FREQUENTLY viewed as underdogs Northwich have been successfully achieving a top three finish each season in North One West before this season’s promotion, and much is spoken of “Fortress Moss Farm”.

Director of rugby Martin Poste touched on what being a member of the “Blacks” means, and the ethos behind the club in a recent podcast.

Northwich is a small club and our objectives are maybe slightly different to the bigger clubs in the Leagues. Northwich is very much about our coaching staff, players and our teams being as good as they can be.

Many external and importantly internal coaches such as Wood, Naylor, Clarke and Penny, have graced the club and been integral parts of its successes and progression.

Today we focus on four coaches who have had a major influence in developing the club’s performances and how during their tenure it’s been the players who instil in the next generation the “Blacks ethos”.

John Chappell, a lecturer at Mid-Cheshire College, was the visionary, he saw the potential in integrating academics from different backgrounds into his passion for rugby, establishing a grassroots club within the confines of the college, extracting all the benefits possible and putting onus on the players to organise. Two teams evolved which needed to be self funded. All before the term grassroots was ever dreamt of.

Roger Blake, another lecturer, this time from Sir John Deans, took charge of coaching in 1979, a time when grassroots rugby displayed true amateurism (for the most part).

Roger brought an air of authority to training giving structure and a relentless obsession in completing the basics, pass, catch, move. Perfect these and opportunities to score will follow.

He put emphasis on improving fitness and development. During this period five teams evolved and all without a clubhouse. Different local hostelries were used en-masse by all members, self organisation of running fundraising functions at the likes of Northwich Memorial Hall, and the Northwich Festival (of Sport) assisted the membership to gel and work together, inviting many new members from the local pubs to take up rugby.

Following the 1995 World Cup rugby union turned professional and many clubs were drawn into a culture of semi-professionalism in their quest to progress to higher levels. This move proved the downfall of many as monies dried-up and some larger clubs went into free-fall.

Chris Chudleigh joined in 2004/05 at what proved to be a crucial time at Northwich. The club had fought off a few relegation battles and had a number of coaches over the previous seasons.

He brought his former army experience to the club improving technical training drills and tactical game management, also improving the players’ commitment in supporting the club’s financial standing and ingratiating an overseas player exchange programme.

This groundwork set the standard for the following season’s unbeaten and EDF winning campaign. And players from this era were the club’s backbone for many years.

Martin Poste arrived knowing little of level 7 and 6 rugby, but having a distinguished playing and honourable coaching career he gained a promotion in his first season.

Over his tenure Postie has embraced the underdog ethos and what it means to the players being a “Black”. He continually strives to integrate new players, some just don’t get it and move on, others embrace it.

As he says there are historically some big clubs now visiting Moss Farm and the likes of Otley, Macclesfield and Preston Grasshoppers all have fantastic facilities and it will come as a culture shock when they arrive for the first time over the crush and run drive, can’t locate the “Shed” clubhouse, see the stable block changing and showering facilities, having to split the squad into two, squeezing in the small changing rooms, no turnstiles, stand or canopy for spectators, but a warm welcome offered to all.

The underdogs will take any advantage possible as they step up to level five. Northwich might be the ground opposition players will hate to visit.

No airs and graces at Northwich or as some say the “council team”, no pomposity just a well grounded truly grassroots rugby club, continually punching above its weight both on and off the field and it is evident over the years that Northwich build from within, most of their senior players have progressed via its junior section and more importantly have become seasoned campaigners for their chosen club - “the bash street kids are competitive.”