As for many of Rugby’s lower leagued sides, youth development is something that can mark the success or the downfall of a club. But for Mansfield RFC, it is something that has become something of a hallmark.
“It’s a terrible cliché to say it but I make no apologies, they (youth players) are the lifeblood of our club. With the odd exception, our first team is made up players who have come through our youth section,” explained Andy Foster, Chairman of Mansfield RFC.
The club has graced the 5th tier of Rugby Union for a few seasons now, and currently plays in the newly reformed National League 3 Midlands League.
“We recognised a long time ago that ‘growing our own’ would be the only way forward. We have a very dedicated and hard working band of youth coaches and helpers and they do a tremendous job in preparing youngsters for life in senior rugby.”
The successful nature of Mansfield’s youth system has prompted many talented players to leave Nottinghamshire, including last season’s club captain.
Foster explained: “The price of success means that we have lost our Captain Tom Calladine who is a massive influence on our side both on and off the pitch. He is currently on loan to Nottingham RFC and playing in New Zealand. We will also lose our centre Ryan Hough who will represent Nottingham RFC in their LV Cup games again next season as he did last year.”
The progression of the team and reliance on youth has been noted in recent weeks as Phil Donaldson was announced as the new skipper to replace Calladine.
Donaldson joined Mansfield when he was just 12, and made his debut for the first XI just 6 years later.
Coach Steve Shaw told the official website, http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/mansfieldrugby/: “Phil has been one of the first names on the team sheet for a long time now and his work ethic has earned him respect from his team’s mates as well as the opposition.”
Donaldson himself took to the clubs website to state his delight at taking over and clearly is eager to get started as he commented, “I’m looking forward to the new season, it’s a great honour to be asked to Captain our First Team and I have some big shoes to fill but I will be giving it 100%”.
Mansfield won over half of their games last season, but success on the field can only be possible with success as a business.
“We have a very industrious marketing committee whose role is to manage our commercial operation. They handle match day sponsors, pitch board sponsors and programmes. We also hold an annual BBQ every August Bank Holiday which attracts around 3,000 from the community.
“Last year we held our first SME Day where we invited local businesses to a game to see the club and what is on offer as a potential sponsor. The day was very successful and attracted at least four new sponsors.” Concluded Chairman Andy Foster.
And what of the future for Mansfield RFC? Last season they added to an already impressive haul of trophies by winning the NLD Cup for the second successive season, as well as the Nott’s County Cup for a record 17th time.
Foster finished: “Together with our 5th place finish in National 3 makes us the second highest ranked club aside from Nottingham RFC in the Three Counties – we aim to build on that.”