Fortiter Defendit Triumphans*
Novocastrians had gone through considerable highs throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s; the Club became the envy of many. All good things come to an end however, and after Novos’ tragic relegation from North 1 East in 1994, the club again were relegated. The club fell out of the Northern Leagues without a whimper after succumbing to demotion for a successive season, this time from North 2 East, in 1995. The downward spiral from the halcyon days mainly came about from club members leaving Sutherland Park for a variety of reasons. Those that left became known as the lost generation. Top players that once littered the first XV for many a year moved on and with a shortage of young players coming to the club at that time they could not be adequately replaced.
Relegation from North 2 East placed Novocastrians into the Durham & Northumberland leagues for the first time, and the club struggled with life in a new and different set up. Furthermore, the club were now only putting out three sides a week- a hugely reduced playing membership. A mid table finish in our first Durham & Northumberland Division One campaign was followed by another relegation in 1997. A determined recruitment effort and the appointment of the club's first paid Coach stopped the rot and the club achieved immediate promotion from Durham & Northumberland Two in 1998; the improvement, sadly, did not last.
Novos stayed in Durham & Northumberland Division One for two seasons, until two consecutive relegations left the club in dire straits. 2001 was the year Novocastrians were relegated into Durham & Northumberland Division Three; for the first and only time in the club's history. Novocastrians had plummeted down four divisions in just seven years, and the club was on the brink of folding. The club would sometimes struggle to get two senior sides out. Enough was enough. An enthusiastic and committed group of players including some recently retired players took over the running of the playing side within the Club, with the immediate result that Novos were promoted as Champions. Andy Leonard, as club captain helped lead a renaissance at Novos, as the 1st XV also won Rugby World Team of the Month in November 2001, and the Journal Trophy Merit Table for the first and only time in the club's history, in April 2002. Novocastrians missed a second successive promotion by the narrowest of margins the following season.
Under the stewardship of Andy Leonard and Graeme Cooper, the club were beginning to function on the field again. We remained in Durham & Northumberland Two in relative comfort and occasionally threatening promotion until in 2009, when yet another National reorganisation took place, and after a play-off, saw Novocastrians promoted to Durham & Northumberland Division One. This is a position Novos maintained until 2012, and were relegated into Durham & Northumberland Division Two. This led to the appointment of ex-Gateshead coach Magnus Leask the same summer. Under Leask, Novos bounced back into Durham & Northumberland Division One at the first time of asking, after finishing in 2nd place. In 2016, Novos 1st XV finally won their first silverware in a Northumberland cup competition after beating Ponteland in the Northumberland Senior Plate Final; however the Northumberland Senior Cup continues to elude the club.
In 2011 Novos Ladies won promotion from RFUW Championship North 2, after winning all of their league games. This fantastic achievement placed them into the RFUW Championship, only one league below the Premiership, where they have since remained.
Novos Youth Section is now, after many years beginning to reap its rewards as we have seen a constant stream of junior players into the senior set up. The original work of Geoff Owen and John Harrison helped keep the junior section afloat with their exceptional effort. Tom Jackson, Kim Stewart, Barrie Russell, Johnny Dias and the late John Cardwell then furthered the work before them. The most recent work undertaken in organising the Junior set up has mainly been down to the entire Chater family. Between them all they have helped push the club on further from the strong foundations laid before them. Their effort has been so instrumental to the club and helps see Novocastrians in great heart. The years’ worth of hard work from all the volunteers have helped to set up what is now a thriving Mini, Midi and Youth organisation; running teams from Under 5 all the way up to Under 18. Without the help of our determined youth volunteers, Novocastrians would be a very different club.
In 2006 Novocastrians became host to the Newcastle Ravens, the North East’s only gay rugby side. The Ravens used Sutherland Park as their home ground up until 2014 before moving onto pastures new.
As we continue on through the 21st Century we see the club in good heart with a steady influx of good young players replacing the stalwarts who so determinedly and successfully restored its playing reputation. Novocastrians now boasts well over 400 playing members from Under 5s through to first XV and Ladies XV's - A playing membership that will hopefully see us return to the good old days of seven senior teams!
*Triumphing by a Brave Defence (It is the Latin motto of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne and is also the chorus of the RGS school song)
Above: Novocastrians 1st XV 2010, in front of the clubhouse built in 1928, at Sutherland Park.