I really felt at home on Twickenham’s hallowed turf, says property lettings boss
PROPERTY boss Jonathan Pritchard has always seen England’s rugby headquarters as his adopted home.
The managing director of Cannock’s commercial and residential lettings firm Anglesey Group has spent the equivalent of a second mortgage on supporting his Red Rose heroes over the years.
And at 44, he never thought he’d be anything other than viewing internationals on the green, green grass of his national team’s sporting residence – from the stadium’s stands.
But the Spartans (Midlands) RUFC prop forward – who’s modelled his late-blossoming career on ex-England and Harlequins legend Jason Leonard – found himself with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to PLAY at Twickenham in a seven-a-side tournament.
He met England’s Attacking Skills Coach Mike Catt and former international Graham Roundtree before reaching the final of the QBE Coaching Club showpiece – walking up the steps to the royal box of the world famous rugby stage to collect his runners-up match medal.
“Just running out on the pitch is a great event in itself,” said Jonathan. “But getting to the final was something else. For an England rugby fan, this has been an absolute dream.”
The opportunity to be in the ‘touch rugby’ event only came about because the father-of-two – who plays regularly for the Sutton Coldfield club’s Third XV – also coaches the Coppice Lane seniors, assists the first team coach and helps the borough‚s Bishop Walsh School as part of the Spartans’ community coaching scheme.
Jonathan took up coaching 18 months ago to extend a rugby career which began at the age of nine, petered out in his early twenties and wasn’t revived until after family duties allowed him to “pick up a ball again in anger” at the age of 36.
He joined Lichfield RFC first before moving to the Spartans three years ago. “I realised I’d found a club where I was accepted, valued and made great friends,” he added.
“My thirst for more understanding of the game grew rapidly and I asked the club about coaching,” he said. After completing Level 1 – he was helped by Chris Sigsworth, the RFU rugby development officer for Birmingham, and secured their Level 2 coaching qualifications this year.
The coaching is sponsored by QBE, in partnership with the RFU, in an initiative aimed at recruiting and training 2,015 coaches – in time for England hosting the Rugby World Cup in September 2015. Already more than 1,000 have passed through the free scheme.
Spartans (Midlands) RUFC – its first XV play in Midlands 2 West (South) – turns out four senior teams and four junior sides, from under 12s to under 18s, each week.
The 2013-14 season is over now but Jonathan “can’t wait for the new term to begin” with training beginning next month.
He added: “The QBE Coaching Club has developed me greatly as a coach, player, and as a person giving me the confidence in delivering sessions and that coaching is on on-going learning experience.”
Last word from ex-international Catt on the England set-up: “The more coaches we get, the more we are going to be able to promote the game across the country and pass down that nous to a grassroots level. It’s key for the development of the game.
“Talking to a lot of the guys on the course at the moment, they are massively passionate about the game. A lot of them have had some fantastic years playing and now they’re giving back to the youngsters so they can do exactly the same.”