Clayton RFC Celebrates at Annual Banquet

CLAYTON, North Carolina – This past Saturday night, the Clayton Rugby Football Club celebrated the closing of the 2023/2024 XVs season along with their 10th Anniversary at their annual end of season banquet. The club’s 10th Anniversary season was filled with landmarks and big moments. Aside from the 10th Anniversary, the club also began official play at their new home, the Johnston County Rugby Park. A project 7 years in the making, the club moved all practices to the facility during the summer of 2023, played the first unofficial match in December, and then followed with the first official match in February. 

Other key milestones during the 2023/24 season:

  • The club set a new total membership record with 120 members this past season
  • Social membership numbers were more than double the previous year (which was a record year)
  • Men’s playing numbers were at the highest level since before the pandemic

The club also approved a new board structure at the AGM that will help lay the groundwork for the addition of more teams and playing levels within the club. 

On the pitch, the Bootleggers finished the season with a 4-7 record, but could have easily won 2-3 matches during the season. The young side made a lot of progress during the second half of the season. The four wins were three more than the Bootleggers had the previous season and they finished in 3rd place in the Carolinas D4 conference. 

“We’re really proud of the effort that the guys put in this past season,” said Bootleggers Head Coach Rich Munro. “Our numbers grew steadily throughout the season and we were able to build some consistency. This was one of the most fun seasons that we’ve had in a long time. The future is bright for this group.”

As part of the banquet, the club handed out their annual awards. Three of the awards are voted on by players, one awarded by the coaching staff, and one given out by the Board of Directors. Men’s Captain Dan Parker started off by handing out the player awards which were voted upon by men’s players.

Doug Stillwell received the club’s Most Valuable Forward award. Stillwell played multiple positions in the forward pack, but was mostly found in the front row this past season. Stillwell, who has been with the club since 2014, was the only Bootlegger to appear in every match and rarely came off of the pitch. He scored three tries on the season, led the squad in penalty turnovers, and provided leadership to the young squad. 

Ted Hardy received the club’s Most Valuable Back award. Hardy started the season on the sidelines as a Coach, but was called back into duty after an injury to scrumhalf Luis Padua. Hardy, who had played the bulk of his long career as a back row forward, was a quick study jumping in and playing six matches at scrumhalf before an injury ended his season in March. During the season, Hardy scored one try while helping guide the offense. 

Lamont Weathers received the club’s Rookie of the Year award. Lamont joined the squad mid-season and quickly proved himself. Lamont saw time at both wing and center. His hard running and tackling helped set the tone in multiple matches. Weathers scored two tries in six matches this season for the Bootleggers and has a bright future in the club’s midfield. 

The club’s Coaches’ Award was presented by Rich Munro with Chris Terry receiving the award for his hard work throughout the season. Terry, who came to the club without any rugby experience, made as much progress as anyone within the club this past season. His hard work and positive attitude exemplified the Clayton Rugby spirit. Terry appeared in 7 1st XV matches this past season and played in the lone 2nd XV match this season for a total of 8 matches. 

The last award presented was the highest honor bestowed up on a member of the Clayton RFC. The Davies Award is presented annually to the top volunteer within the club. The award was presented by Club President Ted Hardy with Peter Nalley receiving the award. Nalley’s effort and passion for the club has been unwavering. Nalley stepped up to become the club’s Social Chair this past year, he assists with youth rugby, and also sits on the Town of Wilson’s Mills Event Committee as a representative of the club. Along with Peter, his wife Amber, and Father in Law Steve have also been active within the club helping out wherever needed. 

“We have a lot of amazing volunteers that help out around the club and we couldn’t exist without them,” said Club President Ted Hardy. “That said, Peter has stood out this past year with his dedication to the club. His family has been at every event and they are always willing to pitch in.” 

As the club closes the book on the XVs season, there are still a few months left in the 2023/2024 playing cycle. The club’s youth program has just kicked off and runs until early June. The Bootleggers Men’s 7s team has also started practice to prepare for a busy summer on the tournament circuit. The 7s side, made up of existing Bootleggers along with college players home for the summer, has four tournaments planned this summer.

The club also starts into their Community Touch Rugby sessions in early June. Community Touch Rugby will be every Thursday night in June and July and is open to all players (new or old, men and women) ages 13 & over. 

It will also be a busy summer around the Johnston County Rugby Park as the club continues to make improvements around the facility. The Championship Pitch is getting a much needed rest this summer after heavy usage this past year. The field will be aerated, over seeded, and fertilized in May. Then a topdressing is being added in July to beef up the surface. The club is also adding some permanent signage, donor memorial, and space for sponsor signs behind the end zone closest to the parking lot. 

“We might be done with XVs season, but the work never ends,” added Hardy. “We’ll probably never stop plugging away and making improvements to the park. We’re proud of our home and want to keep improving it to share with others.”

The Clayton Rugby Football Club would like to thank everyone that helped us provide rugby to the community this past season. Our members, players, volunteers, coaches, families, sponsors, and partners are all key in helping us continue to grow. We thank everyone from the bottom of our heart!