Barney back in action as rugby season kicks off
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
COMPETITIVE rugby returns to the Demesnes for the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Outside the professional arena, the sport has been badly affected by the pandemic with the governing body and government drawing up a lengthy return to rugby roadmap, which only allowed the resumption of full contact matches on August 7.
Prior to that, players had been allowed to train since the end of March, but with no scrums or mauls allowed, and any action was restricted to touch or tag matches.
Barnard Castle RUFC coach Junior Suluga-Fagalilo said it had been a difficult time for all clubs.
He said that while anxious for a return to action, they were also conscious of not wanting to add to the numbers of people affected by Covid.
“It’s been a slow and methodical return and it was only about the beginning of August that we could get back to contact,” he said.
“It’s been such a long lay-off and with rugby being all about the contact, some of the guys were not into the touch rugby. It’s been a hard time for a lot of teams, trying to keep people motivated, however, players are slowly coming back.”
The loss of the social side during the pandemic has also had an effect.
“To me, rugby is about playing hard, tackling hard, running hard, having your little spats on the field but then shaking hands and heading to the club,” said coach Junior.
“Not having that environment, even after training, has been very hard on the guys. They have really missed that side of rugby.”
Saturday’s Durham and Northumberland 2 season opener against Sedgefield will give players and supporters alike an oppotunity to put the past 17 months behind them.
In the more normal run of things, Barney would be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2018/19 campaign which saw the side relegated from the Durham and Northumberland first division.
But as first team manager Mally Kicks said: “The first couple of games will tell us how we are.”
Coach Junior added: “For all clubs, it’s a case of just getting back out there, interacting with other clubs, bringing people together and getting that rugby feeling back again.”
Since Barney were last in action a number of players, including Mally’s son Adam, former skipper Rob Stanwix and Mike Hughes, have left to try their luck at a higher level, playing for Tynedale in National 2.
Meanwhile, back on the Demesnes, Saturday’s match kicks off at 3pm.