Sunderland RFC on crest of a new era – as Ashbrooke go back to the future

Sunderland RFC in action last season, with the old badge on their shirts.
Sunderland RFC in action last season, with the old badge on their shirts.
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Ambitious Sunderland RFC are looking to the past for inspiration as they build for the future.

The Ashbrooke club have dropped their ship and colours club crest and reverted to the original rugby badge, featuring two rampant lions, which adorned the club’s shirts during some of its most successful playing periods.

Sunderland RFC's new, traditional-style badge

Sunderland RFC's new, traditional-style badge

Explaining the change, club chairman Paul Geehan said: “We have got a fantastic heritage within this club and I don’t think we have made the most of it.

“We took the decision to reverse the badge back to its original, to give us that unique identity within the sports club.

“There were many designs of the ship and colours and it made sense keeping our identity unique.”

The club have not carried out market research, but Geehan said: “It’s a bit of a gut feeling.

“We are looking to a positive future, with a successful and rapidly growing section.

“The motto “ Out of the fire, through the darkness and into the light” is very appropriate, at the moment.“

Building on the growing veterans rugby scene in the North East, Sunderland have now added a fourth team to their roster – the Statics – aimed at drawing over-35 players from across Sunderland.

The team – who have already lined up seven fixtures against other North veterans team – were bolstered by Sunderland ’s hugely successful RFU-backed Return to Rugby sessions, which continue every Wednesday.

A club spokesman said: “We had about 25 players register for this programme and together with ex and current players of a certain age – now have around twice that number interested in playing.

“We have been working all season to get together to train and get better.

“We work with the RFU, who are being very supportive in organising Vets’ festivals, additional coaching and advice.

“We were inspired to put our boots back by the sheer amount of interest within the club and what is particularly encouraging, is the number of potential over-35 players who are coming to us for the first time. All are welcome.”

The Statics, who take their name from the immovable caravans, were once a regular side at Ashbrooke, until a dip in player numbers saw the team axed.

While training is optional, the players run out every Wednesday and are on the look-out for more players.

Anyone interested in joining should contact Alan on alan.clinton14@gmail.com or John on johnkhowe@yahoo.co.uk

Meanwhile, Sunderland RFC’s women’s team – the Flames – are in pre-season as they build up to their new season kick-off, at home to Liverpool side Sefton on September 4.

The team, who ply their trade in Women’s Championship North 2, have begun training at Sunderland College’s Bede campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30pm.

Buoyed by a season of consolidation and 12 players selected for Durham County, the Flames’ squad numbers are up, with 24 girls training and back to full fitness.

Loose forward Kirsty Paterson has been asked to a trial with Scottish Exiles this month which could lead to eventual selection for the Scottish national team.