“We’re raring to go” - Grassroots sports clubs across Calderdale ready for return to action

Sports clubs across Calderdale have welcomed the chance to resume training and competing when restrictions are lifted on March 29.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 4:49 pm
Heath RUFC, from the left, juniors coach Richard Inwood, chairman Paul Sutcliffe, Lucas Inwood, eight, first team coach David Harrison, Tansy Forester-Green, nine, coach Anthony Wood, Finley Inwood, 10, coach Jonny Forester-Green, Sonny Forester-Green, 12, second team captain Tobias Hinchcliffe, Lennon Wood, 10, juniors coach Alistair Gordon, Sonny Gordon, nine, and junior chairman Brook Ward.

As part of the road map out of lockdown restrictions, organised adult and children’s sport will be permitted from the end of the month, allowing grassroots sport for juniors and older ages to restart.

Ben Harrop is club secretary for Hebden Bridge Saints Junior Football Club, and manages two teams.

“I can’t wait to see all the kids again, I’m sure they can’t wait to see each other, we can’t wait to get back to it,” he said.

Hebden Bridge Saints AFC. Coaches and players, from the left, Dave Freeth, Jed Duffy, 13, Amanda Elwin, Erin Freeth, 10, Alfie Adams, 13, Richard Woods, James Woods, Harry Freeth, 13, Blake Harrop, 15, Scott Henderson, Alfie Elwin, 12, and Ben Harrop.

“Hopefully we’re out of the worst of it now and we can carry on.

“We’re hoping the leagues we’re in will start up again and we’re raring to go.

“We’re straight into training and then games will start on April 11, during the Easter break.

“The FA have extended the league season, which usually finishes at the end of May, but it will now be the end of June.

Brighouse Juniors AFC, from the left, trustee Ben Holden, coaches Daniel Goacher, Mark Sutcliffe, Andrew Houlihan and Michael Stevens.

“So it’s a case of trying to get the kids playing again, get them doing something outdoors and active.

“I didn’t realise how much of a community thing it is and how much you look forward to seeing other people.

“Football matches are weekly community events where you get everyone together and you chat to people, complain about the kids!

“I didn’t realise what a big part of my life it is until it wasn’t there.”

Blackley Cricket Club, from the left, head of coaching Michael Midwood, first team captain Matthew Britton, cricket chairman Lance Greenwood and under 17s player Joe Hardcastle.

The club runs 17 different teams featuring more than 200 players, including a veterans team for parents, and uses pitches across the Calder Valley, including Brearley Fields, Midgley, White Lee, Holmes Park, Calder Holmes Park and some school pitches.

“We’ve operated as much as we can,” said Ben. “It’s been a lot of hard work but when we have been able to get the kids playing it’s been amazing seeing them come out of their shells, interacting with one another, enjoying themselves and getting fitter.

“One of the most difficult things has been having to plan things in when you don’t know from week-to-week how many players you’ll have or whether your opposition will play because people might have been self-isolating.

“That’s been quite frustrating. We haven’t been able to play as much as we’d have liked to, and it’s been hard to keep everyone engaged and keep in touch.”

Blackley Cricket Club chairman Lance Greenwood says the the club’s four open age teams will be practicing soon after restrictions are lifted.

“We start the day after, that’ll be our first outdoor practice since mid-September,” he said.

“Normally we have ten-week sessions pre-season but they had to be disbanded because of Covid, so we’ve had absolutely no practice and we start the season on April 17.

“We’ll probably get two or three outdoor sessions in before the season starts.

“It’s been awful, this third lockdown has been a real grind, so just to be able to get outside and play cricket again will be absolutely fantastic, and to be able to have a chat because we’ve just been stuck inside not talking to anybody.

“I was a bit worried about some of lads struggling with mental health but touch wood everyone seems to be alright, everybody’s fine, we’re just looking forward to starting cricket again.”

Marie Palmer, from Halifax Rounders Club, says their 40 plus members are also excited about resuming training.

“We’re starting up again on March 30, and we’re looking forward to it so much, it’s been a long time coming,” she said.

“We played in-between so we were still allowed to play in the second lockdown, but not this recent one.

“Hopefully this is the last one and we’ll be back permanently.

“We missed out on the winter league so that was a disappointment but we’re looking forward to starting up with the summer league in May.

“I think most people are just looking forward to seeing everybody, I think a lot of our ladies see it as a bit of an escape from every day home life, and a bit of exercise as well.”

Paul Sutcliffe, chairman of Heath Rugby Union Club, said: “It’s had a massive impact, not just on sport but it’s a mental health thing as well, getting everybody back together again and seeing all the lads.

“It’s a year ago since we’ve played rugby. We got promoted to the highest level we’ve ever played at so to not play for a year has been challenging.

“The 2020-21 season’s been scrapped so there’s no rugby planned,

“We’re looking to start training on March 30, open age, and then the juniors will follow suit on Sunday mornings.

“It’s all up in the air what the lads can do, can they shower or stuff like that, so we’re waiting to hear about that side of it.

“It’s not all about the rugby, they want to have a beer afterwards and socialise, but we won’t be open as a club until May 17 so a lot of it will be outside to start with until we can get up and running again.

“We’ve been doing a lot of stuff over Zoom, a bit of fundraising and different challenges.

“It’s a massive part of their lives, we’ve got some stalwarts down here and built up a very good set-up.

“They’re all chomping at the bit.”

Heath has three open age teams and five junior teams, featuring around 120 players.

“The biggest impact for me is on the juniors, under 8s to under 15s,” Paul added.

“They do find other stuff to do, they haven’t got that concentration span if cricket or football is there they’ll go and play that.

“So that’s my worry, because we’ve put a lot of time and effort into the junior section to get it built up. Five teams is the most we’ve ever had.

“So my worry is about getting them back. It’s massive for them as well, seeing their mates and getting them running around on a rugby pitch.”

Daniel Goacher is one of the coaches at Brighouse Juniors, who are hoping training will resume next week or the week after.

“We’re still waiting on league approval,” he said. “They’ve said you can get back to training and playing on the 29th but there’s still a bit of uncertainty around it.

“We’re lucky to have our own 3G facility but there’ll be some clubs that can’t get hold of facilities.

“There’s a possibility those pitches won’t be available because there’s other sports that use them, and if the season is extended we’ll be going over into the cricket season as well.
“It’s been very much stop-start but it’s all about safety.

“There’s psychological benefits to grassroots football, whether it’s juniors or open age, but it’s more important to make sure we get a handle on the virus.

“Hopefully the vaccine will improve things.

“In the summer you’d usually have tournaments across the region but you’re finding there are fewer of them because there’s a lot of uncertainty.

“I’m only aware of one tournament out towards Wakefield way that’s running.

“The standard season might finish around May but there’s not going to be any of the usual tournaments after that.”

Around 400 children play across all the club’s age group teams, from the ages of four to 17.

“I’m involved with two under 11s girls teams and I’ve been trying to encourage them throughout the lockdowns to get out and practice, but not just football, just to get out walking and exercising, obviously following the guidelines,” said Daniel.

“There’s a lot of kids desperate to get back playing but having so long not playing, there’ll be some that might struggle to get back into it because they’ve lost a bit of interest.

“The kids’ parents have all been very positive about getting back.

“Out of the 30 girls I’d probably expect 90 per cent back playing again in the first week.”