Andover Rugby Club Youth Academy’s 2013/14 season ended in style with their annual presentation day entitled ‘Celebrating Success’. Newly installed academy chairman Hendry Taylor welcomed around 350 young players, parents and relations to the event which was held in a large marquee on the clubs first team pitch.

Local MP Sir George Young, and Hampshire RFU’s Kieron Spencer were among the guests and numerous sponsors who saw a number of young boys and girls ranging in age from five to 18 years old receive awards to recognise their personal achievements during the past year.

The main awards were presented by player/coach Marc Wilding and London Irish’s community coach Ollie Braley.

Each team had a ‘Coach’s Player’ and ‘Most Improved Player’ as selected by their coaching team and the players in each of the 12 age groups previously voting for their own ‘Player’s Player’ nominee with the winner being the player with the highest number of votes. Among the highlights of the morning was the presentation of silver salvers to four Andover players – Josh Ingram, Callum Farr, Jacob Williams, and Stanley North – who had been selected for their respective Hampshire teams – a real achievement in a very competitive county. During Hendry Taylor’s initial welcoming introduction, he thanked both sponsors Simplyhealth and all the other local sponsors and sporting partners involved with the club, whose financial help is crucial in maintaining the current excellent standards being achieved at the Goodship Ground.

The Academy Junior Clubman Award was presented to U15 Toby Warren, who in the opinion of his coaches displayed real dedication to his team during the past season in spite of a serious knee injury. The Academy Senior Clubman’s Award was presented this year to Dave Kane, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes with local schools, both primary and secondary in raising the awareness of rugby within the local community.

Ollie Braley commented: “We are delighted to be involved in supporting Andover RFC’s youth academy, as they are one of our most proactive ‘tier one’ Community Club partners, and have been so for a number of years. It is wonderful to see that the whole club is focused in providing a high standard of coaching and support to the town’s young people, and I am amazed at the level of commitment that the players of all ages have shown. It must be extremely gratifying for all coaches and support staff to see the progress the boys and girls have made, and having attended a number of rugby club presentations, I must say today’s event here at Andover is one of the best’ Kieron Spencer – rugby development officer for Hampshire RFU, said, ‘it’s obviously been another fantastic season for Andover RFC’s Youth Academy. All the squads have worked very hard to further develop and progress, and this can clearly be seen by the achievements of both the youngsters and well as the senior teams. It is good to hear continued numbers of players coming into the lower age groups, which will stand the club in excellent stead for the future. With the news that 77 per cent of the current first XV are former graduates from the club’s academy, this equates to a whole bright new future for Andover RFC, and one that I believe many other clubs are quite envious of.”

The club also made the coveted presentation of an Honorary Life Membership to colts sponsor Stuart Graham, whose company Graham and Co have been involved with the club for the past ten years The final presentation was made to former youth academy chairman Dickie Staff and his wife Hilary. Dickie is stepping down from his official duties with the club as he is due to become chairman of the Auto Cycle Union (ACU) Track Racing Commission in January.

Dickie commented:”Having been involved with the club for the past 15 or so years – since my two sons Jack and Callum first started playing youth rugby – I have made many friends here at the club. Together with the support of a number of dedicated and focused parents, we have worked hard over a number of years to ensure that the academy has become a key asset for the future of this magnificent club. Andover RFC now has a good reputation within the local community, as well as within the South of England, and Hampshire RFU have often referred to us as ‘best practice’ for other rugby clubs to copy. I feel that what we have now is a great legacy, and one that everyone involved should be extremely proud of. I wish Hendry and his team the very best of luck for the future, and I know that he will take the Academy to a new level.”

This story may not appear in the Advertiser until next week due to a shortage of space.