Wednesday 10 September 2014 Written by: Adam

The countdown continues towards this Sunday’s first Aviva Premiership Rugby home game of the season and the Falcons squad have been undertaking a “Player Blitz” at local grassroots clubs to stoke excitement for the match.

As part of the Falcons new Club Connections programme, 17 clubs across the North East & Cumbria have received visits from players over two nights with more than sixty players delivering a variety of requested sessions at the clubs.

On Monday, Mike Blair and Ally Hogg visited Ponteland RFC to coach the seniors, whilst Zach Kibrigie and Chris York went down to Rockcliff RFC to rotate around age group coaching. Meanwhile in Teesside, Alex Rogers and Craig Willis went to Middlesbrough RFC and Redcar RFC received a visit from Adam Powell and George McGuigan. Some of our players also headed North to Berwick RFC where Scott Macleod and Simon Hammersley took the juniors through their paces. Alongside visits in the North East, Cumbria received a visit from Will Welch and Dom Barrow who put Carlisle juniors through their paces.

Tuesday’s schedule was absolutely jam packed, with over twenty of the playing squad visiting clubs around the region. Brian Tuilagi and Harry Snowdon visited Upper Eden RFC, whilst Mark Wilson and Chris York headed to Kendal RFC in Cumbria. Local clubs Northern, Novos, Westoe and South Tyneside College RUFC were thrilled with the arrival of Ruki Tipuna, Phil Godman, Noah Cato, Eric Fry, Warren Fury, Will Witty and Gonzalo Tiesi, Rob Hawkins and Richard Mayhew respectively.

Kieran Brookes and Rory Clegg took to Consett RFC coaching youth and senior sections whilst another County Durham club Houghton RFC received a call from Mark Irving and Scott Lawson. Another strong response from the Teesside clubs saw David Nelson and Jamie Helleur visit Hartlepool Rovers, alongside academy coach Mark Laycock, while Zach Kibrigie and Tom Catterick returned to their old stomping ground of Yarm RFC. Daniel Temm and Danny Barns topped of the fantastic event with a visit to Stockton Rugby Club.

There has been fantastic response by all clubs involved ahead of their visits to Kingston Park on Sunday for the first game of the season VS London Irish, and the first festival of the season- a colt’s sevens tournament.

Darren Smith of Hartlepool Rover’s said of the visits “. I have never had so many texts from parents saying how much their children enjoyed the experience. I think you have gone a long way to inspiring the next generation of rugby players.”

The Player Blitz was the first milestone in the Club Connections campaign. A major initiative launched by the award winning Falcons Community Foundation, Club Connections is a programme that is aimed at enhancing the relationship between the local rugby community and the Aviva Premiership club.

Under the programme, a nominated representative at the club acts as main point of contact for the Falcons Community team, encouraging the club members to become fully engaged in falcons activity and match days.

In return club ambassadors receive free merchandise, a player visit to their club, a signed shirt and four free match tickets to use in fundraising, a plaque marking them as club connections members for the clubhouse and priority booking on all falcons’ festivals and CPD events-as well as one off activities like player blitz!

We are thrilled to be working so closely with so many local clubs and if you or your club want to be involved, please contact emily.oconnor@newcastle-falcons.co.uk for more information.