“Neville Drewry in action”
This season may have been disappointing in terms of first team results, but at the junior levels Holt rugby is in good shape. Over 300 players are registered with the club in the youth sections - which extend from under 6s to the under 18 colts. The minis, players below the age of 12, have had a particularly strong season. Excellent facilities at Bridge Road means that up to 10 minis pitches can be made available at any time, while still leaving 3 pitches for senior rugby.
This means that Holt can host major events, most recently the Kingswood festival where over 170 minis teams were involved in a tournament that took place in the first two weekends in April. Kingswood, the leading provider of outdoor education, provided exclusive use of their North Norfolk centres and laid on accommodation, meals and activities for over 300 families.
Holt’s mini rugby chairman and membership secretary is Neville Drewry. He played his rugby at Fakenham where he was a prop-forward but became involved at Holt some four years ago, when he brought his son along to play for the Gladiators – Holt’s team for the under 6s. With the support of a progressive senior committee he has seen mini rugby grow to the extent that Holt can claim ‘best of county’ status in terms of participation and support. They have enough players and supporting adults to field 10 minis team on a given weekend.
Neville is keen to emphasise the ethical standards that govern mini-rugby. There are national age grade rules imposed by the English Rugby Football Union and these shape the game. For example, 7 year-olds play in four person teams and no tackling is allowed. Tackling is introduced in the 9 year old game and, at all levels, there is emphasis on learning basic skills – ball handling, distribution, and avoiding reckless play that can cause injury. Any parent can bring their son, daughter or grandchild along in confidence that the social skills will be given far greater emphasis than physicality. Holt are strongly committed to the English Rugby Union’s wider ethos known as ‘TREDS’ (Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline, Sportsmanship).
In mini-rugby scores are not recorded nor trophies awarded. This was introduced some eighteen months ago to counteract what was seen as an over-competitive element. The change was controversial at the time but is now widely accepted and has Neville Drewry’s full support. He recalls refereeing a minis cup final before this change was made, and acting under intense pressure from touchline coaches and parents who were challenging his decisions. He now feels that such behaviour is very rare, though somewhat contentiously suggests that the occasional parental convert from junior soccer could take some time to adjust.
Holt’s junior rugby set-up provides an important player pipeline for the club: in one match last season twelve of the first XV players had come through the junior sections.
This year Holt have been chosen to host the Norfolk Rugby’s Big Weekend. On Saturday May 6th seven senior Norfolk finals will take place. The youth finals are on the Sunday & include Holt U14's in the plate final v Norwich, Holt U15's in the Cup final v Wymondham & Holt U16's in the plate final v Diss.
This article first appeared, in a slightly different version, in North Norfolk News, (20 April 2017). Text Martyn Sloman; picture Neville Drewry
Updated 10:16 - 2 Apr 2018 by Joanna Storey