06:30PM, Wednesday 17 June 2020
Maidenhead RFC is following the RFU’s roadmap for the phased return of full contact rugby and league matches, however, chairman Steve Bough believes it could be many months yet before the club can kick off in the London & South West Premier Division.
Having been denied their chance of promotion through the play-offs on the RFU’s best playing record formula, Maids were switched out of the South West leagues for the first time in their history and placed in the London divisions. An intriguing season awaits them, however, it’s still far from certain when they’ll be able to kick-off the new campaign.
Last week the club moved into the second phase of a six phase return for competitive rugby, with up to five players now able to train alongside a coach in a socially distant manner. However, the leap from being able to do this to playing a full-blooded first XV clash is a big one and a dramatic reduction in COVID-19 cases across the country - and a lessening in the social distancing measures - will be needed before this becomes a reality.
Like every other sports club Maids will have to wait on the advice of government on that front, however, the protocols they’ve put in place these last few weeks should stand them in better stead than many for when the green light is given for the return of competitive rugby.
“The RFU has just released a roadmap,” said Bough. “It’s a six phase map and we’re currently in the second phase which allows us to train in small groups. The next phase is to follow the government’s guidance. The RFU have been great. They made an early decision on the leagues and they’ve been very clear about what they want to do and how they want to do it.
“We’ve got an exciting season next season with moving into the London leagues and we’re looking forward to that. But we just have to be patient and do the little bits and pieces that we can. We don’t know when the season will start. Will it be September? Highly unlikely. October? Maybe. But then we’re getting into a position where the league window would have to be shortened. Will they not have promotion and relegation next season? Will teams play each other only once. No one knows at this stage, it’s all guess work. I’d guess that we won’t be playing matches before October, because the players also have to get match fit. They can’t just go out and play after a couple of weeks.”
The club has taken many steps to bring limited training sessions back to Braywick Park, including allocating the role of COVID manager to their physiotherapist Sharlene Bertie.
Sharlene has been overseeing the protocols put in place by the club and is confident it is doing everything within its power to limit the risk of infection between players.
“We’re doing our little steps,” added Bough. “But the boys are enjoying it and we’ll up the ante a little bit when we need to. They’re happy to get out and do some structured training and when we know more about the league season Mobbsy (Mobbs-Smith) will step things up and say ‘right, now this is pre-season, let’s start looking at what we need to do to be ready for the season’
“But right now it’s about fitness fun and psychologically giving the boys a break from what they’ve been doing. We’ve kept the Berkshire Executive up to date with what we’ve been doing and they’ve approved it and sent it out to other Berkshire clubs to say ‘look this is what Maidenhead are doing’, and if we can help get other clubs back up and running as well that’s fantastic.”
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