With the 2018-2019 season only weeks away, I am extremely honoured and delighted to have been entrusted with being President of Cooke Rugby Football Club for the next twelve months. When I glance down the list of names of our Past Presidents, I am immediately struck by what a special group of club stalwarts I now have the privilege of joining. These men, over the 108 year existence of Cooke RFC, have worked tirelessly hard to create, maintain and develop the fantastic reputation that our club holds throughout Ulster and Irish rugby. The high esteem that we are held in is second to none, and I will endeavour, to the very best of my ability, to ensure that this continues over the coming season. I certainly have a hard act to follow in taking over the mantle from Sam Loughrey, who did a sterling job last year, and, on behalf of everyone at the club, Sam, very many thanks for all your hard work, time and commitment – I know I can rely on your ongoing support in the months ahead.
As a “blow-in” to the club, having joined Cooke from Coleraine in 1994 (thanks to the persistence of Eddie McSorley), I must be one of the few Presidents who never experienced the pleasure of playing or drinking at Galwally, but during my 24 years as a member of this great rugby club, I hope I have, through captaining the 1st XV from 1995-97, serving as Club captain from 2002-04, and representing Junior Ulster, shown that Cooke means an awful lot to me. As it has provided me with so many happy memories and friends for life, the very least I can do is to give something back in return.
I am delighted to welcome Keith Wood as our in-coming Senior Vice President. Keith certainly has been around long enough to remember his playing days for Cooke at “the old place”, having originally played for Ballymena. He has been a loyal supporter of the club since hanging up his boots and all of you who know Keith, will agree with me that we could have no better man for the job.
In a “first” for the club, we have the luxury of 2 Junior Vice Presidents for the 2018-19 season. Graham Chipperfield, who continues to play an active role in the Women’s section, thanks largely to the influential participation on the pitch of his two daughters, Sorcha and Alanagh, has kindly offered to remain as JVP for a second successive season. Meanwhile, I am really pleased to also welcome my fellow “Waisted Beaver” onto the Presidential ladder, Richard “Shoulders” Irvine – another excellent asset for the Cooke executive. Richard has an even younger family than myself, so I acknowledge the commitment he has made and hopefully he will inspire other “WB’s” to follow suit in the years ahead.
Like almost every rugby club in Ulster, Cooke has to fight really hard, year in – year out, to keep our head above the financial waterline, but we keep managing to do so … just! Our astute Honorary Treasurer, Davy Cartmill, will readily agree with me that this would not be the case without the enormous generosity of our main club sponsor, and my good friend, Gavyn Rodgers of FORTRESS SEFA – many thanks Gavyn for all your support over recent years, and hopefully in future years as well – we greatly appreciate it. We are also very fortunate to be able to include the following sponsors who continue to kindly support Cooke RFC, namely, NELSON HEATING SERVICES GROUP, KUKRI, PENINSULAR PRINT & DESIGN, and MORROW GROUP.
There has been an increasing “buzz”, a positive vibe around Cooke in the last 12 months, and what is really notable is that all 4 sections of the club have contributed to this feelgood factor.
John McCartney is our Mini Section’s new Convenor and I know he is looking forward to continuing the excellent work of his predecessor, Graeme McFedries. With over 100 young boys and girls representing Cooke every Saturday morning, it is a thriving part of our community, and let’s hope it continues to be so, and we wish John and his coaching team of parents every success for the year ahead.
Our boys’ youth section, under the leadership of the SONI Community Champion, “Noaksy” Brown, is growing from strength to strength every year. It’s amazing what is going on at this level of the club, and undoubtedly this section has huge potential to provide many of our future players at senior level. Noaksy hopes to have teams playing at almost all under-age levels this year – what an achievement!
Our Women’s section is also showing great signs of developing further upon all their previous successes in recent seasons. The senior 1st XV continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the All Ireland League, and their 4th position last year along with a highly impressive victory in the Rosie Stewart Memorial Cup, were tremendous achievements. Our 2nd XV will compete in the Ulster Women’s Development League, and it is encouraging to note that we will have U-12’s, U-15’s and U-18 girls involved in various blitz competitions throughout the season.
In the Men’s section, I am delighted that Colin and Phil are continuing as coach and player coach respectively and, having finished a respectable 6th in the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Div. 1 last year, the main target for our 1st XV this year will be a top 4 spot, in order for our guys to enjoy the challenging experience of competing in the All Ireland Junior Cup in 2019-20. Meanwhile, our 2nd XV are showing great signs of improvement, under Logie’s tireless leadership, having finished 4th in the Provincial League Div. 4. With increasing numbers, the resurrection of our 3rd’s might be only a season or two away??
To every player who proudly dons the Cooke colours this year, from 4 years old to 50(plus!), I would like to wish you a successful, enjoyable and injury-free season – Pro Gloria Ludus!
In conclusion, to every member, a simple request to follow up my earlier message in June – please stand up and make a contribution this season to your club – we need as many of you as possible supporting Cooke in one or more of the following three ways:
1) VOCAL SUPPORT on the touchline on a Saturday/Sunday – kicking off with a pre-match lunch in the clubhouse. Wouldn’t it be great to see well over 50 at the lunches every home game?
2) VALUABLE SUPPORT in the financial meaning of the word, for example
• Paying your Subs on time
• Sign up to the Cooke 500 Club
• Sell your allocation of YOUR CLUB YOUR COUNTRY ballot tickets
• Become a Friend Of Cooke
• Sponsor a Pre-match Lunch
• Advertise in Fixtures Book or Touchline Board
• Attend the fund-raising events that will be organised
3) VOLUNTARY SUPPORT by offering your help in any area of club life whether it be as:
• a coach for the youth or senior sections
• helping out on match day with one of the teams,
• Club PRO, Website Development expertise
… the list is endless, folks, and currently there are too many tasks being performed by too few. Transforming Cooke from a good rugby club to a great one simply depends on how many people take time to read this, digest it and make a positive contribution – please commit yourself to getting involved in the 3 V’s listed above, because the future of this famous old club lies in your hands!
I look forward to seeing you all up at Cooke throughout the season, and we can enjoy a beer or two together as we support and cheer on our teams.
Yours in rugby,