I suspect you will all know by now that Ex Chiefs and Cardiff Blues star, Damian Welch is joining us at Brickfields. We wanted a big name to take the helm of playing issues and they do not come much bigger than 6’6’’ Damian. Big in both stature and character, Damian is a great fit for us at Brickfields. He knows the game, knows the region and is a senior-level coach keen to make his mark at an elite level club.
The face of rugby is evolving at a pace and post coronavirus we will all be faced with a ‘New Normal’. I met with several top candidates for the job, but it became clear that Damian was our man. He understands and shares the philosophy and culture we are building at Brickfields. Our vision is to grow a culture where players can commit and plan on a club for life. The mercenary system where players see a team as a mere staging post and steppingstone to draw a salary before moving on as the mood takes them is what Albion are seeking to change.
It is interesting to consider the career path of Exeter Chiefs Rob Baxter. Rob followed his father John to play for the Chiefs. Rob came through Exeter’s junior ranks eventually progressing to play 275 games for Chiefs before hanging up his boots to join the Sandy Park coaching team. Rob is now arguably the nation’s top club coach. His brother Richie Baxter followed the same playing route recording a record 431 appearances for Chiefs. The lesson is clear to see. A top player can have a successful and fulfilling professional career as a One Club Man without grasshopping around the nation to secure a paycheck.
I have been working closely for some months with our commercial manager, Chris Bentley, developing our plans and shaping a blueprint, that will see our vision succeed in building our culture and mindset to Make Albion Great Again. The Baxter Brothers prove that the quality and skillsets required for playing success can be found and established from our homegrown south west rugby players.
To that end, I am also pleased to confirm that our plans for an “Albion Business Hub’ are well advanced and will be circulated to the Captains of Plymouth’s commerce and industry soon. In essence, we are looking to support a team who want to lay long-term roots in our soil and will be looking to provide help (beyond simply payment) to ensure they anchor into the team long after they finish playing.
The current instability right up to the top of the game will see a lot of players realise that a broader perspective may be of better sense and we believe the ‘Albion business hub’ could well be a deciding factor in future recruitment and retention of our playing staff.
Additionally, our Commercial Manager, Chris, is keen to emphasise a closer working relationship with our commercial sponsors. Synergy and building mutually beneficial results are at the core of the philosophy Chris is building into our new vision for collaborative sponsorship partnerships.
We are both aware that some sponsors have been let down in the past by previous associations with Albion. We want to heal the wounds and rebuild our reputation of honesty, trust and the ability to deliver on the deals we make, setting Albion apart from the crowd.
Finally, another big thank you to all who stepped up to the plate adding their support to the cause pledging a donation to our ‘Albion 2020 Heroes’ fund. At the time of penning this message, the fund had topped £28,000. Well done Plymouth – Together we can achieve great things.
As a value add and to show thanks to all those who have supported us to this date, we will ensure to each and every heroes name sublimated into the home jerseys for the coming season and, as an incentive to keep the heroes wall growing, anyone who buys a brick up until the end of July will also get their name on the shirt!
The spectre of Coronavirus is slowly beginning to diminish, as the government progressively releases the constraints of lockdown. Both Damien and Chris are spending time with me at Brickfields this week discussing and advancing our plans to ‘Make Albion Great Again.’ There is a long way to go before we open our gates for competitive rugby to be played at Brickfields, but that day will come, and we will be ready to compete at the head of the pack.