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Bittersweet Emotions as Trio Miss Out

Atherstone RFC

Last Updated: Feb 2, 2014 08:16pm
Atherstone, North Warwickshire
By Julie Douglas
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As Atherstone RFC take to the pitch next Sunday for the final of the Warwickshire Second XV Shield there will be mixed emotions for three second team players who will be missing out on the occasion due to injuries sustained during the season.

Jeff Smith has been playing rugby for the club for fifteen years and the match would have been an opportunity for him to play in a final with his two sons Mikey and Rich however surgery to a broken finger has left him on the side-line.  Smith explained that he had continued to play for six weeks after first picking up the injury before being told that he had a double fracture which needed to be pinned. Whilst disappointed not to be on the pitch, Smith said:

‘We should focus on the same game plan we have had all season.  Our style of play suits our team well and we should not change it for the big occasion.’

Smith went on to give words of wisdom to his colleagues:

‘We need to assert our authority in the early stages of the game.  We need to keep our heads and not get over enthusiastic, keeping our discipline.’

Jeff’s son Mikey broke his femur eighteen weeks ago while playing in a second team fixture.  This would have been Mikey’s second appearance in the Shield final having played in the Manor Park team that lost to Harbury in 2011-2012 season.  Despite having made excellent progress in his recovery it will be some months before he is able to join his colleagues on the pitch although he has been given the okay to start doing gentle work coaching the juniors.

Asked for his thoughts on the forthcoming game, Mikey said

‘I am gutted that I won’t be on the pitch although I am half debating whether to bring my kit anyway!  My advice to the lads would be to try not to feel the pressure, enjoy the occasion and play for the badge.  We play rugby to enjoy the game so keep that mind-set.’

Le-Roy Spraggett picked up a horrific injury to his ankle when he stepped up to play for the first team in their league match against Coventrians.  A spiral fracture and dislocation will keep him off the field of play for at least twelve months. Spraggett is also disappointed not to be able to play his part in the final and to be out of the game for so long.

‘I have always looked forward to playing rugby at the weekends and would love to be part of the team for the final match.  I want the lads to enjoy the game and I know they will put their heart and soul into it.  I would just say to them to go for it and to leave the park with no regrets.’

Second team captain Matt Kent has had to makes some difficult choices with selection for the final and is very mindful of those players that have missed out, particularly the two Smiths and Spraggett.

‘All three have played a part in our season and it is such a shame that through injury they are going to miss out.  They would all have definitely been in my selection.  I know that they will all be there to support the lads.’

Chairman George Bartlam echoed Kent’s comments about the injured players:

‘All three of them will be missed on the day but they will no doubt enjoy the occasion and have a few beers with the lads.

Bartlam, who will miss the final himself due to family commitments, fully understands how the trio are feeling in the run up to the match.

‘I have bittersweet feelings about the final.  There are a number of players, including myself, who for one reason or another will be unable to play in the history making game.  However as a club everyone has got behind the lads.  We have had excellent sponsorship for the occasion. The support has been fantastic. I would like to thank everyone for making this a red letter day for the men in black.’

First team captain Phil Mulvey, who is hoping to guide his team to promotion this season, added his support for his colleague Kent:

‘I want to wish Matt Kent and his merry men all the luck in the world…bring that trophy home boys, do us proud’

It is difficult to contain the anticipation and building excitement ahead of next week’s final however for the selected squad they know they have to keep their heads and focus on the task at hand.  Whilst supporters may be celebrating the occasion well before the starting whistle goes, they know they have to give their all for eighty minutes before they too will be able to celebrate the occasion and hopefully the victory.

Photo: Jeff Smith flanked by his two sons Mikey (left) and Rich

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