A trip back in time for this post, to early March when I travelled north to West Hartlepool Rugby Club. Think I might have mentioned it somewhere at the time but I couldn't show any photos as they were destined for a magazine, the Rugby Journal.
Now into its third issue, the Rugby Journal is a huge glossy magazine, full of long read articles and photographs, about the many varied aspects of rugby union. When my copy came through the letterbox it reminded me of the days when mum's Grattan catalogue used to thud onto the doormat. It's massive!
What impresses me most is how it recognises the importance of the whole game, from the top right down to the lowliest club. As I've said before, all rugby players deserve respect, whatever level they play at. This magazine clearly believes the same. There are interviews with past and present stars of the Premiership and internationals, of course. But tales from the grass roots are also included. The trip to West Hartlepool was actually my second mission for the Rugby Journal. I'd previously been present for an interview with former Bristol, Worcester and Doncaster player turned jewellery designer, Chris Hallam, but this was my first to photograph actual rugby for the magazine.
Actually, the magazine was more interested in the club as a whole than just the action. West Hartlepool's story is a timely reminder for all sports people. They were playing in the top league, the Premiership, not so long ago and there was evidence of this glorious past all over the walls of the clubhouse. However, in recent years there had been a tumble down the divisions and near extinction. Now a degree of stability has been established but the glory days have long gone.
We had a great welcome and met many hard working and determined individuals, all clearly dedicated to the survival of their club. Sadly a day of celebration with former players did not culminate with a win on the pitch. West Hartlepool were fairly heavily defeated by Alnwick.
My second job of the year for the Rugby Journal was in May when the weather was much warmer and brighter. It involved an interview with the Lancashire coach, Mark Nelson, and then a session photographing him with his side in a match against Cheshire at Fylde Rugby Club. In addition to being a highly successful respected coach and accomplished former player, Mark is also a landscape artist of high repute.
He, his staff and the club made me most welcome on the day of the match and were keen to ensure I got all the shots I needed. While the problems at West Hartlepool had been the lack of light, at Fylde it was almost too bright with harsh shadows.
On this occasion the team I was photographing won well against a competitive Cheshire side. Lancashire went on to win the county championship at Twickenham, for the ninth time in ten years.
If you'd like to learn more about these two stories, the link above will take you to the magazine's website where you can subscribe. As for the photographs, many are being currently shown on Twitter and Instagram as part of the Rugby Journal's marketing campaign. I've also been showing one or two on Instagram. Why not give me a follow?