DEVON One side Old Techs have been working hard trying to get their Weston Mill ground ready for the 2020-21 season.
There is still no date for when league rugby will return due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it is not likely to be until November at the earliest.
However, whenever it does start, Techs will be ready for it off the field after a massive effort last weekend to repair damage suffered during lockdown.
While nobody was using their ground, Techs training floodlights got damaged and were dangerously swinging around, while the ceiling came down in the changing rooms.
But with help from NatWest RugbyForce, Devon RFU, the club’s sponsors and players, Techs’ facilities have been given a new lease of life.
Around 20 current and former players and committee members took part in the NatWest RugbyForce weekend and basically completely rebuilt their changing rooms, while work was also carried out on the floodlights and they now have eight new LED lights.
“It was a really good weekend,” said coach Shaun Bedford-Smith. “I think at various times we had about 20 people turn up to help and eight did 10 hours on both days.
“I have to admit I was surprised how many did turn up and everyone really dug in. We were really pleased with what we got done and all the different people who came to help.”
He added: “There’s still probably four or five days work to get everything done, but we have done a lot.
“The changing rooms were in a very bad state.”
Facilities at the Weston Mill sports complex have not been improved for a while due to plans to redevelop the site in a deal with a major supermarket. However, those plans have been dragging on for years and Techs had no option but to act this summer – at a cost of around £5,000.
Bedford-Smith admitted the RugbyForce weekend has helped bring the club together and the players are now keen to get going, although like most clubs Techs are only taking things steady at the moment until they know when the league season might be starting.
“We have only been training for about a month – since the guidance changed – as our priority was safety and also there was not a lot we could do before,” said Bedford-Smith.
“Some players at the time were saying other clubs were training, but we said at our socially distanced AGM that we didn’t care what other clubs were doing, we would only go back when it was safe to do so.
“We are only training once a week at the moment, but it has been pretty good. It is just about keeping people interested. We’ll probably keep things like that until we get given the four weeks’ notice that the RFU have said they will give ahead of the season starting. At the moment we don’t know what’s going on and when the season might start.”
Techs are training at Weston Mill on Thursdays at 7pm and they are keen to attract new players.
They have proved in the last couple of seasons that on their day they can match anyone in the league but getting a consistent team out has been their issue.
“Our problem is consistency,” admitted Bedford-Smith. “It is about trying to get a settled side. In our league it is pretty obvious who has a settled side as they are the ones near the top.
“It is a tough league and everyone is hard to beat, especially on their own ground.”
The one big incentive Techs have in their bid to keep their players at the club and attract new ones is that they do not charge players to play.
“I think we are quite unique in this area as we do offer free rugby,” said Bedford-Smith. “As a club we felt it was up to the committee to go out and get sponsorship. The players give up their time and they just have to turn up with their boots.”