We Have Come A VERY Long Way
STEVE'S BLOG 27
The Musings Of A Happy Old Prop
December 30th 2009
As a decade draws to a close it is always a good moment to take a quick look back over the past ten years. Certainly we have all got older - whether wiser or sillier is for our family and friends to judge – but for the Pirates it has undoubtedly been the most enthralling period in its near sixty-five years of history.
If we look back over that period there has been so much which enthralled let alone entertained us. Of course, we had a number of disappointments but these were far outweighed by the days when we drove away from games with our hearts on fire and our dreams rekindled. Most of the time the sport has had to deal with inadequate strategic direction from the various governing bodies and the Pirates have had to try to develop themselves in extremely uncertain times.
However this should not be allowed to detract from all the fun we have had, the friendships forged and the sporting spotlight which has so often returned to Cornish rugby.
I am sure if we sit back and close our eyes all sorts of images return. The great day at Twickenham of course, but also the promotions gained against Westcombe Park and Stourbridge, that glorious snowy night at Leeds and the great win at Bristol five years ago which I still feel was one of the most comprehensively professional Pirate performances I have ever seen.
There were special thrills like Lee Soper’s lung-bursting try to steal the match against London Welsh on the Mennaye, Jimmy Moore’s drop goal at Doncaster and Richard Welding’s five try baptism at Kenwyn which spring to my mind but I am sure you can recall a hundred others.
The Pirates opened the new Millennium as Penzance and Newlyn RFC and were already embarked upon a steep upward curve. Following three rapid promotions they stood high in National Three South where they were chasing Esher for further promotion and the Cornwall Cup had at last come back to the Mennaye. However just how far things have moved on since can be seen by fact that the first match of the decade was against plucky little Perranporth in the Cornwall Cup.
The team that day was comprised of Nat Saumi; Wes Robertson; Dave Sibson; Victor Olonga; Rocky Newton; Andy Birkett; Mark Roderick; Matt Kevern, Andrew Laity; John Thomas; Joe Bearman, Richard Carroll, Jason Atkinson, Chris Mills and Adrian Bick. The bench included Steve Evans, Brian Andrew and Kevin Penrose. Remember them?
The team was then coached by Peter Johnson with his successor and then assistant, Kevin Moseley, still very much a player. Some of those men are still Pirates legends whilst a few may be unfamiliar to more recent converts to Pirateland yet a decade later only Bearman and Carroll are still playing senior rugby.
However off the park, and despite all the massive changes, the club has been blessed with some wonderful continuity with not only Dicky Evans himself but also with Phil Westren, Terry Drew, Paul Greaves, Robin Turner, Geoff Read, Rudi Grenfell, Nicky Brooks, John Gendall, Bez Berryman, Dave ‘Benny’ Trembath, Stuart Michell, Colin Dymond, Trevor Swann and Graham Paul still playing vital roles in driving the ship forward just as they have done over the years. Players come and players go but the very soul of the club is lodged in men like these.
Nevertheless it has been the players who have so often inspired and occasionally frustrated us and we have had some glorious entertainment along the way. The silky running of Victor Olonga, the pyrotechnics of Rhodri McAtee, the physical presence of Will James and Heino Senekal, the swashbuckling Vili Ma’asi, the jack-in-the-box Gavin Cattle and the emerging talents of Joe Bearman all come flooding back.
We have had many other battle-hardened heroes too such as Alan Paver, Dan Seal, Joe Beardshaw (did he ever have a bad game?), Jet Motusaga, Tim Cowley, Matt Evans, Steve Winn and so many others who gave their blood, sweat and tears season after season to the cause and we salute them.
A decade later we find ourselves as one of half a dozen leading contenders in the National Championship with an enviable small army of supporters cheering the team on both home and away.
The professional preparation, coaching and fitness are at levels unthinkable a decade - or even five years - ago. The Championship is almost entirely played by full time professionals and, with the British and Irish Cup, the first rather tentative steps are being taken to look beyond the borders of England.
Off the field the pre-match entertaining and overall experience, media coverage, ticketing, website and marketing are unrecognisable from where things were ten years ago and now we have the brave new venture of internet streaming of Pirates matches taking off as well.
The change of name and move from Penzance in 2005 was of course a huge watershed and an anathema to many but hopefully time is beginning to heal many of the old wounds. Sound and sober financial management is now a huge challenge for professional rugby in these difficult economic times and far too many clubs are suffering badly from over-reaching themselves. The Pirates are fortunate in having Rod Coward to stand guard over this - there are plenty of horror stories in other clubs up and down the country at the moment!
And the next ten years? Professional rugby still struggles to make up its mind whether it is a sport or a business but we should not be overly pessimistic. For the Pirates building an organization and developing a team able to attain and sustain Premier League status remains the Holy Grail and a Cornish Stadium capable of hosting this appropriately remains the biggest single challenge.
Can we somehow make it all happen? Sometimes we all can get a wee bit downhearted and frustrated but - if the next ten years show anything like the progress of the last - then somehow Yes I think we will.
Happy New Year!