Welcome to a very special blog folks which begins with an article about two Barum legends Winston James and Luke Berry who are hanging up their boots following this weekend’s final fixture against Clifton. Luke being the elder statesman here having started with the Chiefs all the way back to 2008 whilst Winston started playing for the Chiefs in 2009 they have been a constant feature for the Chiefs so I thought it fitting we send them out on a high and so I recently asked them to put their thoughts down to their playing career and beyond and rather than me waffling on I though you the supporters deserved to hear what they had to say totally unfiltered so I present to you Winston James and Luke Berry in their own words.
What was your first game like how did you feel?
Winston: My first proper Barnstaple home game was against Chippenham I did my home debut with Johnny Carter! Fitting that after all this time I will share my last game with him too! I loved every minute of it!
Luke: Clifton Away- 2008
I remember this one quite vividly. Being at training on the Thursday night and Kev reading out the team for an away game to Clifton, who were flying high in the league at the time and hearing my name being called out to start on the wing. I was instantly filled with excitement and nervous.
The game itself we lost to a strong side but on a personal note, I felt I had a good game and scored thanks to a little push from Josh Squire to get over the try line.
How important was the junior to colt progression for you?
Winston: Massively important that’s the main thing is we want local players playing, with the talent coming through it’s great to see. The junior and Colts coaches are doing an amazing job!
Luke: Hugely important. Being able to train with the 1st team as a colt sets you up massively for that step up into senior rugby. It certainly helped me when I was a colt and it should be something that the club continues to do going forward.
Most memorable match?
Winston: I think probably going away to Chinnor when they hadn’t lost a league game at home for 2 years and winning up there. Or the Tunbridge promotion match.
Luke: There has been many especially on an individual point but the one that sticks with me would have to be our first playoff match to get in to National 2 away at Tonbridge. From leaving on a Friday night for our first ever overnighter, stopping off and eating at Nando’s, showing Patty Mcmanus that you can order a whole chicken off the menu, staying at Epsom racecourse, obviously the game and JP kicking the winning penalty and of course the bus trip home. That whole weekend was something special.
Winston: Easy that one, the first promotion Tunbridge away match. Beating a very good team and doing it the last play of the game.
Luke: Again, there are so many to choose from my debut, promotions and Devon cup wins both with Barnstaple and North Devon College but to win the Devon Cup in 2019 at home in front of our own amazing supporters will certainly be up there as one of my favourite memories.
What has been the most significant change in your view that has happened both to the Chiefs and Barnstaple Rugby as a whole?
Winston: Probably being promoted into the national league the level is very very different and the club / committee has got behind us as a team. They’ve been brilliant with supporting us in the tough times. That’s a massive turning point for me they have showed faith in the young Barnstaple players and coaching set up which will reap massive rewards in the future.
Luke: I think just the way that the club are looking to take a more professional view on things rugby wise and striving to establish the club as a permanent national league 2 club. There are certainly some exciting ideas and plans being mentioned for the club going forward and I am looking forward to seeing how that pans out.
Did you ever think you would one day play tier 4 rugby?
Winston: Yes is the simple answer this club is good enough to maintain this standard.
Luke: Honestly the level I played rugby at was never a driving factor for me. Growing up all I wanted to do was play for Barnstaple and achieve success with the club. To be able to do that and get to the level we are currently at is testament to the club and the players we had and currently have.
What’s the future looking like for you post playing both personally and rugby related-
Winston: I will hopefully be stepping into a assistance coaching role at the club if all goes as planned and I have started my own building business so will be very busy so all good things.
Luke: Hard one to answer, as I am sure that my wife has many plans that she would like to do and has been looking forward to this moment for a while, especially after I have been telling her for the last 3 years that, that season would be my last. I did mention to my son about getting season tickets to watch Man Utd play but I am not sure that a wise choice now given how bad they currently are.
Maybe a bit of coaching in the future rugby wise and I will always be around to help at the club but one thing I am sure of is that I will be down every week cheering on the boys.
Any final thoughts?
Winston: Just please keep believing in the team it’s young and has so much potential. From me a massive Thank you to all the committee who do so much to run this club, and a massive Thank you to all the players and coaches I’ve played with and to my wife Tia my mum and dad and all my family without their support I would of never of gotten very far.
I would also just like to say Thank you to all the supporters I love this club and I know a lot of supporters do too I think that the atmosphere at Barum can at times be like a 16th man and I still get goosebumps when I run out. I can’t Thank the supporters enough really; they make the club what it is today and that’s a very special place. Thank you for all the good times. I will miss it.
Luke: Just a massive thank you to everyone at Barnstaple RFC for making my career so special and it is one that will live with me forever. A thank you to all my coaches over the years. I will try and name them all because each one of them have had an impact on my rugby career. Colin Facey, Mark Redrup, Gwyn Lewis, Rob Palmer, Pete, Kev Squire, Danny Thomas, Nath Kelly, Steve Perry, Pat Mcmanus and Bryn Jenkins.
To Verity, thank you for putting up with me the last 20+ years and I hope I didn’t make it too painful.To all my teammates past and present, it’s been one hell of a ride with memories that will last a life time and mates that I will always share a special bond (Even you William) that playing rugby creates. Good luck for the future and I look forward to cheering you on.
Finally, for you the supporters I don’t even know where to start. Our supporters are the best!!! To have the support that we get at home games and even away games in terms of numbers and energy would put some Championship teams to shame, and I can’t thank you guys enough for that. The buzz it gives the team is like no other. I will certainly miss hearing BARUM, BARUM, BARUM chant whilst being out on the pitch but I am looking forward to joining in on it from the stands next season and cheering the boys on.
Of course, Winston James was also massively influential as Club Captain and also the most successful captain we have had here at Barnstaple Rugby successfully marshalling the team to promotion to the 4th tier of English rugby not once but twice as well as winning the Devon seniors cup and the South West Premier title. I asked Kevin Squires what prompted him to pick Winston as Captain to which he answered that Winston “was the best player at the time and although he was only 21 he was very influential in the dressing room even then”.
Whilst Steve Perry had this to say about Winston’s captaincy.
I was a very lucky man to arrive at the club when I did. The decision on a captain was quick, I said a coach should not be captain and Kev said one name, Winston James and the rest is history (the longest serving captain at this wonderful club).
Leaving the club made me realise what an excellent Captain Winston is. He leads by example, having no regard for his body which is well respected in our sport. He was and I’m sure still is, angry and edgy at training which always kept standards high and was willing to call out anybody. He also had the ability to connect with the North Devon men, which I as a foreigner struggled with sometimes!
He is amazing value on socials and would never ask anybody to do what he wouldn’t. Spoons with lloyder was hysterical. His montage on Laz will be remembered forever. We missed him immensely when he left for so long to Oz….
I’m very lucky to call him friend, he is a wonderful, loyal man.
So there you have it the end of an era and I would like to just add my thanks to two of the many players I have both watched and photographed over the years, in fact I started shooting Barnstpale matches when Luke first played for the Chiefs and I have had immense fun capturing all thier moments the highs and the lows, so enjoy your retirement lads and don’t be strangers.
But of course with every player that hangs their boots up there are plenty at this club just getting theirs on and it was the turn of our young Colts last Sunday to take centre stage as they faced Ivybridge in the Devon Colts final at Kingsbridge. In a finely fought 1st half two converted tries from the Colts kept them within touching distance of a very well organised Ivybridge just 5 points behind at the break 19-14.
Unfortunately the second half did not go to plan as a number of decisions went against our Colts which Ivybridge took full advantage off to grab a big lead going into the last 10 minutes. The Barnstaple Colts though continued to play their rugby and pushed Ivybridge all the way encouraged by the massive support that Barnstaple brought to this game out singing their opponents throughout, scoring the last try of the game, losing 42-19. This was a fantastic performance from our Colts who made the huge support proud of them.
Now to today’s game which is sponsored by Wright Commercial and Torch Farm Vets featuring Barnstaple Chiefs against Clifton and which promises to be a really exciting game of rugby as the Chiefs have something to prove to the visitors following what happened in the first game of the season up there. With Luke Berry playing his 300th (plus but nobody is fully sure how many more) game for the Chiefs it is shaping up to be a grand finale to the season. Don’t forget to have your vote in the supporter’s player of the season, there are plenty to choose from as the team has been outstanding this season, and so without the usual fanfare here is the team for the final game of the season which includes three of our Colts from last weekends Final on the bench, exciting times
1. Dominic Robson
Sponsored by Harry’s Cafe
2 .Gav Mitchell
Sponsored by Function Fitness
3. Martinas Dromantas
sponsored by Peter Jeffrey
4. Ben Hilton
sponsored by KAS Crane Hire
5. Adam Lloyd
sponsored by Barry Hews Autos
6. Arthur Marks
sponsored by Floor Sanding Services
7. Ryan Smale
sponsored by Artisani
8. Winston James
sponsored by Brewer, Harding and Rowe
9. Josh Pilkington
Sponsored by Ocean Shade, Canopies & Awning
10. Tyler Gordon-Oke
Sponsored by Mount Sandford House
11. Connor Swan
sponsored by Guardian Fire and Security
12. Dan Johnson
Sponsored by Tom Johnson Decorators
13. Jake Murphy
Sponsored by the Pride
Sponsored by Fields farm shop and Butchers
Sponsored by Access an Area
Sponsored by DS Carpentry
17. Scott Incledon
18. Alex Hookway
19. Joe Hill
20. Luke Berry
Sponsored by Ian Baker
Finally before we wrap up I would just like to thank all our volunteers for the huge amount of work they have done to keep this rugby club going especially through the pandemic and beyond. It has been a massive two years of hard work, anxiety and sheer endeavour that has not only kept this club alive but to even prosper. We wouldn’t have the fantastic Saturdays we have without a massive amount of sacrifice and graft behind the scenes and every one of them deserve our thanks and a pint or two.
And to our brilliant supporters you have been awesome this season and although it might not have been the best we hoped for, there is so much potential in this team as the youngsters take over the reigns, that next season already has me excited
Enjoy your summer and we will catch up next season.