ALDWINIANS rugby union club has recruited a player who has tasted life at the top of the other code in Gene Ormsby.
The Droylsden lad, a former pupil of Audenshaw School, was once touted as one of the hottest prospects in rugby league after coming through at Warrington Wolves.
He also played at Super League level for Huddersfield Giants but at the age of 31, he is back where it all started for him at Audenshaw Park.
Now he will line up for Aldwinians’ first team in their Counties 1 ADM Lancashire and Cheshire campaign as the club grows, with further plans to expand.
Having launched a recruitment campaign on the back of England’s journey in the World Cup, officials are confident of attracting a new wave of players, volunteers and supporters in the coming months.
It’s hoped the buzz generated by the tournament, which came to an end for England against South Africa in the semi-finals, will bolster the club’s foundations and improve on the existing 2,000 people who visit every two weeks.
From senior men’s and women’s teams to school-related competitions and disability sessions, the club’s structure and ongoing success is based on one key factor – inclusivity.
According to director of rugby Richard Mooney, the club’s long-term prosperity, both on and off the pitch, is dependent on making the sport available for everyone, regardless of their age, ability or gender.
If recent developments are a measure of success, the plan is working perfectly as women’s star Lois Parker, who plays for Sale Sharks, has been selected to represent England, while men’s first team player Lewis Quinn has made a three division jump to play for Huddersfield in National Two North.
Reflecting on a memorable couple of years, Richard told The Correspondent: “2022 was a year to remember as the first team won the Lancashire Trophy – something we had failed to do for 21 years.
“We continued to build on that success last season and managed to reach the Papa John’s Community Trophy final.
“Although Widnes beat us 40-20, the game was played at the 25,000 capacity Darlington Arena and generated a buzz around the club.
“It’s an experience we’re hoping to capitalise on this season as we go in search of a top six finish in the league.”
Fuelled by the disappointment of last season’s cup final defeat, the first XV is looking make waves in league competition and have hit the ground running in the early stages of the 2023/24 campaign.
Of their opening six fixtures, Aldwinians won four and lost two.
It is a promising start to the season and one that Richard feels will put them in good stead to achieve their objective – a top six finish.
He added “We finished seventh last season. However, there are some good teams in the league as one team went up from the division, while two dropped down from the league above.
“We’re playing a good brand of rugby, mixing the power of our forwards with the skillset and pace of the backs. We’ve got a nice balance, are heading in the right direction and evolving as a team.
“We’re looking at being a little bit more accurate on the wings this season, with the hope of scoring more tries and playing an exciting brand of rugby.
“It’s paying off so far as we scored four tries and claimed a bonus point at Didsbury.”
The men’s success has been matched by that of their female counterparts.
Having formed a few years ago, the women’s team has grown rapidly and now boasts 40 members who train every Wednesday from 7pm.
The rates of participation are expected to grow even further – thanks in no small part to winning a sizeable grant from skincare, toiletries and fragrancies manufacturer, Clinique.
Richard continued: “We were very fortunate to win a £10,000 grant from Clinique.
“We were one of four clubs out of 1,000 applicants to win the bid. Clinique were excited about the organic manner in which the girls’ section was formed.
“The money will be used to buy new equipment and products, as well as subsidising travel support and education resources.
“It’s great to be recognised and we’re always looking to develop further, entice more women to the club and focus on getting young girls hooked on the sport from a young age.”
Richard’s aim to develop the junior section is centred on the club’s pathway into the senior teams – or, as he likes to call it, a conveyor belt of talent.
Of the 20 players who featured in the Papa John’s Community Trophy final, 18 joined the club as youngsters and progressed through the various age levels.
Regarded as the blueprint for success, Richard is now appealing for more players to join the club in what marks their 87th year in existence.
“The junior section is a breeding ground for talent,” said Richard.
“We’ve seen it with boys over many years, but the same is happening with the girls now.
“As the girls have got older, the conveyor belt of talent has increased to the point where we now have four sides.
“They initially play mixed sex rugby to start with, but once they reach under-12 level they’re able to form their own teams and play separately to the boys.
“We’re finding that a lot of the girls are going on to represent Lancashire as well.
“Connor Clegg, who teaches at Audenshaw High School, takes charge of the girls’ section. He’s been a major influence in the growth and provision of the sport at the club.
“It’s had a knock-on effect in other areas of the club, as we’ve seen more and more volunteers join along with big sponsorships.”