IF you had stumbled across the recent mini and juniors open day at Burrows Hill, you would have seen Winnington Park’s junior development engine in full motion.

Nearly 400 boys and girls from ages three to 16 were taking part and enjoying the game of rugby, some for the first time.

Park have been a long established source of talent in the north west.

Year-on-year, the club continue to produce boys and girls from all age groups who are selected to play for Cheshire, as well as professional and semi-professional clubs such as Sale Sharks and Sale FC.

Paul Dean, Winnington Park chairman, said: “Our mini and junior section has thrived for many years, but that’s not a coincidence.

“Developing the next generation and ensuring they have access to the best coaching and facilities has always been our priority, and every year we reap the benefits.

“Whether that’s seeing talented young players strengthening our senior men’s and women’s teams, or representing the county and beyond, we get a strong sense of pride and satisfaction that we’ve done our part to keep the game alive.”

As an amateur club, Winnington Park rely on their members to fund the running and maintenance of the grounds and facilities. The majority comes from the players and parents in the junior section, a testament to the local interest and support for the club.

With reports of steadily declining participation levels across the country in recent years, it’s encouraging to see that, at Winnington Park at least, rugby is still thriving.

Dave Alcock, director of rugby at Park, said: “We rely on our mini and junior section to maintain our senior teams at Park.

“If you take a close look at our teamsheets on a weekend, you’ll see that more than 90 per cent of the players have come through the mini and junior pathway. For us, we believe that’s the only way to make a club sustainable.”

Entering its 116th year as an established rugby club, there looks to be a promising future ahead for Winnington Park and a feeling that rugby will always have a home in the Northwich community.