Renegades RUFC: A brief history

There’s a clue in the name of course: Renegade noun 1. a. a person who deserts his cause or faith for another; apostate; traitor b. (as modifier) a renegade priest 2. a. any outlaw or rebel [from Spanish renegado, from Medieval Latin reneg?re to renounce, from Latin RE- + neg?re to deny]

Intra-club politics at the end of the 2002-3 season led to a number of players voting with their boots and turning away from the established structure of St Ives RUFC.

Prime mover in getting the club off the ground was Kenneth (aka Nick) Nicholson. Nick had previously led the successful St Ives Vets side acting as its Fixtures Secretary, Coach, Selector… Invariably these were all the jobs unwanted by others. Nick’s decision to try and form another club was supported by some players, including Andy Ibbotson, Steve Halkyard, John Bateson, Martin Doughty, Ian Locke, Jonty Jones, Andy Underwood, Danny Tuckwood, Mick Gunney, Stu Feering, Chris Rowbottom and Gary Robinson … Most of those encouraging the club’s start-up ‘came-over’, giving a nucleus of players to call on.

The lack of a home ground was overcome by the offer from Steve Halkyard, teaching at Cottenham Village College, to use the school’s facilities. Though small, the pitch surface was the best in the area. It remained in use until the end of the 2011/12 season but has now been superseded by a new (much wider) pitch nearer to the school buildings. (The move to Cottenham wasn’t without precedent. A couple of years earlier several local players had started to play recreational Sunday fixtures at the Village College. The side didn’t survive due, in part, to most clubs not allowing their players to play elsewhere.)

By early in the 2003-4 season, the Renegades RUFC structure was in place. Key positions were: President: Steve Halkyard, Chairman: Andy Ibbotson, Secretary (inc. Fixtures): Nick Nicholson, Treasurer: Kath Everitt

Nick also served as Coach and General Organiser.

From the outset, it was clear that there would be insufficient Veterans to make the club a successful Vets side. The move to Cottenham would necessitate widening the player age. This had the immediate impact. Some of the more senior players were now running out with youngsters of a similar age to their children. And the club became much more open-looking, allowing a friendly and supportive environment for developing younger and newer players.

The ethos of the club was – and still is hopefully – of being north Cambridge’s most friendly rugby club. In truth however, it is north Cambridge’s only rugby club, locally competing clubs being in the outlying towns of Newmarket, St Ives, St Neots, Ely and in (south) Cambridge (Cantabs, Cambridge, Shelford). In this respect, the club sits in an excellent geographical and developmental position with the potential to tap into several thousand people in the area.

Early seasons Compared to other more illustrious neighbours, it seems peculiar to be talking about ‘early years’. Yet there was many a Saturday where the feeling of expectation was tainted with uncertainty regarding either player numbers, positions, even referee (there was going to be one wasn’t there?). And in the tradition of friendly rugby, many games were played with borrowed players – either from the opposition or from other clubs with teams without games. (Thanks!) An overlooked but key point to Renegades early success was that the club DID NOT CANCEL fixtures, a fact that was merited by other clubs and made organising return and following-season fixtures much easier.

Season 2003-4 was, as anticipated, patchy in terms of the numbers of games played and results. Bar a one-sided affair away at Colworth House (Sharnbrook), most of the results were honourable losses. Noteworthy was the presence of Carl Goodey and Chris Beddow, both still turning out for the Club some eight years later.

Season 2004-5 was much more successful with the arrival of new players (including some South Africans), more fixtures and, as a consequence, a much better record both home and away. Notable scalps (appropriate for us Indians!) included wins over Cambridge Veterans and Kibworth (Market Harborough). 2004-5 also saw the arrival on the map of the rugby world of a side from Wendens Ambo, the small town to the south of Cambridge. Unlike Renegades, Wendens started life as a group of Dad’s coaching their youngsters on a Sunday morning. Becoming hooked, the Dad’s started playing … and continue to do so today.

Season 2005-6 and 2006-7 were successes – no doubt, with the club establishing a core of mostly local (Fen Edge) players and a few others attracted to the serious on the pitch, not serious at all off the pitch attitude. The player ability profile was also variable; some players new to the club hadn’t played since their school days. Others were returnees coming back from bigger clubs in the area. They were a huge help in lifting the standard of play.

If, in retrospect, as season can be viewed as less successful, this was 2007-8. With Renegades now well established locally, the side looked to be treading water. In not competing in a league structure, some results weren’t as good as previous years. The majority player feeling – expressed at the club’s 2008 AGM – was that entry into a league (e.g. Green King Merit) would provide the necessary impetus to the club. This move was rejected for the coming 2008-9 season, so a year of friendlies was played. As with 2007-8, results (at least on paper) were mixed.

At the 2009 AGM, the club voted in entry into the Green King Merit league – now the Super Deuxieme Nord Merit Table, finishing 3rd behind Saffron Walden and Cambridge in a close and competitive competition. The club’s executive also changed at the start of the season with the departure of Nick, Andy and Kath, who were replaced by: President: Rik Relph Chairman: Matt Price Secretary: Richard Cowley Fixtures Secretary: Sam Vail RFU representative: Richard Cowley Treasurer: Chris Beddow Club Captain: Graham Beckford

League membership continues. In addition, 2009 saw the start of an increasingly more serious and competitive regime. Well, we started training midweek anyway. The overall performances on the pitch and the development of individual player skills and fitness has born out the success of the approach. The 2009/10 season saw Renegades come third in their league – not bad for a first season in the competition. 2010/11 improved on this with Renegades coming second. 2011/12 saw Renegades come top of the league, undefeated until the title was secure with many hard fought battles along the way.

Off the field Renegades pride ourselves in being good hosts to our visitors and good visitors at our away games. Early years of post match entertaining were spent at the Jolly Millers pub in Cottenham. More recently, the club has been well looked after by Sam and family at the Wagon and Horses. Since the 2011/12 season, post-game refreshment has been taken at the Cottenham Club.

In addition, mid-season activities have been added including regular curry-nights, family socials and the traditional Christmas and end of season bashes.

Another spectacularly successful aspect of club life was the end of season tour. Renegades take touring very seriously.

Touring to 2004 Bratislava, 2005 Donostia (St Sebastian), 2006 Arnhem, 2007 Belfast, 2008 Brussels, 2009 Tallinn, 2010 Cardiff, 2011 Bath. Additional notes are given elsewhere about the tours. Suffice to say that they have been a successful blend of exuberance and, er, tiredness.

The 2010 and 2011 tour took a different turn, with the decision to stay in the UK and visit Cardiff and Bath respectively. This was an excellent decision, proving (in the finest traditions of rugby tours) that: 1. it doesn’t always rain in Wales / south-west England (but mainly Wales) 2. grown men can be unbelievably child-like when it takes their fancy.