Club talk

The Harry Walker post match celebrations…the Rosslyn Park ‘Man of the Match’

102 years old and more capable and more competent with a microphone than many supporters..

I thought the end-of-match presentations to Harry Walker were a lovely gesture to a man who is synonymous with Coventry Rugby Club.

Ever since I’ve been attending games, the name of Harry Walker has been mentioned by those involved with the club with great pride and respect…

In the 55 plus years I’ve been coming to Cov, I’ve never met Harry, never even said a hello, so I am probably the least qualified person to write something about him…he’s just been there, part of the very fabric of the club. His presence is everywhere and even as a youngster, when Harry’s name was mentioned it was done so almost in a whisper, such was the respect in which he was held by ordinary supporters.

There’s a brilliant article on the Internet by Daniel Schofield, written for the Daily Telegraph on the eve of Harry’s 100th birthday, entitled ‘How England forgot Harry Walker – its oldest surviving rugby union player’. For those supporters like me, who know the name and not the man, it’s a really great read and gives a brief insight into both the life, and times, of Harry W.

How England Forgot Harry Walker 

As for the post-match celebrations, they benefitted hugely from Coventry’s win against Rosslyn Park just moments before.

A defeat and the mood might not have been quite so celebratory – but as it was, a great Cov performance meant that many more stayed on who might otherwise not have done so otherwise and for a few minutes there was a real atmosphere of celebration. It clearly meant a lot to the players, who listened and clapped with what looked like genuine affection.

Good to see so many ex-players there, too…(Kevin Hickey…always enjoyed watching him…).

And good, also, that the Supporters’ Club were so prominent. I know they had pushed for some ‘public’ acknowledgement of Harry’s achievements and it’s reassuring that the club are listening and responding to such ideas.

There is definitely a growing role for the SC – maybe one day we’ll see some sort of supporters’ representation on the Board and get a clearer insight into the vision and direction the club is taking.

For me, Saturday’s  presentations were as much about a celebration of a man who had lived a life, and what a life, spanning 102 years as it was about his connection to Coventry.

It was a privilege to be there just to be part of the moment, irrespective of the Coventry connection, a connection which in truth I know relatively little about.

Those few short minutes were a chance to enjoy the presence of the man and not the name, the face and not the reputation, and briefly to remind myself once again  that the rugby community is more than just a group of people enjoying the same interest – it’s also a family that looks after its own and shares the happy moments as well as the sad.

It was quite humbling…

My mum, at 92, still fondly remembers her first Cov game back in 1944/45 at Birmingham University, of all places, and thinks Harry Walker might well have been playing…not that she would have been that interested in the rugby…

…it was a hot date with my dad-to-be.

In a way, he helped bring them together…

Thanks, Harry.

A few photos, then for mum, if for no one else…

…sad she couldn’t be there.

And for Quent…another for the collection…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well done, Will Maisey!!!

Very many thanks to everyone who took part in the Coventry v Rosslyn Park ‘Man of the Match’ poll over the weekend.

The results of the votes are as follows:

  1. Will Maisey – 37%
  2. Tom Poole – 23%
  3. Phil Boulton – 9%

So for the sixth time (out of the ten polls in total) those who took part have differed in their selection of the ‘Man of the Match’ to that of the sponsors, this week voting instead for Will Maisey, with Tom Poole, the sponsors’ choice, also featuring heavily in the voting.

If you score 21 points in a game, you’re rarely going to be anything but first in a poll of this nature and it’s hard to argue otherwise in Will Maisey’s case. A well finished try in which he left the last defender on his backside as he wrong footed him, 16 points with the boot and a performance at fly half which left no one in doubt, if doubt there was, as to just how improved a player he is since we last saw him at the BPA some three seasons ago.

With Tony Fenner also at the club next season, we are blessed with two quality 10s at the moment and with Cliffie Hodgson also having played there with some distinction in the past, there is real strength in depth.

Will is taller than most 10s, but he is a very smooth, silky runner as he showed in scoring his try against Rosslyn Park…he’s not frightened to look for the gap and he seems to have good speed over the initial 5-10m which enables him to beat defenders.

What has impressed me most about Will this season, though, is his ability to get the backs playing…he is one of the best distributors of the ball we’ve had for a while and his passing is varied enough to cause problems for opposition defences. Tactically, he has improved no end and he probably kicks less than most fly halves in our league. In fact, his kicking out of hand wasn’t a strength back in his previous spell at Cov, but it is now and his place kicking, especially under pressure, is exceptional.

With a success rate of 76%, he lies fourth in National One with Tony Fenner topping the list at an incredible 84.4%  – Ben Palmer of Old Albanian is second to TF, which perhaps suggests that our discipline next week needs to beat least as good as it was in the second half on Saturday, otherwise we could be severely punished.

When Fenner is fit again and available for selection, there will be some tough decisions to make and take…he and Will Maisey are very different players but each contribute immensely when they play. It’s exactly what Rowland Winter wants in his squad, although keeping them both happy isn’t going to be the easiest of tasks next season.

Tom Poole has been one of the most consistent performers since his return to the team after Christmas. He has always worn the Cov shirt with pride and his performances this season have rightly caught the eye of many supporters (and sponsors). He is a fearsome tackler and there have been several examples this season where he has brought a player to a sudden stop at crucial moments resulting in a lift both for the crowd and for his teammates.

Such moments can change a game.

He’s not the all round athlete that Tom Jubb is, but his physicality complements TJ’s athleticism and the two have formed a promising partnership.

As with Will Maisey, next season with the arrival of the highly rate Nile Dacres and another second row almost certainly to be confirmed soon, competition for places is going to be high. It might be that second row is one of the positions that RW will decide to rotate given the strength in depth and the very physical nature of the role anyway.

His performance on Saturday led to Rowland Winter saying in his post-match comments:

We know he’s a hard worker, a good grafter, and he had an outstanding game. It’s not often I’ll single someone out for special praise, but I think Tom deserves that today. Quite often he does the unseen work, but today it was pretty obvious – he was a man mountain out there.

It doesn’t really need me to say anything else….well done, Tom.

And a quick word for Phil Boulton…

He’s become increasingly popular with the Coventry crowds who have really warmed to him, especially as a leader on the pitch. The front row have been immense all season and it must be such a great feeling knowing that other teams in the league fear the Coventry pack. He was an inspired signing and he, Andy Brown, Harry Morely, Jimmy Litchfield and, of late, Jake Byrne will surely already be relishing the challenges the future looks sure to bring.

He has also embraced the role of captain and his influence on the pitch is plain to see; it is clear that when he talks the other players listen.

He leads by example and has earned the right to be respected, making more starts than any other player (along with Fenner and Stokes) and the most appearances other than Scott Tolmie. For the oldest player playing regularly in the squad now, that’s no mean achievement…although at only 30 (?) he’s still a mere youngster! In what is a relatively young squad his experience has been invaluable and it’s no coincidence that results have improved under his captaincy …

 

 

 

 

 

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