We go again - Jersey rugby fans getting behind amateur side

We go again - Jersey rugby fans getting behind amateur side
Jersey Rugby Club beat Winchester 47-25 at St Peter on Saturday - photo credit Jacqueline Ranieri

Sport is often defined by how you respond to major setbacks. A nine-wicket loss sharpens the mind in training. Conceding an early try raises the intensity of the team that’s fallen behind. A Champions League final defeat drives on a side to go one better and lift the trophy the following season.

It’s taken me a while to feel composed enough to put pen to paper on the demise of Jersey Reds. I'm not keen to play the blame game in public. The Channel Islands’ only professional club, here one minute making history as Championship champs, and gone bust the next.

The local rugby supporting public remain in disbelief. Many who came together in their hundreds this past weekend to cheer on the island’s top amateur club - Jersey RFC - still unable to really work out how it all went wrong with the pro side. When I wrote a piece back in the summer asking what next when you've hit rugby's glass ceiling, this wasn't one of the scenarios played out.

Reds, sadly, can’t bounce back from the heartache - there is no next training session or next match to put things right. It's more than a sporting set back. The logos now removed from beside the tunnel at St Peter and replaced with those of Jersey RFC.

The Jersey Reds amateur and professional sides split in 2022 as part of a club restructure.

But for the rugby loving people of Jersey there’s a feeling that the amateur club, with its unbeaten men's and women's teams flying high this season, could be ready to fill the void. Stand up and be counted in adversity - we go again.

As Myles Landick’s men made it nine bonus-point wins from their opening nine games on Saturday, running in seven tries against third-placed Winchester, it was reminiscent of my early days watching Jersey 15 years or so ago. I wasn't the only one feeling like we'd been transported back in time by a decade and a half.

A few hundred in the ground, exciting running rugby, winning rugby, largely local lads, a club on the up, top of the league, climbing through the divisions. Had Talite Vaioleti, Ashley Maggs or Graham Bell led the teams out it would have somehow felt right.

Many loved the journey the first time around. Four promotions in five years helped propel Jersey to the second tier of English rugby. Who doesn't want to see their home club winning week after week? Promotion year after year.

In my post-match interview for BBC Radio Jersey at the weekend, Landick played down that dream, for now, saying: "One step at a time for us. We've got to make sure that this club is stable". He will have felt the Reds demise more than most as a former player and long-term groundsman at St Peter.

No one in rugby would have wished to see Reds disappear from the rugby landscape. It’s horrendously sad, and for many still hard to talk about. But in sport, it’s about how you respond in the tough times. What you do when things get hard. A galvanised rugby community feels ready to bounce back. If the island can get behind Jersey RFC, the fairytale journey upwards could be even more satisfying the second time around.

Jersey RFC's men sit top of Regional 2 South Central and average 45 points per match this season.