In late 2019 a small number of adults decided to start an American Football club in Rugby. Working with youngsters aged 8-18, the adults made the home of rugby at Webb Ellis Road the home of something new and exciting. The Rugby Rhinos was born.
Training began in early 2020 with a small number of players that grew week by week....that was until the pandemic struck and sent the entire country into lockdown. By the summer of 2020 the club re-launched and grew its numbers a little more, only to halted again as the whole country entered a second and third lockdown. With each closure came a new set of challenges. Undeterred the small core of volunteers continued on into 2021.
As the restrictions throughout the UK began to lift, sports once more became available for everyone. With a limited amount of practice and lots of determination the Rugby Rhinos faced a season against three well-established, well-trained teams. Many players in the Rhinos squad had never played American Football before but alongside their dedicated, qualified coaches, went into each game with 'clear eyes and full hearts'. As the season closed the team ended their first season winning five games and becoming finalists in UK American Football's 'Team of the Year'.
Most people would think for a first season this is where the success stops. However, the Rugby Rhinos players enjoy facing a challenge and defying the odds. Some of the players travelled to Bristol for a selection day held by Great Britain. This resulted in three players being selected to join the British American Football programme.
Sam White, a student at Rugby Free Secondary School, along with teammates, Jay Dowson from Towcester, and Rhinos Team Captain Tom Alcock from Nuneaton were selected to join the Great British Lions U17 squad.
Club President and co-founder Ian Barnsby said: "I could not be prouder of what the team has accomplished. The three players going forward represent Great Britain as Lions, are extremely talented athletes and we cannot express enough what an amazing achievement it is to be selected for your country after such a short time playing a brand-new sport."
Coach Lee Lyons said: "It is amazing that we achieved so much in our first year. It is so great to have a family friendly club that welcomes both boys and girls into the sport and to see the players achieving so much."
Rugby Rhinos American Football club train every Saturday at the Rugby Football Club on Webb Ellis Road, Rugby. They welcome both boys and girls aged 8-18 to come and try it out with the first three sessions free. All you need is football boots, a gum shield and a drink. Further details are available on the Rhinos Facebook page or by calling Ian on 07976534989.