Rugby World have featured a summary of last season's initiative in the letters page of their current magazine:
Updated 19:04 - 5 Jun 2018 by www.manchesterrugby.co.uk
We thought readers may be interested in the success of the joint venture of Manchester Rugby Club and Stockport Rugby Club at Colts age rugby.
It is well known that Colts rugby suffers a high player drop out rate and many teams fold at this age group. Our Raging Bull league lost three teams early on in the season not having enough players to field regular teams. Young men who want to continue playing then have to look to play at other clubs, and their home club loses a player potentially for good.
We had already anticipated issues at this level having been low on numbers in past years, even with teams that had been highly successful at Junior level.
The aims of the collaboration were to keep the boys playing rugby but also importantly to keep both clubs with a stream of players that will feed into their respective Club Senior teams in due course.
I think it would be fair to say that there were reservations on both sides about how rival teams could work together. Both sets of coaches and administrators had meetings and had frank discussions about how it would work. It was decided that there would be a name that would allow the team to have its own 'independent' identity. This was no small task! Boys would play in their home club socks and shorts (a la Barbarians) but with a jointly designed shirt. Training and games would alternate at the different clubs. Coaches were from both clubs. Training occurs on Senior training nights and has involved warm ups with Senior players at both clubs, with Senior coaches lending a hand and their experience.
Now at the end of the season, we have reflected on what has been achieved. The team has fulfilled all its fixtures, has made the semi final of the Cup (only losing on away advantage as the game was drawn), has finished second in its league and has made plans for next season, already setting up training and 'friendly' games with the next upcoming age group. There was a social curry for the Team at Christmas which was attended by boys and parents from both teams. Some of the Under 18's have now had some initial games with men's Senior teams, completing the transition from junior to senior rugby.
Perhaps more importantly, the boys, coaches and parents have formed friendships and good relations. It is amazing to see where we are now from when we first started to think about the joint team. Feedback from both clubs and from parents has been positive.
We think it serves as a great model for other clubs where there are issues with player numbers for Colts rugby. An open mind and prioritising the boys playing rugby over rivalries has meant the success of the venture and the Team. We are proud of what our respective boys, coaches and clubs have achieved.