Richards gives seal of approval to Rockcliff RFC

Coun Janet Hunter, chairman of rugby Neil Hayton and Dean Richards. Courtesy of Duncan Jordan.
Coun Janet Hunter, chairman of rugby Neil Hayton and Dean Richards. Courtesy of Duncan Jordan.

Rugby legend Dean Richards has hailed Rockcliff Rugby Football Club as “tremendous” after officially opening the Whitley Bay outfit’s new £250,000 changing facilities.

The Newcastle Falcons director of rugby headed to Rockcliff to perform the opening ceremony as part of the Lovaine Avenue club’s family fun day and he could not have been more impressed.

“Rockcliff is clearly a club that is a huge part of the community in Whitley Bay and from what I can see it is a tremendous club that is on the up,” Richards said.

“It was a privilege to be asked to come along to open the new facilities and get a flavour of what the club is all about.

“There were hundreds of people which says it all really. I thought I’d only be staying for an hour or so but I ended up here for three hours because everyone was so friendly and the atmosphere was so good.”

Officials at Rockcliff – on the look-our for new players for senior teams as well as their thriving youth set-up – put on an array of activities to keep families and friends amused including a mums-versus-dads rugby game and a series of stalls and sideshows.

The Under-12 team, who last year won the Tynedale Sevens, staged an exhibition match.

“The standard of rugby in the youngsters’ sevens game was really impressive,” Richards added.

“There was a high level of skill and commitment on show and above all it looked as though the kids really enjoyed themselves which is absolutely vital.

“It’s nice to know that the future of rugby union is looking very bright in the north east thanks to clubs at the grassroots of the game.

“For the sevens game, which was a real no-holds-barred affair, to be followed by a mums against dads team with blokes dressed up in women’s clothes shows the club has clearly got a nice balance between playing hard and also having a good time.”

North Tyneside Council chairman Coun Janet Hunter, whose daughter Sarah captains the England women’s team, was also full of praise for Rockcliff.

“The people at Rockcliff are doing a wonderful job because they have created an environment where children of all ages are keen to come and have a go at rugby and feel comfortable at the club,” she said.

“The club is really buoyant and with the commitment shown here by the volunteers who make it so accessible and fun, I am sure that Rockcliff will go from strength to strength.”

Rockcliff chairman Dave Swinburn added: “It was a real privilege to have Coun Hunter and it’s really nice of her to give the club her seal of approval because we are a community and we want people all ages, boys and girls, to come and join the club.

“Having Dean along was the icing on the cake for all the staff who have put so much energy into developing our club. The kids might not appreciate it but in rugby terms the man is a legend and the fact he was so happy to stay and chat and enjoy our big day speaks volumes of the man and the Falcons.”