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On this day

Anniversary of the last Kent rugby game

Next weekend, grassroots rugby players will be teased by England’s clash against Wales in the Six Nations tournament.

Watching their beloved game be played on an international stage, amateur rugby players have received little news from the Rugby Football Union about how they might slowly get back to playing.

Lat years Wales-England game. Credit: GulliversTravels

Sittingbourne Rugby Club played their last game on the 29th of February 2020, against local rivals Sheppey.

For a brief period between lockdowns, Sittingbourne started training again and allowed themselves to hope they might play a game this season.

But their hopes were dashed as the second lockdown was announced in November, and the third lockdown was the final nail in the coffin.

Now facing the anniversary of Sittingbourne’s last game, head coach Gary Miller has tried to keep spirits up.

Gary became head coach in May 2020.

“It’s been tougher this time around.”

Gary said: “We all got back into the rugby and put so much time into planning sessions and were looking forward to potentially playing, and then to have it all taken away.”

“We’re just trying to keep motivated and looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.”

Gary hopes for a quick return to rugby this year but is preparing for a more realistic outcome.

“We should be preparing now for a long pre-season and getting ready for the 2021/2022 season.”

Sittingbourne in February 2020, almost socially distancing.

Emma Elgar, Sittingbourne’s physiotherapist, has worked hard during the past year to keep players fitness levels up and prepare for a short notice return to rugby.

She set up a ‘Quarantine Fitness’ WhatsApp group and set exercise challenges to keep the team motivated, but a year later motivation has started dipping.

“When we were allowed to start fitness training in the summer, everyone was all so excited to see each other,” Emma said.

“It was literally like herding cats, I had to keep the lads in small boxes and disinfect all our equipment to follow the RFU’s restrictions.”

Emma said: “this time around in the third lockdown, you lose sight of where you’re going because we haven’t seen each other for a very long time.”

“There’s such buzz around the changing rooms before a game, and in the bar after the game, that’s what we all miss the most.”

Emma and members of the club are continuing with their fitness routines, with some falling off and others just starting as work and family commitments change over the past year.

Sittingbourne’s 5th XV back in 1985.

The physio is optimistic for the eventual return for rugby.

“We’re just trying to keep the end in sight, this will pass and we will be back, we just don’t know the timelines at the moment.”

On Monday, Boris Johnson will update the nation about a possible easing of restrictions.

Just maybe, Sittingbourne’s community might finally have some good news.


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