Coffs Harbour Snappers Rugby Union Club is a strong sporting organisation that supports the local community. Focus went for a run around the paddock with current club secretary Paul Butcher to find out more.
What’s your connection with the Coffs Coast?
I have lived on the Coffs Coast since 2003, after growing up in Grafton. I first moved down to Coffs Harbour to finish my university degree at the National Marine Science Centre at Charlesworth Bay and since 2004 have worked as a scientist with NSW Fisheries. My wife (Candice) and three young kids (Taj, Eli and Nate) have never looked back since and enjoy everything that this town has to offer.
When did you start playing Rugby Union?
I started playing when I was 16, after being introduced to the game by a great coach, Paul MacLennan. Prior to that I was a skinny little weed who only played soccer, which provided me with the skills of sprinting, agility, evasiveness and kicking, which were essential when I turned to the greatest game of all – Rugby Union. My first game of Rugby was for Grafton High School in the state-wide knockout. From there, school, club and Representative Rugby has taken me to every country town in NSW, every capital city in Australia and overseas – it’s something that I will cherish forever.
What is it about the game that you love?
Everything – it’s a strategic game that requires teamwork for the entire game. Many would say it’s a game of chess, with coaches and players who can think on their feet excelling at this sport. Most of all, Rugby provides you access to thousands of people, with many becoming lifelong friends. It can give you a passport to travel around the world, as almost every country plays the game.
Playing on Saturdays is also a big bonus, as when you get a bit older you have a day to recover before heading back to work – it also means a bit of partying on Saturday night, irrespective of whether you win the game.
How long have you played for the Snappers?
I’ve played for the Snappers since 2003. I hit a few hurdles in the middle with a broken arm (x 2) and fractured cheekbone, but I’ve managed to play every year up until last year, when I pulled the pin at the age of 37. I wanted to continue but when you can’t do the things you used to do, you get grumpy, so that’s when you know it’s time to give it up and join the “experts” on the hill (with mandatory beer in hand). I’m glad to say that the itch has now worn off (sort of) and I won’t be in a playing strip this season, but I am starting to help referee – which means I can still be part of the game, but without being sore the next day.
What position do you play?
While no. 8 (back of the scrum) and blindside flanker are my most played in positions, I have played in the 2nd row many times (much to my disgust) and even played one year of under 19s at inside centre. Playing in the backs was a bit boring, and the real fun was to be had in the forwards (or pigs as they are known in Rugby, as they actually get dirty). That comment should start plenty of debate!
Are there any other roles that you held within the club?
I try to give as much back to the sporting organisations that I am involved with as what I get out. I learnt this from my parents over the years, who were dedicated people in many clubs. Without volunteers, any sporting organisation would fail.
Any advice for anyone who is considering strapping on the boots and having a crack at Rugby?
The best thing is that in local Rugby we don’t pay players or helpers, so all those involved are volunteers, which creates a passion for the sport and club; every club has some very dedicated volunteers. For the players – it’s a game for everyone with any body shape and ability. It may look technical, but everyone has a role to play on and off the field – it’s a big family. The camaraderie and the long term friendships you start are worth every cent. I never thought it was a game for me when I was young but once tried, I was addicted. Come out and give it a go.
What does the future hold for the club?
Our club is in good hands, and seeing the number of juniors coming through our ranks and those involved in the Friday night competition (under 8s – under 12s) – Rugby is here to stay. We would always love some more funding to come through from the ARU (Australian Rugby Union) to the grass roots, but I think every sport has its same problems. Our wonderful local sponsors make this possible for all the players. On top of that, we have one of the best facilities in Australia for a Rugby club, and it’s all run by volunteers.
Where can people find out more about the club?
We train every Tuesday and Thursday night from 6pm at Jung Quarries Rugby Park at the southern end of Hogbin Drive, Sawtell. Game day is most Saturdays between April and August, so come along to the ground.
You can stay up to date on the club website (www.coffsrugby.com) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/coffsrugby/). We welcome all new players, supporters and sponsors. You will certainly enjoy the experience.
Images Courtesy of www.nashyspix.com