” said Richards. “I can remember not that long ago Exeter Saracens running four sides. Now it is only one. It is easy to say things were better in my day, but they certainly were different.

“The culture among some players has definitely changed. If I had said I was not going to play on a Saturday and go shopping with the missus instead, I would have been laughed out of the club.

“Now, hardly anyone bats an eyelid if a lad goes shopping on a match day.”

On Saturday (December 8), Withy travel to Pirates Amateurs for their latest league outing.

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