The latest in our series of articles from inside the Old Wimbledonians RFC shifts focus away from the current squad, as we talk to former First XV captain and Chairman of the club’s junior section, Roger Brosch.
Roger first joined the Old Wimbledonians from Richmond in 1986, going on to enjoy an impressive 14 seasons with the First XV, and later representing the vets. Although he didn’t attend Wimbledon College, Roger felt right at home as soon as he arrived at the club, first invited down by OW Charlie O’Rourke, and inspired to stay by then-captain John Travers, who had previously represented England at U18 level.
That decision to stick around seemed like a good place to start, so we first asked Roger, what makes the Old Wimbledonians a club that so many people enjoy being involved with?
“I think the club has a unique connection to the local community and the local schools. It’s always been a very sociable and positive environment for players of all ages, and makes for a great place to return to after you’ve played at a higher standard. It connects well with the core values of the sport and provides competitive rugby without being all-consuming.”
Next, can you share your best experience, or fondest memory, playing rugby for the First XV?
“I was fortunate enough to play in a very strong team at a special time, when the club gained promotion in three consecutive seasons, so lots of moments stand out. We also played in three Surrey Cup semi-finals, losing narrowly to Sutton & Epsom in 1988, Old Blues in 1992, and Dorking in 1995.
One of the highlights would be playing at Twickenham in the Middlesex Sevens in 1991, and the club then gave me the opportunity to play representative rugby for a combined London Old Boys and Surrey team. I also went on several tours abroad, which were always great fun, and it’s good to see today’s First XV squad reviving that tradition in recent years.”
Roger has remained an important figure within the club beyond his playing days, so we asked him to explain his current role for the OWs...
“My current role is Chairman of the Warriors, which is the junior section of the OWRFC up to U18s. I’m also Head Coach of the U15 squad. The Warriors acts as a link between 29 schools and the sport, designed to instil discipline, encourage teamwork, and embed respect into each of the young players.”
After a challenging first couple of years finding their feet within the wider Old Wimbledonians Association, the Warriors is now a core part of the club and has grown into an important presence within the community.
Roger continued, “The Warriors prides itself on nurturing and developing young players, and engaging with their families in a positive and empowering manner. We do this in many ways, through the huge volunteer support group that is the committee, our brilliant coaches and team managers, and also the many social events and tours that we run each year.”
So, with that in mind, what inspired Roger to launch the Warriors section of the OWs in the first place?
“I have four kids who I took to another local rugby club when they were little, but unfortunately it wasn’t a great experience for them with around 100 players in each age group and only 20 or so receiving proper coaching. The values didn’t quite fit with my own. When I saw the OWs lacked a junior section, a few friends and I decided to start a club that was community-focused and inclusive, which would provide a positive environment for every player to be the best they can be. Our values at the Warriors now match those of the RFU as well, and we aim to deliver a genuinely fun and exciting player experience.”
And, as a former First XV captain, what advice would you give current Warriors players who’ll soon be looking to graduate into the senior section of the club?
“Keep working hard and never give up. Continue playing the game for as many years as you can because, believe me, you’ll miss it when you can’t play anymore! Play at the highest level possible, but remember that the Warriors is where you started, and is the home to which you can always return when the time is right. There will always be a shirt waiting for you, and a friendly, familiar face at the bar willing to buy you a beer!”
As a final note, Roger had a few important people he wanted to mention:
“I’d just like to say a huge thank you to all of the 13 members of the Warriors committee, and the 80-plus coaches and team managers, including all the support staff, who make it possible for us to look after nearly 500 playing members every Sunday morning between September and May.
They are the real heroes, often unrecognised or unrewarded, but are the engine room of our club. They’re the reason we’ve achieved so much success both on and off the field, and we wouldn’t be the club we are today without them.”
Updated 14:45 - 14 Feb 2019 by David Doran
To learn more about the Warriors, which is open to all ages and abilities, you can visit the official website here: Wimbledonian Warriors