Wessex RFC – July 2013
Wessex Rugby Club have become the first recipients of a donation from the Express & Echo and Exeter City Council Sports Foundation.
The city club hopes to establish a youth section, with a six-week tag rugby programme under way with children aged five to 10.
They have been awarded £1,000 and will spend the money on getting equipment and a new container to store it in.
Wessex were formed in 1995 and play on city council pitches at Flowerpot Fields, Exwick. They do not have their own clubhouse or changing rooms.
First-team captain Dan Morris has played a leading role in plans for a youth section along with club secretary Sharon Walker.
He said they have already started to spend the money on goodies for the youngsters on the tag sessions.
“The money is going to be massive for us in terms of equipment,” said Morris.
“We’re very limited as we play on a council pitch and we’ve only got one tin of equipment. We’re going to get a second tin that we can get all the equipment – the right size balls and everything you need for the younger age groups.
“We’ve already used some of the money for the six-week sessions we have been running, so everyone is going to get a Wessex T-Shirt, a drinks bottle and a draw-string bag.”
Wessex officials have talked about starting up a youth section for several years.
Since Exeter Chiefs moved from the County Ground in St Thomas to Sandy Park, there are no youth rugby clubs on the west side of the River Exe.
Morris hopes Wessex can fill that void and give the children from Alphington, St Thomas and Exwick somewhere to play rugby.
Plans to create a youth section moved a step closer earlier this year when club officials were moved at the response they got from the local community when they staged a charity event to raise money in memory of former player Sean Ankers, who died of a heart attack in March.
The club’s five-year plan is to put together two teams by the start of 2014, start to play competitive fixtures in the 2014/15 season and then grow the club from there with more children joining up.
Morris explained: “It’s come about by Sharon Walker coming on to the committee.
“She came on because of what happened when Sean Ankers, who passed away last season.
“The idea came from the charity event we had and the vast amount of support from everyone in the area.
“We thought if there were that many people around who could turn up, why have we not done things with them before?
“We were speaking to teachers and local councillors and they said, with the Chiefs moving from St Thomas to Sandy Park, a lot of people who are not well off in the area can’t afford to go out there several times a week for their kids to play rugby.
“We’ve always talked about it but with Sharon and myself having more time we’ve been able to work together and get things off the ground.”
He added: “We had 30 kids at our taster session earlier this month and we only went to one school to advertise.
“We’ve been to a couple more schools since then and we want to go to more and more.”
Echo editor Paul Burton, chairman of the Express & Echo and Exeter City Council Sports Foundation, was pleased the first grant will benefit children in the city.
He said: “On behalf of the foundation, we’re delighted to award our first donation.
“One of the main reasons for setting up the foundation was to ensure there is a lasting local legacy from the Olympic Games in London last year.
“By helping Wessex RFC set up a youth section, we hope more youngsters in Exeter will get the chance to play rugby.
“Now that we have made our first grant, hopefully more clubs and individuals will get in touch and we can help them improve their facilities or further their careers.”