RAK Rugby Club were presented with the Yalla Rugby Club Of The Year award, along with a hefty bar tab thanks to the McGettigans JBR management.
“We are thrilled to receive the inaugural Yalla Rugby Club of the year award”, said club Chairman Simon Williams. “It represents an incredible 12 months for the club that includes difficult decisions, mistakes we’ve learnt from, tragedy and success.”
This season has seen the club move away from the sand pitch at Bin Majid Beach Resort to training at Tower Links Golf Club leaving the club effectively a nomad club for the 2017/18 rugby season. The move however, did attract experienced coach and former UAE International rugby player Craig Chapman which in-turn brought in more players to the club as previously the club found the sand pitch actively discouraged players with some turning up, taking one look at it and disappearing again.
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With a formal training structure in place and pre-season strength and conditioning under Chapman, RAK Rugby slowly built up their squad. This was reflected in their results with the men’s team beating clubs that they previously wouldn’t have come close to beating in seasons gone by. Club giants such as Abu Dhabi Harlequins who consistently manage to field two teams in the UAE Community were both well beaten by them, being the only team in the league to do so.
A RAK women’s rugby team also made an appearance for the first time this year as a core group of five ladies who had never picked up a rugby ball before, going on to win a group C tournament in the Cross Border Series. The ladies soon caught the eye of former England International – Jane Leonard, to a squad of twelve who have recently come back from a successful tour of Egypt.
Another step this season saw the club introduce a mini and junior rugby section. With small numbers training and playing, RAK didn’t enter any tournament’s choosing to focus on a series of friendly matches against the Hurricanes, Eagles and Dragons. This move proved to be a huge success for the club as they ended up winning their first ever match. Williams now looks to next season with the aim of entering a mini/junior team into the local competitions.
Dubai Rugby 7s & Barrelhouse 10s Success
Away from the leagues RAK Rugby have proved themselves as a competent social side with their social and vets side making respective plate finals at the Dubai Sevens with the social side going on to win. A 10s side also tasted success at this years Barrelhouse 10s tournament, winning the plate final against a strong Dubai Lankans side.
Off The Field
It’s been bittersweet with the loss of club friend and sponsor – Katherine Reed in January and the tragic loss of Nick Young at the Sharjah 10s tournament in April. This Friday (1st June) sees a memorial match against local club Arabian Knights to honour Nick as well as the inaugural Nick Young memorial golf tournament which will be held on the 7th September. The club is hoping this event will include every UAE rugby club and become a firm annual fixture.
“There’s masses still to do but we have a great committee and set of players and supporters behind us and we are looking forward to next season and beyond.”
A Royal Decree
Lots of work went on to build on the club this year, establishing a patron under Sheikh Abdullah bin Humaid Al Qasimi and a royal decree meaning they can officially attract sponsors. The club are excited to hopefully start the 2018/19 rugby season with a pristine grass pitch at their new home based out of Tower Links Golf Club.