Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Charley & Mel: They came from the East...

...of Hertfordshire, and they have been pure gold (without the need for any other gifts).

One of our prouder boasts is that we are, at heart, a "local" team - almost all of the girls who have played for Letchworth have come from the Garden City or its neighbouring towns and villages. In fact it is not going too far to say that any rugby club could (even should) be capable of building a girls section like we have - they just need to make the effort. Unfortunately not all clubs do - and even some clubs that do build viable girls teams seem to be too willing to allow those teams to fall apart when the main driving force leaves.

Such a club was Bishops Stortford. When we started in 2004 they were a significant team, but somehow things began to slip and some time into our second season it became clear that they were in trouble. We still managed to play them home and away, but by the end of 2005/6 they were not even capable of sending a team to our Herts Sevens. By 2006/7 they had disappeared. We hear that there are attempts to revive the section so maybe we could play them again next season. However, the one positive that came out of Stortford's failure was that as a result in 2006 we picked up Charley Hughes, a player who I think we all believe to be one of the best - and certainly the most overlooked - hookers in the county, if not beyond. 
Its a curious thing that the ability to actually hook seems almost irrelevant to the selection for hookers when it comes to representative teams. Its all about being able to thrown into the line-out  - despite the fact that the line out is the most over-trained and little used aspect of the girls' game. 

It is not unusual to see a girls match with no line-outs at all... but there are always scrums.  Yet the assumption seems to be that specialism there is less important because almost all scrums will be won by the team putting in, and that any hope of a strike against the head will be due to the pushing power of the props. No-one seems to value cunning, quick thinking (and quick feet) of a truly gifted hooker - like Charley

Which is not to say that Charley has not been backed up by strong and powerful props, but even so the ratio of scrums won against the head by front rows lead by Charley has always seemed to be incredibly high. In most games, and against all levels of opposition, we have always seen an opposition put-in with Charley as hooker as a 50:50 ball (and our own put in as close to a certain win as makes no odds!). There are any number of games where we (or more to the point Charley) has won every scrum. 

But like all great forwards her skill remains a closely guarded mystery - because from the touchline we often cannot see it. Quite how she achieved all she did it I don't think anyone outside maybe the front row can really know - perhaps she does not know herself - but I suspect that we may owe many of our victories to Charley and her frontrow team just as much as the girls whose names appeared on the scoresheet.

Her game elsewhere has also been good. She may not have had a spectacularly long throw, but it has always been accurate, she could be relied upon to get to just about every breakdown, her tackling has been good (and often try-saving - as on left against Suffolk) and, while she never seemed to relish getting the ball in her hands, her running (above)and passing could not be faulted. Off the field - quiet (well, quieter than some anyway!), but utterly reliable - and always (for someone so damn good at what she did) curiously lacking in confidence. So let's just put this down as a matter of record - Charley... you are brilliant. Stay in the game - because there are few out there with as much talent as you.

Charley is also responsible for giving us another member of the forwards union who is leaving us - Mel Whitfield. 
Second row and occasional prop, Mel has come and gone a bit over the two or three years she has been with us, but it was great to have hear back this season - just at the moment when we lost two key forwards (Emily and Laura Watson). A strong and potentially talented player, Mel perhaps hasn't been able to turn that potential into Charley's level of on-field success as she has not been able to play or attend training as regularly. But despite several months away she hit the ground running when she returned to the fold after the New Year. It is a pity that just at the moment she has returned to her old form, she must now leave again - and this time with not hope of coming back (unless she can forge her birth certificate!).

Charley and Mel. Stortford's loss has been our gain.

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