Richmond Rugby Club are celebrating their success after winning a prestigious prize at the Crabbie’s National Rugby Awards at Twickenham.
The club was presented with the Pitchero Rugby Club of the Year award at the home of English rugby on September 1, at an event attended by England internationals Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Alex Goode as well as members of the Olympic silver medal-winning rugby sevens side.
Formed in 1861, Richmond is the second oldest rugby club in the world, most famously contesting the first match at Twickenham Stadium against Harlequins in 1909.
In 1999, the club was placed into administration and tumbled down the leagues to level nine, but since then, has rebuilt from scratch and now has more than 800 players on its books, with many of its ladies team representing the home nations on the international stage.
And having beaten off stiff competition from five other nominees to win the award, club president John Heaton admits the memories of the night will stay with him forever.
“We’re so happy to have won this award,” he said. “We’re a former professional rugby club, we went bankrupt in 2000, and since then, we’ve fought our way back as an amateur club, so to get promotion into the Championship, a fully professional league, is a fantastic achievement.
“There were individuals who put their own money into the club and supported us, and it’s been a really hard journey.
“We’re a community club. We have men’s teams, women’s teams, a big minis section, and we’re very fortunate with where we are in that we attract a lot of good players.
“It’s just a great rugby club. When we won promotion, it was a really emotional moment for all the guys who had been there since 2000, and I can tell you there were a lot of tears on that day.”
Now in its second year, the Crabbie’s National Rugby Awards are designed to honour the achievements of all the thousands of rugby clubs up and down the country.
The Awards provide recognition to clubs and players at every level of the game, as well as those who invest their time and energy into the sport in other ways.
And for Wasps and England international James Haskell, who won the Zebra Architects Professional Player of the Year prize, the awards are the perfect celebration of grassroots rugby.
“It’s amazing to have won, I never really win any award so it’s very humbling,” said Haskell, who was part of England’s RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam-winning team earlier this year.
“I had no idea I was going to get the opportunity, and see how much it means to everyone else who won awards.
“Rugby wouldn’t be what it is if we didn’t have the amazing grassroots elements to it. I grew up playing at Maidenhead Rugby Club since I was five years old, and if you go into any club round the country, they live and breathe what the national team do.
“Everyone is an aspiring professional rugby player and some of the older guys probably still think they should be, so I’m really flattered to be at these awards and I hope grassroots rugby keeps growing and growing.”
For more information about the National Rugby Awards, please visit the Website http://www.nationalrugbyawards.co.uk