The Beginnings
History 1 of 9

1. The Beginnings

Coalville Rugby Club
Jeffrey Knight

Rugby raised its head in the mining town of Coalville due to the influence of the Leicestershire Rugby Union’s
(LRU) Honorary Secretary, S.C. (Syd) Packer, who took his missionaries into the County with the aim of engendering rugby in the villages in the early years of the Twentieth Century.

So the catalyst for rugby in town of Coalville was Packer who in late in 1902 encouraged a young rugby disciple, and former captain of Leys School 1st XV, John Pearson Neal, to do the organising of rugby in the Coalville district. To help matters along in late March 1903 the LRU brought an exhibition match to Coalville by way of League Champions, Belgrave, playing a League Combination XV. In spite of Whitwick White Cross FC playing on the same afternoon over one thousand spectators attended the rugby match at the Fox and Goose Ground. Things had got underway very well and Packer and Neal did not let the initiative stall and at a dinner following the exhibition match a committee for engendering rugby in Coalville was formed.

Neal and the committee worked hard and by the second week of April had managed to find enough players to form to a Coalville XV to play an LRU Select XV. On Saturday April 18th, 1903 the first Coalville XV took the field against the Select XV, comprising mostly of players from Westleigh.
The match, played on the Halfway House ground, was close with the home team losing by one try, three points to nothing. So in a three week period from the end of March to the middle of April the first big hurdle of introducing “rugger” in Coalville had been passed and the seeds sown for further growth. This was by way of a committee within the town that could take forward the challenge of ensuring that rugby in Coalville was not a one game wonder but something that would grow to become endemic in the town’s sporting endeavours.

Coalville RFC flourished in its first full season winning 18 of the 24 matches played. Jack Sheffield, a Boar War veteran and former Leicester Fosse FC player, has the honour of being the first Coalville player, of many to follow, to be reported by the referee for indiscipline on the field. In March, 1904, in a match against Oadby Swifts, Sheffield’s name was taken by referee E. Sewell for rough play. The punishment dished out by the LRU was a severe censoring of Sheffield. By whom and how is not reported.

The initial flourish for rugby in Coalville was hard to sustain and playing numbers waxed and waned and the ability to put a team on the field sometimes faltered until the 1910- 1911 season when 30 players could be seen at practice sessions. That season the renewed vigour for rugby enabled Coalville to cruise through the semi-final of the Junior Cup, against Humberstone Victoria, to set up a final against Hinckley. The final was a one- sided affair with Hinckley winning 18 points to nil. At the start of the 1910-1911 season
a man synonymous with Coalville RFC for the next 60 years, Amand George (A.G.) Ball, took over the reigns as secretary of the club and it was his drive that ensured the game prospered in Coalville. But even A.G. could not stop the inevitability of the Club closing at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, as initially did every rugby club in the County. It was 12 long years before the club rose from its moribund state and put a XV on the field again.