Steve Melbourne will be a familiar face to anyone with even a passing interest in rugby in Guernsey.
Having been the sport’s Development Officer for 7 years, Steve has been instrumental in ensuring the game remains strong and supported at all levels from the youngest five-year olds to the full representative sides.
Coming to Guernsey following a successful military career, Steve was quick to get stuck in.
‘Rugby was OK in Guernsey; its wasn’t the best and was not where it could have been.
‘I spent the first 6 months working up a Development Plan for rugby across all aspects of the game from volunteers and facilities right through to the top players.
He’s pleased at where things are now.
‘Guernsey Raiders are playing in National League 2 and in a far better place. Guernsey Ladies are mid-table in their national league, and we had 15 new players coming through last season,’ said Steve.
Guernsey Vikings – a combined team drawn from St Jacques and Guernsey’s second team – are also playing at a higher level competing in the Zoo League. ‘This gives them a far better quality of game and a stepping-stone to the first team.’
Steve’s own rugby career started with the under 8’s and he continued playing right through to veterans.
‘The pinnacle for me was playing for a Combined Services team against Australia.’
As with all of the sports specific Development Officers, a lot of Steve’s work is focused on schools and introducing young people to rugby and the wider benefits of physical activity.
‘We want them to play every sport not just rugby. It’s about teaching them the fundamentals of movement; running, changing direction, balance. Rugby is about teaching them discipline, sharing our core values – teamwork, respect, enjoyments, discipline, and sportsmanship. Everything we do is built around this.’
Steve is supported by Community Rugby Coaches Callum Gladstone and Brad Webb.
‘We work in every single school, so it needs the three of us to cover everything.
‘We are doing really well, we have fantastic support from all the clubs and all the schools and without the support of our sponsors none of this could happen,’ Steve.
Rugby has strong support across all age groups outside of school too.
‘We have 330 players in the Academy and on a Sunday morning we are busy with lots of volunteers, lots of coaches and lots of mums and dads who want to get involved and help out.’
Players who exhibit the right skills and commitment are given a clear pathway via the Academy into adult rugby.
‘When they are 14, we bring them into the Player Development Pathway run by the Guernsey Rugby Association,’ said Steve.
‘We start with an assessment at the beginning of the summer when we go through each of our core values and look at their basic skills, technical skills, tactical understanding, physical and social skills.
‘We have 35 players currently in the pathway.’
Although this season is shaping up to be a difficult one with a big reduction in funding and no sign of any action in the national leagues, Steve says there’s still plenty to look forward to.
‘There are difficulties this year as funds for off-island travel have been completely cut but our chairman Charles McHugh has been doing an incredible job raising money.
‘We have played, just not any league matches. We have to wait for the RFU to resume playing in the UK but that may be going backwards right now,’ said Steve.
The airbridge with the Isle of Man has opened up some great opportunities for competitive matches at all levels with further ladies, men’s and youth games planned for the coming weeks.
There’s also a big celebration of the game with the Community Rugby Day on Saturday 24th October.
‘We have a full day of rugby from the under 7s through to under 18s and adult games,’ said Steve.
For more information about the Community Rugby Day visit the GRFC website
You can contact Steve via email at SteveMelbourne@RFU.com