Niall Crawford

In my 38 year association with Worcester Rugby Club some of my fondest memories are playing for the Colts. I was fortunate enough to start playing for the colts, age 16 just as I started sixth form at Droitwich high school. I knew several of the older boys who were already playing colts at that time, Jonathan Heal, Steve Reading, Ian hobby, to name a few - all players who went on to play some senior rugby. Once you started to play, you soon also met other players from other schools, some grammar some state, but what you did get was a group of players who were extremely competitive against any colts team in the country.

During my time as a colt, well before professionalism, we had a celebrity field fixture list with many matches against what would be premiership clubs now, but we regularly played Leicester, Bristol, Northampton, Cardiff to name a few as well as some very competitive games against local strong teams such as Stourbridge and Luctonians. This meant we played at Welford Road, Franklins Gardens and Ashton Gate.

I was fortunate enough to be coached by many legends of the club, my first experience of being coached in senior rugby was by Neville South. You could see that in his day he would have been a very good player, by the energy and physique he had, and how he always thought he could show 15-19 year olds a thing or two with ball in hand. The other coach was Kim Mercer, whose commitment was outstanding, always at every session and all games, supporting us to be the best we could be. Ashley Jones a long-term member and servant of the club was another coach who made an big impact on me towards the end of my time as a colt. His softly spoken Welsh accent did little to hide the ruthless nature he had as a very accomplished 7 in his time. His ability to inspire us to do great things was typified by a trip to Luctonians with just 13 players, but we were still able to turn them over and come away with a win, because he made us believe in our abilities to beat anyone.

As a player it’s hard to recall lots of particular games, but it was more the memories of the people you played with and the antics that we got up to, that stay with you. One such memory was when we went to play Leicester away at Welford Road with a strong possibility that we could beat them to help maintain our unbeaten run in that season. Welford Road was always a difficult place to park at, the bus driver pulled the bus over to go and find out where you could park, one of the colts, Dave Shaw with a lot of experience of driving tractors found it easy to move the bus further up the road much to the astonishment of the driver. I also recall the one time we came back from a short tour to find Dave Shaw's car up on blocks in the car park after somebody felt it would be a good joke to take the wheels off his car.

We were very proud to be representing Worcester Rugby Club and the majority of the players started playing rugby in the mini junior section and worked their way through the club. Some of the players we were fortunate enough to play with, went on to better things. Spencer Bradley became a very successful first team player at Worcester but also other Midlands clubs. You think of somebody like Dave Merlin and Gavin Baldwin who ended up playing for a time at Northampton, as well as the professional team at Worcester.

Touring was a good part of the colts set up and our manager at the time Bob Johnston organised a trip to the South West, with us staying in St Ives. Let’s just say a phone came off the wall, but to credit one of the colts, who was a BT trainee and was able to fix it before we could be charged for it. While I was still playing colts one of the boys who turned 19 was getting married (Paul Tanton) in Ormskirk so we managed to combine the trip to the wedding with a game of rugby against a local team and what was fantastic. The vicar who was performing the ceremony played with us so when we did see him in the church it was quite interesting to have played with him on the pitch.

In the season ’88/’89 the playing record for the particular coach team at the time was outstanding. We lost very few games and not to be big headed there weren't many oppositions we feared playing either home or away and as a result of that season’s outstanding efforts we were rewarded with a mention in what was then called the Whitbread Rugby Yearbook. When I look at the picture in the book it just brings back all the memories of the great club and players that I played with in my time who went on to play rugby in all different places across the country. It’s always great to meet up with them and we reminisce as if it was yesterday and like many others still think we can play as we once did. For some of us, our children are reaching the age of colts rugby and I do so hope hat they have as good an experience as we all did.

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Rugby at Worcester since 1871

Worcester Greyhounds - 1963
Worcester Rugby Football Club Colts - 1979
Worcester Rugby Football Club First XV - 1956/57
Worcester Rugby Football Club First XV - 1890's
Ladies Night 1958 - Bevere
Worcester Rugby Football Club First XV - 1971
Worcester Rugby Football Club First XV - 1920's
Worcester Rugby Football Club First XV - Promotion 1990