With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.
That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.
This is Chris Moore’s story…
Brief history lesson – I played from school age until U21s and a few senior games at Durham City Rugby Club, before cutting short my playing days following a couple of bad injuries in quick succession, combined with a move down south to the wonderful city of Sheffield.
Fast forward 20-odd years and I suddenly, weirdly, start getting the itch to play again, around about the time of my 41st birthday. I had gone from having limited interest in the sport, to desperately wanting to be back out there, making those hits and testing myself. I can’t explain why.
That said, with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve found myself wondering just why it was that I let rugby drift out of my life like that? I’d gone from playing 2 or 3 times a week for 15 years or whatever it was, to barely engaging with something that had previously meant so much to me.
It’s crossed my mind that it might be because I lost my dad in my early 20’s, not that long after I moved down here. Rugby was our thing. We used to go to watch Newcastle Falcons together when we had this young 16-year-old kid called Jonny Wilkinson on the bench, who apparently was going to make it big, according to whispers around Kingston Park.
So, it has occurred to me recently that it might have been because of that missing element. That gap in proceedings. We couldn’t watch games together or discuss them on the phone anymore. I think I’d just fallen out of love with the game and it wasn’t even a conscious decision I was aware of at the time. That’s just one possible theory, anyway.
Not that it was just my dad who was bang into it. My mam once ran onto the pitch to rescue one of my team mates, who she spotted getting kneed in the face at the bottom of a ruck.
“He’s not even your son!” they shouted.
“They’re ALL my boys” she replied, as the ref showed her the red card. She got a special award at the end of season for that – the first and only spectator to get sent off!
Anyway, the Vulcans. Thanks to the dubious wonders of facebook’s targeted advertising, I’d seen an advert for a rugby team that accepted you regardless of age, experience, ability, fitness levels, or orientation. Perfect!
I got in touch and went along, but it was WAY different to what I was used to. I found a bunch of guys in Endcliffe Park, knocking about under a temporary flood light. I mean, great lads and I really enjoyed it, but it was not the normal club set up I was accustomed to. I’ll come back to that later though.
Somewhere between making the initial enquiry and turning up to training, it occurred to me that this was a “gay” rugby club. I mean, it’s not, we’re an inclusive team open to everyone, so I got that bit wrong for a start.
But it had never even crossed my mind, to be honest, even though the advert did indeed mention orientation. I’d followed Vulcans on Instagram and kept seeing #IGR – I wondered what the hell is IGR?
Oh, it’s International Gay Rugby.
I have to be honest and say there were questions.
“What will my friends think?”
“Will it be proper rugby?”
“Will I fit in, or even be welcome?”
Well that all turned out to be a load of bollocks. I took the plunge and soon realised this was the best decision I’ve ever made. Sheffield Vulcans changed my life.
So, let’s get this cleared up. If you’re a straight guy worrying about joining an inclusive IGR team, then worry not. I belong to a club that plays rugby for the love of the sport. No initiation ceremonies or ‘hazing’, none of that toxic masculinity that can unfortunately be prevalent in a lot of ‘mainstream’ or university clubs. It’s rugby without all the stereotypical nonsense that can unfortunately give rugby players a bad name.
We’re just here to grow and improve together. We are brothers. Actually, we’re sisters too. We’re whatever. It doesn’t matter. Sheffield Vulcans has made me a better person; not that it’s changed my beliefs as such, but it’s given me a better understanding of the world and the array of humans that inhabit it.
And as for the rugby itself, let me tell you “gay rugby”, to borrow a phrase from a certain local magazine editor, is still bloody brutal when you cross that white line. It still hurts. It still feels just as good though. It’s no different, actually. And it doesn’t matter how old you get, you still kinda enjoy collecting cool scars and comparing bruises.
Looking back on those early days in the park, despite my reservations about the set-up, it was clear to me that there was a lot of potential there. There were new players who’d barely touched a rugby ball before, who I could tell had it in them to be very handy on the pitch. This could be a great team. There was a collective energy and enthusiasm that told me there was more to come from this lot, but the lack of facilities was frustrating.
Having said that, the club didn’t even exist until a few years ago, so I’ve nothing but respect and admiration for those founding members who’d got it off the ground, with kits, sponsors and so on. To build a rugby club from scratch is some achievement and we should never take that for granted; we’re forever in their debt. But there was an increasing groundswell of opinion amongst more experienced members that we could push on to be bigger and better.
And that’s where Sheffield Tigers come into the picture. Without boring you with the details, Sheffield’s premiere rugby club has taken us under their wing (paw?) and forged a partnership with the Vulcans to see us ground-share with them up at Dore Moor.
It’s early days yet, annoyingly put on pause by COVID-19 recently, but already the huge improvement in facilities has led to both tangible results on the pitch, as well a positive mood-shift with the group towards feeling like this really is the start of us reaching our full potential. We ARE a proper club and we belong here. We’ve earnt it.
We’ve just had our most successful season ever, undefeated at home with some big numbers on the scoreboard, plus an ever-so-tense first away win in London. We were confident enough to enter ourselves into the top tier of a recent tournament, pitting ourselves against the big guns in IGR, despite technically still being a ‘development team’. We could have gone into the lower tier and had a genuine shot at some silverware, but nah. Fortune favours the brave!
Sheffield Vulcans is team that is going somewhere and I’m very excited about what the future holds. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for and hope I can serve the club well, by putting back into the team as much as it’s given me.
Chris’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:
If you’re thinking of trying something new, or like me want to rekindle an old flame, then we’d absolutely love to welcome you along for the ride. Just bring snacks, yeah?
We’d like to thank Chris for sharing his story.
If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.