NORTHWICH RUFC director of rugby Martin Poste, who has also recently taken on the role as chief executive, sees benefit in drawing a line under 55 years of rivalry with a joining of forces with Winnington Park.

Poste, a former assistant coach at Harlequins, stepped away from retirement to join Northwich five years ago and has overseen the rise through the divisions to reach historic new heights for the club and town.

Promotion by RFU calculation, in the wake of the season ending prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, means Northwich will be playing in the North Premier next season against clubs like Preston Grasshoppers, Otley, Lymm and Macclesfield.

“My opinion as a rugby man, forgetting that it’s Northwich and Winnington Park, I believe a merger is a right thing for the longer success of rugby in Northwich,” said Poste, commenting after player-coach Sam Naylor made his merger views known to the Guardian.

READ: Player-coach Sam Naylor reveals his 'Northwich Park' merger views

“And that, on top of league position, would have been my biggest desire as an eventual legacy that there had been a merger.

“I suppose the easiest way to explain my view would be, let’s consider this fantastic situation because it’s history, the highest level Northwich Rugby Club has reached, the highest level Northwich as a town has ever had, the highest level sports club in the town.

“What a thing it would be to have level 5 rugby played on Winnington’s ground. It’s a proper facility isn’t it – the pitch, the stand, the whole facility."

Poste referenced one club, instead of two, tapping into the same pool of young local talent for developing first XV players of the future.

He said: “People say to me, Winnington and Northwich, it won’t work. And I say, for the kids, in 10 years’ time they’ll never have known there was two clubs. They’ll only know the club then that’s named Northwich Park, or whatever.

“You can imagine we’d have some diehards that will say never ever should the paths cross, and I’m sure there will be people who will be upset that I’m involved in something like that.

“It’s from my heart, for the future of the rugby man, for rugby in Northwich, a merger would be much more powerful and successful.

“You have two great clubs – one with, I have to concede, a totally better facility, and one with a totally better first XV. I would have thought that was a marriage in heaven.”

But he felt when he and Northwich chairman Ken Jones requested and then met up with Winnington Park chiefs Paul Dean and Brian Concannon approximately four months ago that the appetite was not there for a joining of forces.

“There has been two sets of meetings," said Poste.

"One was a couple of years ago. I was involved on both occasions, as was Ken Jones.

"On the first occasion, after fairly extensive club to club meetings, it looked like there was an appetite. And then after some nitty-gritty it was shelved.

“But surely it is for the better for rugby to have one super club.

“So we went to them and talked to them again. And it was the same two from us and two from them in a meeting, probably four months ago.

“It was once I knew we had the potential yet again to be at the top end of the table and possibly had a better chance than any we’d had previously.

“Obviously I hadn’t foreseen them having the season they’d had, escaping relegation on the last day effectively.

“Ken and I were in a totally honest situation. I think Winnington were wondering what the skeletons in the closet were – why, why, why.

“And it was genuinely because we have no debt – we don’t have any money but we don’t have any debt – we have a team, and the one thing that Ken wanted to push which was very charming on my behalf but it was to say that we have a management team that would grace a couple of divisions higher.

“That’s not Martin Poste, it’s what I built as well – Sammy Naylor, all the backroom staff, Steve Lander, World Cup referee, one of the most illustrious names in the sport, all wanting to be around us.

“We had all that to offer and that didn’t mean the removal of the Winnington coaching staff either, because it didn’t mean that when I joined Northwich. Sam Naylor was at Northwich when I got there, he’s still there. Mike Penny and all those people, there was no kicking people out.

"There was maybe a redefining of roles, but anyway that was not the objective. The objective was to make something stronger.

“For their own reasons I think there was some controversy, I don’t think it was an easy decision for them, but they had no appetite for it. In fact, they told us it wasn’t about first-team aspiration.

“That would probably make me wary in the future because surely you play sport to be a winner. You play recreational sport, yes, you play sport to enjoy it, yes, but you actually play to win.

“The way it was put back to us was that’s not their priority.

“Surely you can combine the community game and include everybody. If you’ve got the right facilities and the right people none of that is precluded surely.

“What’s the point of having 600-700 kids at any club, if they’ve got nothing to aspire to.

"What do you do when they’re finishing colts, say to them go and sign for Lymm or somewhere else because we have no first team to aspire to.

“So what you’re actually going to be is an academy.

“We went with an open mind, not a decision, because we would have had to go back to an AGM for consideration.

"But it’s sad that it’s never been allowed to get to that level.

"I think they saw a total diversity in what the goal was. Mine was a successful first team and senior rugby, all pushing forward backed up fantastically based on the Winnington Park youth scheme.

“But all they’ve done now is probably make Northwich more resilient.

"We started Superstars with Sammy Naylor and Richard Dale and now we’re up to three figures in kids and it will just get stronger and stronger.

"We’re doing a lot of works in the community. Danny Townsend’s out at schools, they’re loving it and are now recommending their kids.

“So all it’s going to do is make for a power struggle, almost, and we’re all in the same pool.

“I can’t tell you whether there would be a total appetite on behalf of Northwich at an open meeting.

“With regards to Winnington I can’t pre-judge what they think, it would be interesting to me if the general membership of Winnington had that opportunity to decide.

“And I would have been more than happy to have spoken in order for them to get to know me, find out my philosophy and be told the truth, up against the rumours of what our budget is, what we pay players (expenses only), and what they pay me.

“It’s sad to think the separation will continue when with all the difficulties in sport, the funding side and everything else, I think it was a way forward."

Despite that thinking, the Northwich chief executive has quickly turned his thoughts to entertaining some quality sides at Moss Farm next season in the North Premier.

“From a rugby playing point of view it’s not a problem because I will use Northwich’s situation to our advantage," he said.

"It won’t be comfortable for Otley and teams like that to go in those dressing rooms where they have to split forwards and backs because they are not big enough.

"You don’t want to make it comfortable for them and you want every advantage of that very tight railed ground of ours, with the crowd up on the bank.

"Everything like that we can use."