NORTH Shields RFC are looking to mark their 90th anniversary season by re-launching their youth section.
The Preston Playing Fields outfit have been without a junior set-up for the past few seasons and, despite youthful faces in their senior line-up, are starting again from scratch when it comes to the next generation.
The club are seeking volunteers to be put through the RFU’s ‘Rugby Ready’ and ‘Scrum Factory’ courses on Saturday March 30, with a view to starting one team next season and gradually adding further age groups one per year.
The first step will be the staging of an under-13s tournament for local schools next month.
Chairman of youth rugby Lee Austin explaining: “A lot of clubs are struggling now for numbers and at North Shields we are no different.
“Our first team are doing reasonably well in Durham and Northumberland Two, we run a second team and occasionally a third team when numbers allow.
“We do have young players coming through, but when you go down the teams we have props playing who are going on 60 and nobody ready to replace them.
“As a club we are looking towards 2015 as the World Cup year and really trying to attract young players back here to build for the future.
“We know we are not going to entice many university lads with being so far out and we need to be growing our own.
“We used to regularly get four teams out when I first joined the club 15 or so years ago.
“It is not that long since we used to run youth sides and as recently as three or four years ago we had a thriving section.
“Around 50-60% of the current first team were products of our system and that is what we want to get going again.”
Faced with the daunting prospect of starting with a blank sheet, Austin added: “We did not know how to go about it to begin with, so we approached Dave Reed at the Northumberland Rugby Union who gave us good advice.
“He and Andy Buist, who is the North Tyneside schools liaison guy, are organising the tournament and some follow-up coaching sessions with the schools who are involved.
“In the meantime we are trying to find more qualified coaches who can try and take it on next season, but we are doing it one age group at a time because we don’t want to over-reach ourselves.
“Something like one new team per season sounds about right at this stage and we will just build it gradually from there with what we hope will be a firm base.”