CLAYTON, North Carolina – Just a couple of weeks shy of the start of pre-season, the Clayton Rugby Football Club has announced their coaching setup for the 2019/2020 season. Head coach Rich Munro stepped down at the end of the 2018/2019 season after serving at the helm for the past four seasons and leading the club’s 1st XV to back to back trips to the Carolinas Rugby Union playoffs. Munro is remaining involved with the coaching setup, but focusing his efforts on the club’s 2nd XV and new players.
“Coaching the Bootleggers over the past four to five years has been a great pleasure and honor,” said Munro. “That being said it’s time for a new voice with new and different ideas to take this club into the future. I’d like to thank all the players, coaches, wives, significant others, fans, as well as, the great people behind the scenes that work very hard and get little credit. I do plan to stay active with the club doing whatever is needed to make Clayton Rugby a wonderful experience for all.”
Munro is confident in his successors as active Clayton RFC members Ed Dixon and Jason Niemiller are taking over in a dual head coach setup for the 2019/2020 season. Dixon is going to focus on the forwards, defensive structure, and kickers while Niemiller is going to work with the club’s backs and attack play.
“We had briefly looked outside of our club for a replacement for Coach Rich,” said Club President Ted Hardy. “It didn’t take long to realize that we already had what we needed. Both Ed and Jason have a great grasp of who we are and where we want to go. They both have become increasingly active in coaching with our club and they are both eager to push the envelope. Coach Rich was exactly what we needed during the early years of our club and we are blessed to have him.”
Dixon, who is second all-time on the Clayton RFC appearance list, is retiring from 1st XV play to move into a coaching role. His playing career isn’t over just yet and he expects to still hit the pitch with the club’s 2nd XV and Old Boys teams.
“I would like to thank Rich for his dedication to the Bootleggers over the last few years, without it we would not be in the position we are as a club and in the community,” says Dixon. “I am looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead transitioning from playing to coaching. I am excited about our future, with our returning players, new players graduating from various youth programs in the area, and coaching with Jason. We are planning on playing/coaching an expansive style of rugby which will be entertaining to watch and play.”
Niemiller has been limited to coaching after a playing injury a few years ago. He started to get more involved in coaching with the Bootleggers’ XVs teams last season. He’s been involved on the coaching side with multiple area youth and High School programs as well as the head coach of the Bootlegger’s 7s teams the past few years.
“Since experiencing an injury I really decided to invest in myself as a coach over the past few years,” said Niemiller. “It’s been awesome to work with Rich in an assistant role. He’s a fantastic person who has devoted countless hours to our club and players. He certainly deserves a chance to step back and enjoy his free time with family who also sacrificed time with Rich so that he could put in all the time he did in growing the Bootleggers to a playoff caliber squad.”
“I am beyond thrilled to be stepping up alongside Ed Dixon to pick up where Rich left off. Ed and I get along great and share the same passion for this club. I’m excited for all the new talent that has emerged over the summer and will be joining us on the pitch this season. We have the key components in place and I’m confident that we can package them up to be a force during the regular season and into the playoffs.”
Also assisting the coaching staff this season is veteran Bootleggers’ forward Nick Taylor as player/coach and Hardy who is going to work with the club’s 2nd XV after retiring from 1st XV play at the end of the 2018/2019 season.
The Clayton RFC has a tough season ahead fielding separate teams in Division 3 and Division 4 of the Carolinas Rugby Union along with the addition of an Old Boys side that will play a handful of games this season along with at least one tournament. After Munro carried much of the coaching load the past few years, adding to the staff was a high priority over the summer. The clubs ever-increasing playing numbers and diversity in playing experience requires a staff that are capable of coaching to every type of player within the club.
“I am really excited for this upcoming season,” added Club Captain Gareth Davies. “We have a lot to build off from our finish last season. We are adding a few new players to the roster this season whom I think will play a huge role in helping us compete for a CGRU championship. We have been in the race the past two seasons. We have to continue working hard on and off the field so that we can achieve that goal.”
The Clayton Rugby Football Club opens up their pre-season training on Tuesday August 13th. Players of all experience levels are welcome. To learn more about the Clayton RFC or to find out how to become a Bootlegger, email the club at [email protected]