One would have to say that 2020/21 has been an ‘interesting’ season for Gibraltar Rugby! Like so many sports on the Rock, we were impacted by the coronavirus and the various restrictions that had to be put in place but, with the support of the Government, Public Health and the GSLA and the introduction of necessary protocols, we were able to enjoy a truncated season and the opportunity to play some variations on the traditional format.
The Gibraltar Rugby Football Union consist of four Clubs – the DHL Europa Stormers, the Sovereign Rock Scorpions, the InLine Framing Straits Sharks and the IBEX Bay Buccaneers – a Women’s section, a Minis and Youth section and Vets, players over the age of 35 who want to continue playing rugby.
In October, under the protocols, the Clubs were able to play a touch version of the 10s game, and with a relaxation of the restrictions, after three rounds, we managed to introduce three rounds of contact. The Stormers were the winners of the non-contact competition, and the Scorpions took the honours in contact.
It was April, however, before we got the green light to play again and with the vaccinations and testing in place, and the agreement of Public Health, we could revert to our 15 a-side u-mee Gibraltar Rugby Championship (GRC) which saw some of the most competitive games in the GRC to date. We crammed in six rounds, over consecutive weeks, and the Buccaneers were crowned Champions for the second season in a row. The Cup competition was won by the Stormers, and the Sharks took the Plate.
Whilst the senior men’s game is probably the most established, it is in our Mini and Youth and Women’s sections where we have seen the greatest growth.
Despite Covid, we’ve seen our Mini & Youth numbers grow and towards the end of the season we were regularly having 200 plus kids training and playing rugby on Saturday mornings. They start with our Rugby Tots which is for the 2–5-year age group and then school years 1-7, and an U14s and U16s. And one of the benefits of the restrictions on travel meant that we were able to arrange a few ‘home’ games for our U16s at the Europa Sports Park, the Home of Gibraltar Rugby, and they thrilled the spectators in thoroughly entertaining matches.
Our Women’s Section can probably be best described as still in its infancy, but the enthusiasm and commitment of the players is exemplary. During the season they have migrated from playing touch rugby to full contact and only a few weeks ago played their first competitive game against a visiting select side made up from three Spanish Clubs. Not only was it their first game but they also won and have, therefore, set themselves a high bar for achievement!
In addition to our domestic season, we also played some Vets fixtures over the past few months, and it was a Vets game that opened the inaugural 7s weekend in June. This was the first time that Gibraltar Rugby had hosted a 7s tournament, with a weekend of rugby, and local teams competing with visitors from Spain and the UK. It was a great competition that has put a marker down for future tournaments. The Cup was won by the Viator Barbarians, from Northern Spain and the Plate by the Wenglish Wanderers consisting of a few local Buccaneers!
There was also a Corporate Touch Tournament over six evenings during May and June which was great fun and saw a range of businesses from across Gibraltar competing for the Challenge Cup. In2Adventures were the narrow winners, edging Advantage Insurance and Peninsula.
With the 2020/21 season concluded, our focus is now firmly on 2021/22 and we have started to establish our plans for the coming season. Some dates are already in the diary:
• 4 – 6 August – the 11th Annual Summer Camp for boys and girls aged 8-18 years, with the Bristol Bears Academy – Registration is still open.
• Early (TBC) September – Minis & Youths registration day and start of the Age Grade Rugby Season
• 17 – 19 September – Coaching Conference, with senior coaches from the Welsh and Scottish Rugby Unions
• 24 – 25 September – the Annual Royal Marines fixture against a Gibraltar Select and the Marines Vets against a Gibraltar Vets Select
• 2 October – Start of the Gibraltar Rugby Championship
Next season will also see the development of our domestic competition with a Youth Rugby Championship every month providing the opportunity to play in locally based competitions with structured fixtures. Designed for girls and boys from Year 3 – Year 13, it provides appropriate physical and technical skill development as well as introducing the tactical concepts of Rugby. It emphasises the desirable qualities of sportsmanship, fair play and safety.
As part of the plans to improve domestic competition we plan to introduce select games in the form of Red v Black, where the Red team is made up from players from the Stormers and the Buccaneers with the Black team consisting of players from the Scorpions and the Sharks. This Red and Black set up will be mirrored throughout the sections as we move, over time, to integrate our Minis and Youth and Women’s section into the Club structure. Our Minis & Youth will also split into Red and Black as part of their monthly competitions.
There is certainly a lot to keep us occupied over the coming season and if you’re interested in playing or getting involved as a volunteer, why not check out our Facebook on @GibraltarRugby.