Mon 04 Sep 2017 12:19

Bromley Rugby Football Club – The story so far

Bromley Rugby Football Club was founded in 1886 as Catford Bridge Football Club and was originally associated with St George’s Church in Catford.  The Club quickly gained early recognition and respect, notwithstanding a somewhat nomadic existence.  The original club colours were terracotta jerseys with purple collars, but in 1895 the club adopted the black and amber colours of Middlesex Wanderers, who had disbanded.  The new colours were first worn against Blackheath at the Rectory Field and they remain our colours to this day. 

In 1898 the Club had the distinction of being one of the first to travel to Europe, taking on and beating Stade Français by 11-0 in Paris.  In the following years the Club played Racing Club and Metropolitan in Paris.  Fixtures at that time included many familiar Clubs whom we still occasionally play, such as Beckenham, Guy’s Hospital, Park House, Sidcup and Streatham.  Perhaps more intriguing is the fact that Bath, Bristol, Harlequins, London Irish, London Welsh, Saracens and Wasps were all regular opponents in those early days.

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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the Presidents included WE Calver and F J C Helder, who were the first of three generations of playing families.  In 1903 some of the players left to form Old Dunstonians, with whom we still enjoy a close and friendly relationship.

The following years remained successful, with the Club winning the Kent County Cup six times between 1900 and 1911.  Although the Club lost over 20 players in the Great War, it emerged as a strong side in the 1920s, again winning the Kent Cup in 1930.  In 1936 the Club moved to Park Langley and the new ground saw a New Zealand “invasion” at the Club, due to the recruiting efforts of SSD Ross, an officer with the New Zealand Government in London.  Just before the Second World War, the Club had no less that 32 New Zealand players.  With one exception the club also provided on a regular basis the full Kent pack, that exception being "Egg" Bromage the father of Toby, a former player, Past President and former Chairman of the club and grandfather of Ben, who still pulls his boots on for the Second XV, having captained the club in 2003-4.

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The war years were hard on Catford Bridge, with 18 members lost on active service.  When the war ended, the Club was again without a ground.  However, a seven year lease on the current ground at Barnet Wood Road was negotiated and soon four sides were being fielded.  Towards the end of the lease, it looked as if the Club might again have to move ground, but was saved from doing so by an act of extraordinary generosity from W (Bill) Warman, who became President in 1948.  He bought the freehold and thereby secured long term security for the Club.  Not only did he purchase the ground, but he also provided the Clubhouse, which is the Club’s home to this day.  The new ground was opened in September 1956 by the President of the RFU and was followed by a match against Kent County.  The Grounds and Clubhouse are now vested in the Warman Sports Club Limited and are shared with Hayes (Kent) Cricket Club and Hayes (Kent) Lawn Tennis Club.

The Club remained successful in the 1950s, with several players receiving County caps.  A Colts XV – the advent of youth rugby – was introduced in 1958.  During the 1960s, the Club considered a name change, reflecting the fact no longer had any ties with the area of Catford Bridge.  From the 1964-65 season, the Club became known as Bromley Rugby Football Club, a decision that was not met with universal approval within the Club.  Nevertheless, the Club continued to prosper.  Mini rugby was introduced in the 1970s and by the early 1980s, the Club was fielding up to six senior sides.  The First XV had successful Kent County Cup campaigns in 1983 and 1987, reaching the quarter finals and losing on both occasions to Blackheath.  The Club celebrated it’s centenary in 1986, with a number of fixtures against invitation sides and a tour to Portugal.  Throughout the season, the First XV played in the original colours of terracotta and purple.  

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More recently, the First XV reached the Kent Cup semi final in 1995, losing to Westcombe Park and reached the final of the Kent Plate in 1999, losing to Tunbridge Wells.  The 2002 season was extremely successful, with the First XV winning the Kent Division 1 title, the Kent Vase and narrowly losing the final of the Powergen Vase at Twickenham.  The Club reached the semi final of the Kent Cup in 2008, losing to Blackheath at The Rectory Field and the following year, achieved promotion from the London South East 4 league.

In recent years Jim Staples, a former junior, went on to captain Ireland.  Paul Collins, Ireland and London Irish played numerous times for the 1st XV until his retirement. Mike Friday, formerly of London Wasps former captain and coach of England's 7's team and now coach of the USA 7s, is a former mini and junior, and still maintains a strong involvement with the Club as a “mini dad”.  Numerous junior players have represented Kent in recent years, too many to mention in this short article.  Rob Springall and Tom Standfield went on to play for England at a junior level, while David Fenlon played for Ireland.   Michael Adeniya was selected to represent Nigeria in the Africa Nations Cup in July 2012.   David Banfield received his Army cap before returning to civilian life in 2016, whilst Kieran Leeper toured with the Kent Development Squad to Argentina, also in 2016.

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At the present time there are around 600 members, 400 of whom are minis and juniors.  Three/four senior teams play on a regular basis.  The First XV play in the London South East 3 league, with the other sides playing in merit tables.  The Youth section has become one of the club's most successful innovations over the years and is seen to be of special importance to the future of the club.  A high proportion of our current First XV squad have graduated from the Youth sides and this is a trend that is set to continue.  The club insists upon quality RFU Certificated coaching at all levels and currently sides are run at all mini and junior age groups.  The Club is also a Community Amateur Sports Club.

The Club celebrated its 125th season in 2012 with a fixture against a Wasps and Blackheath Legends XV, a gala dinner and a Club tour to Cork, as well as many other events.  More recently, in May 2015, the first XV reached the final of the RFU Senior Vase at Twickenham after a thrilling campaign and overcame West Leeds in the final to bring home the silverware.  On a tremendous day for the club, the under 17s won the RFU Under 17s National Shield in Salford to make a memorable double celebration. Click here for a photo compilation.

In the past year, the Warman Sports Club Limited have embarked on a programme of clubhouse improvements, with the support of the constituent clubs.  The original changing rooms are no more and have been replaced with modern facilities, suitably segregated for simultaneous male and female sports.   The hall has been refurbished, thanks to many cricket and rugby club members giving up their time and money and it now provides an excellent facility for club use and outside events.

It would almost certainly be inconceivable to our founding fathers that in the 2017-18 season, the Club would have such a huge membership and provide such opportunities for so many people, nor that the team would be one game away from playing at Twickenham for the second time in a national competition.  We owe it to them to look to the future and to ensure the continued success of the Club they founded way back in 1886.

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