A FORMER chair of Jersey Reds who was at the helm as the rugby club climbed through the leagues has urged supporters to play their part in a push for glory this weekend.
After a crucial win over nearest rivals Ealing Trailfinders last Saturday, the Reds go into their final league game of the season knowing that victory will secure the RFU Championship title.
Bill Dempsey, who was chair of the club between 2008 and 2016, said it was hard to believe the Island side were on the cusp of a historic achievement after 11 seasons playing in the second tier of the English rugby pyramid.
He said: ‘It’s almost unbelievable that ten years ago we had to win a home game against Doncaster Knights to stay up, and then a year later we were fighting for our lives again when we had to go to Bedford and win on the last day.’
Mr Dempsey came on board two years after Jersey RFC took the decision to take on two professional players, with the club promoted to level six two years later and then achieving three successive promotions between 2010 and 2012 to reach the Championship.
‘Harvey Biljon has done a great job as director of rugby in building a squad and creating a really good environment for the professional squad, and we’ve also seen the amateur Jersey RFC side going into the leagues and being promoted – for any-one who likes rugby it’s heaven,’ he said.
Stand-out memories from Mr Dempsey’s time in the hot-seat included a trip to Twickenham in 2010 and fixtures against well-known clubs such as Blackheath, Coventry and Rosslyn Park.
He said: ‘We must have had 3,500 people when Rosslyn Park came over in January 2012 and it was a memorable day.
‘It’s a pity that the attendances have fallen since then – there are a lot of other things to do on a Saturday, but it was great to see more than 3,000 there last weekend for the Ealing game and it would begreat if those people come back this Saturday to see the team finish the job – hopefully.’
Having gone undefeated in 13 league and cup matches since a loss to Ealing on Christmas Eve, the Reds will take on Ampthill, the league’s seventh-placed team, at Stade Santander International in a match that will also be available to a global audience via a live online stream.
Some supporters who could have watched the stream while out of Jersey have decided that there’s no substitute for being present, including Trevor Griggs, who has volunteered his services as the Reds’ match-day announcer for more than a decade.
Mr Griggs said: ‘We were due to fly to Majorca on Saturday, but I’ve now booked new flights for the following day, and hope the extra expense will be worthwhile.
‘I explained the dilemma to my wife and once she appreciated the significance of the game, she agreed to the change of plan – I’ve attended every home game this season and did not want to miss what I sense could be the most historic day in Jersey’s sporting history.’
An official representative from the Rugby Football Union is expected to be present at the game and will be travelling with the Championship trophy, which could be presented to the Reds after the game – if the result goes the home side’s way.