As is the case at the end of every season, we sadly have to say farewell to a number of players who will be moving on, some of whom have spent many seasons at Hartpury and all of whom have given everything for the shirt.
It is a great shame that the current circumstances have prevented us from giving these players the send-off they deserve, but all are welcome back at the Alpas any time!
We have already reported on the departure of Rupert Harden, due to retirement from playing. In addition, the following players are also leaving the club.
(Pictured above, L-R, Will Tanner, Harry Cochrane, Des Merrey)
Will Tanner, Harry Cochrane, Des Merrey, Mike Flook, Mat Gilbert and Alex Gibson are all former students who have made a long-term commitment to rugby at Hartpury, on and off the field.
John Barnes, our Director of Rugby, commented “Will Tanner moves on after a record 147 appearances for the RFC, plus being an AASE winning captain. After leaving Hartpury, Will had a brief stint as a professional at Bath Rugby, but soon made his way to back to Hartpury and was a key figure in the promotions leading to the Championship. We wish Will and his family all the best in their next steps in their lives.”
“Harry Cochrane has made 82 appearances for the RFC and is a double BUCS winner. The most energised player I’ve ever met and a live-wire both on and off the pitch. His infectious character made him a squad favourite year on year. He will be missed, but we wish him and Molly all the best as they move back to Jersey and await their firstborn. Good luck!”
“Des Merrey has been involved in 92 appearances for the RFC and is another BUCS winner. The quiet, unassuming Irishman has been with us for a while now. Originally joining the University following his Ireland U20s appearances, he cemented himself as a great all round prop with an engine to match. Injuries came at unfortunate times in his Hartpury career, but his commitment in the Hartpury shirt can never be questioned. We wish him all the best in his next career path.”
“Mike Flook is a rare centurion with 111 appearances for the RFC and is also a BUCS winner. Joining us from Dings Crusaders he completed his degree and constantly made the match day squad as we climbed the leagues. His power and strength in the gym transferred to the field with a dominant scrum. The ability to play both sides of the scrum at Championship level is an achievement few can match. We wish him well in his full time employment and job future.”
(Pictured above, L-R, Mike Flook, Mat Gilbert, Alex Gibson)
“Mat ‘Gumbie’ Gilbert is an alumni who subsequently played for Scarlets, Bath Rugby and Worcester Warriors. He returned to Hartpury in 2016 and was a key player in our unbeaten National 1 promotion season and also in our early period as a Championship club. He scored our first-ever Championship try, against the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate, in September 2017.”
“Alex Gibson is another double BUCS winner who has with us since he was 16. 38 appearances as a young tight-head at this level shows good progress for ‘Bert’. He moves to another Championship Club, looking for that next step in professional rugby. We wish him all the best.”
Mike Wilcox (left) joined us from Cinderford in 2016 and was voted Player of the Season in 16-17 despite missing the last few weeks of the campaign through injury. When you consider what a season that was and the guys that played (Polledri, Mikalcius, Vellacott, Randall, Negri, Protheroe, Eves, etc.), that was a good award to win! He returns to Cinderford with our very best wishes.
Of Mike, John Barnes said, ”He made 79 appearances scoring 14 tries. Mike has been a mainstay at full-back for all of his four seasons in the ‘RFC’. An elusive and quick counter attacker who thrived in the National 1 Championship winning season, picking up the POS award alongside some very illustrious team mates. Mike returns to Cinderford in National 1 and we wish him all the best and look forward to seeing his name on the score sheet on a weekly basis.”
Jake Henry joined from Rotherham in 2018 and has been a strong presence on the wing, with and without the ball, over the past two seasons. His rugby adventure will now continue off-shore.
“Jake Henry leaves to head for France after two seasons with us,” said Barnes. “Injuries somewhat limited his appearances, but he added so much to the squad off the field and we wish him more success in France.”
Luke Carter joined us from Ealing Trailfinders ahead of last season and served well as club skipper throughout the campaign.
(Above, L-R, Jake Henry, Luke Carter, Akapusi Qera)
Akapusi Qera, as a former Premiership, Top 14 and Rugby World Cup star, had already accomplished pretty much everything he could in the game when he signed for Hartpury in November 2018. Despite that, he never gave less than 100% in the Red & black and there were plenty of reminders of that amazing rugby career in his performances.
Jack Preece and Tom Jubb both joined us from Coventry at the start of last season and we would like to thank them for their efforts. Jack is another who will be moving to Cinderford, where he will take on some coaching responsibilities in addition to playing.
(Above, L-R, Jack Preece, Tom Jubb, Joe Margetts, Elias Caven)
Finally, centre Joe Margetts – a graduate in 2019 – and wing Elias Caven, who also featured heavily in our early Championship experience before playing primarily BUCS rugby later in his time here, have joined successful Scottish club side, Ayr.
We wish all of the above every success in the future, both on and off the rugby field.
Tomorrow, we will have a few new faces to tell you about!