Steve Bird pens all of our Avon Rugby Club match reports, which usually get online within 24 hours of the game ending. They have been of a consistent high standard and helps give a small insight in to local rugby in Bath. However did you know Steve turned out for Bath Rugby between 1977-1984? We managed to ask him a few questions to see what the future holds for Avon and finding out why having a Premier rugby side on your door step is a double edged sword:
How did you come to get involved with Avon Rugby Club?
I started playing for Avon as a fresh faced 15 year old about 45 years ago after being invited to join by my close friend Nigel Williams. Apart from 3 years at university and 6 years at Bath rugby, I’ve been involved with Avon as a player or official ever since. Having been Chairman for 14 years, I’m now happy to leave the organising side to others, enjoying myself instead by watching the games, writing match reports and updating the Avon website.
The first team is now performing at a high level of club rugby, how has the structure behind the scenes changed over the years?
We are now playing at the highest level in the Club’s 89 year history and currently sit in 3rd place in Western Counties North. On the playing side, we are now much more highly organised than previously and are fortunate that Clive Book (the former Bath and Somerset player and coach) remains as our Head Coach and has instilled a more structured approach to training and playing. Off the field, despite being a small local amateur club, it’s almost like running a small business these days and a never-ending struggle to make ends meet by a small but dedicated group of volunteers.
Bath is seen as a rugby City with the Rec getting a touch over 13,000 for their last game. How are the crowds at a local level?
At local level in Bath and generally amongst our opponents in Bristol, Gloucester and Somerset, the crowds are fairly small, certainly less than 100 in most cases. Whilst we support Bath and welcome their success, in some ways it’s a bit of a double edged sword as quite a few of our ex players understandably prefer the match day experience at the Rec or televised rugby these days. However having said that, our players are pleased that we have a hardcore of supporters who follow us home and away most weeks and really appreciate their support.
Which 3 players in the current first team squad are the ones to look out for this season?
That’s a difficult question to answer since Avon’s success is largely down to a closely knit group playing together for the team – perhaps not surprising as many have grown up together through youth team rugby and also due to the strong family ties within the Club (often fielding 5 sets of brothers in the squad). If I had to single out 3 players, then Avon’s skipper Kai Harwood is a talismanic leader having captained the team for 9 successive years; Scott Book remains an effervescent flanker in the loose and great source of possession in the lineout; whilst Rob Fitch pulls the strings amongst the backs and is a reliable goal kicker.
Finally, what are the hopes for Avon Rugby on and off the pitch in the next few years?
On the pitch, whilst the 1st team are riding high, we are realistic enough to know that the step up to South West 1 would be detrimental as we literally could not afford the time or money to travel down to Devon and Cornwall on a regular basis. More importantly, we are hoping that our 2nd team can gain promotion from Somerset 3 so that they can enjoy more meaningful rugby and also that we can resurrect more teams in our junior section. Off the field, we are actively seeking more sponsorship opportunities to help us develop our facilities further at Hicks Field and to ensure that the Club is operating on a stable basis financially and administratively to see us up to our centenary in 10 years’ time.
Steve will continue to write for us for the whole of the 2014/15 season, so if you want to find out how Avon Rugby get on then keep checking back weekly. Do we do enough rugby articles on here? Is there something we can do better? Get in touch on Twitter and Facebook with your ideas or to submit your articles.