TODAY: Southwold Swallows’ stalwart Sarah receives testimonial

TODAY marks the end of an era for Southwold Swallows’ rugby stalwart, Sarah Doddington.

One of the first members of the successful ladies’ set-up is hanging up her boots, but not before one final appearance, during her charity testimonial match today.

Funds raised from today’s game, which kicks-off at 2pm will go towards the Stroke Association – a charity close to Sarah’s heart. Her father died from a stroke in 2007.

The game has been in the pipeline for a while and Sarah decided she would call it quits after her 40th birthday, which she recently celebrated.

The game will be played between the current ladies’ team that play in RFUW NC South East North Two, and a team of veterans.

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The branch manager of Prestige Nursing, in Norwich, Sarah, a prop-forward, explained why she was quitting now.

“I seem to go to work with so many black eyes and thick lips and it’s taking me longer to recover,” said Sarah, who will remain at Southwold as club secretary

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“It was a really difficult decision to make because once you are retired you are retired.

“I just felt it was time to go and maybe there are different opportunities out there for me. For instance I am going on a refereeing course and I am looking to do some coaching.”

Sarah has been with the club for 12 years having co-formed the Southwold ladies’ team with a number of other women.

“I bumped into some girls at a local pub in Southwold and eventually an unaffiliated team was set up,” recalls Sarah.

“Various people used to turn up and train the team but ladies rugby was frowned upon somewhat.

“At that time we funded ourselves and we were just a bunch of talented ladies with passion who went on adventures playing in the West Midlands League.

“The men’s team would come down and watch us and the culture changed and the team became part of Southwold RFC around 2002.”

The current situation is different from the Swallows’ humble beginnings.

“From a financial point of view, the chairman and president of the club have really put their hands up and managed to secure different grants for the ladies,” said Sarah.

“There are a lot more sponsorship and fundraising opportunities now.”

The Swallows are always looking for new blood having seen numbers fluctuate over the years. Such is the geographical position of the club, they will never be over-subscribed in terms of players.

“Southwold struggles because of our catchment area but the players have so much passion and commitment,” said Sarah.

“We don’t have a youth and minis section so we don’t have a continous flow of players, and the numbers go through peaks and troughs due to pregnancies and players moving away to university for instance.”

Today’s game will pit members of various ages against each other, including mother and daughter, Trish and Harriet Cox, who will be playing on opposing teams.

“In 12 years there have been an awful lot of players represent the club and we’ve had a mammoth response,” said Sarah.

“I decided to donate the money to the Stroke Association and the local Stroke Association because my father died of a stroke in 2007.

“There is also a member of our team whose mum, who is still with us, also suffered a stroke.”

Refreshments are on offer at today’s game along with raffles and bucket collections.

A report of the game will appear in next Saturday’s Love Rugby column.

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