Charlie Richards (C 2011 – 2016)
I’m sure some of you might still know who I am (hopefully, I haven’t been gone that long), but most people at Wycliffe probably have no clue who I am! Shock! My name is Charlie Richards and I was at Wycliffe from 2011-2016. I was part of Collingwood house and if you look carefully you will find my name on the head of house board above the stairs! During my time at Wycliffe, I was lucky to play in the 1st XV rugby team for two years and I won the national school squash championship with the squash team. I was the sixth man in a five man team… But I have a medal and that’s what counts right? I left Wycliffe after completing my A-Levels in 2016 and decided to take a gap year before going to university.
In September 2017, I began studying Sport and Exercise Science at Swansea University and I am currently in my second year here. During my first year, I decided to switch codes and I started playing Rugby League. This was the first time I had played league and I absolutely loved it! We had a successful season and managed to finish undefeated, which meant we won our league! After my first year, I was voted in as Vice-Captain for the 2018-2019 season and I am hoping to become captain next year. We are currently still undefeated but sitting in second place in the league, yet to face local rivals Cardiff Metropolitan.
Last summer, I received a phone call from a man named Keith Sandhu, asking me to become part of the Great British and Irish Pioneers for their 2018 tour of Turkey. Now I know what you’re thinking, who are the GB Pioneers? I can answer that question for you.
The Great British and Irish Pioneers were formed in 2005 and is a Rugby League squad made predominantly from students. Each year, the ‘Pioneers’ travel to new up and coming countries to help in their development of Rugby League, to help pioneer the way forward for them. The Pioneers made their inaugural tour in 2005 to Estonia and have since had successful development tours to countries such as the Czech Republic, Latvia, Ukraine, Norway, Kazakhstan, Greece and Poland. Each country has since gone on to develop and play rugby league domestically and internationally at varying levels, all thanks to the work and help of the Pioneers.
The aim of last year’s tour was to help pioneer Rugby League in Turkey. This included training with both male and female local teams, playing against a provincial side and culminated in a fully sanctioned test match against the Turkish international side. This test match was used by Turkey as a practice match for the Emerging Nations World Cup, where they finished in seventh place.
During August 2018, I travelled up to Hull for a two day training camp prior to flying out to Istanbul. All the boys chosen for the tour were thrown together over this weekend, managing to gel well in the short period of time and the team feeling really managed to set itself in place very quickly. A couple weeks later we flew off to Istanbul!
We spent a couple nights in Istanbul, before we had a four hour drive to Eskisehir, where we trained multiple times with a local men’s team and a local women’s team, teaching them the basics of rugby league with hopes to progress their rugby further than they thought they could. We then played against the Eskisehir provincial side, winning 68-12 in the process!
Following this match, we travelled back to Istanbul to train with another local women’s team. Training with the local sides both in Eskisehir and Istanbul was extremely informative and we feel that we helped the locals to learn how to play rugby league!
After a few days back in Istanbul and after some intense training, I had the privilege of playing in a fully sanctioned international test match, an experience I will never forget! From the locals forgetting the music, resulting in us having to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ A capella, to the feeling of putting on the jersey and running out on the pitch for the first time, I know this experience will stay with me for a long time. It was all topped off with a 50-4 win over the Turkish side!
The aim of the tour was to help pioneer rugby in Turkey and teach the locals how to play, which I do believe we achieved. However I also learnt a lot about myself as a player and about Rugby League as I have only played rugby league for one year myself.
The total cost of the tour was £800, including all flights, transport, accommodation, kit and training sessions! As a student, funds are low and £800 is a significant amount of money, so I decided to go out on a limb and email Wycliffe to ask if they could help me out. The Wycliffian Society kindly offered to fund a part of the amount and I could not be more thankful. I do not think I would have made the tour without their generous funding.
I would like to thank everyone at Wycliffe, from all the coaching staff to The Wycliffian Society, for helping me to get to a point where I can experience things like this tour and for helping to fund me. I would not have been able to go to Turkey without it.