NORTH Petherton Rugby Football Club sit proudly at the top of South West One (West), the highest level they have competed in since the introduction of the league system, after gaining promotion from Western Counties at the end of the 2011-12 season, writes Richard Walsh.
‘Pethy’ have a long history and were established way back in 1893, when they played their home games at a different location known as Shovel Park.
Nearly 40 years ago, however, a group of local rugby enthusiasts got together and purchased some ground on the south-west side of Petherton on which the Club’s current Beggars Brook ground is now located, and how proud that group must feel today at what has come to fruition.
The Oaks’ (as they are known locally) progress in recent years has been quite remarkable and there is certainly a hunger for rugby within the community of North Petherton which was witnessed by the crowd of almost 1,000 who attended last weekend’s game against near-neighbours Bridgwater and Albion, one of the largest seen at Beggars Brook.
Petherton’s climb up the rugby pyramid has been quite remarkable considering they were competing in Somerset Premier as recently as 2009.
They gained promotion at the end of that season and spent three years in Western Counties before being heading up to South West 1 (West) at the end of the 2012-13 season.
So, just what is North Petherton’s success down to?
“I think that it is down to a combination of several things,” press secretary Simon Freeman, who played for the Club for a number of years until he retired, said.
“Our coach, Tito Elisara, who joined us in December 2010 has put together a good side, but that is coupled with the community involvement and for a small place we have got huge support which you could see at Saturday’s game when whole families were there supporting us.”
“We also started a development programme and now we are beginning to see some of those young players coming through into the first team.
“In addition, we also recruited some more experienced players like Gavin Hancock who was a Petherton boy who moved to Bridgwater where he played National League rugby alongside James Carter who is now our captain.”
Freeman admits that, before the start of the season, Petherton were slightly apprehensive as to how they would cope with life in South West One (West).
He said: “We decided we would enjoy being where we were. Everybody is taking this season one match at a time and seeing how we go but, come the end of the season, if we are still in the same position then we will have to prepare for another promotion.
“We have had a good season up to now, but we could make it into a really great season. Everybody is working very hard and we are all enjoying the moment, along with the rest of the community.”
Looking into the future, how might Petherton cope another step up the rugby ladder?
Freeman said: “We are an amateur side and don’t pay our players, so our biggest problem might be whether or not we have got the depth in our squad for that level.
“Of course, we are enjoying the moment and taking it as it comes because this is the highest level we have ever played at.”
Everybody at North Petherton is enjoying the Club’s success and looking ahead. The future of rugby at Beggars Brook also looks assured with as many as 400 junior members regularly attending training sessions on a Sunday morning, in addition to which the Club has just started a women’s section who held their first training session last week.