As the year draws to a close there is a somewhat sombre feel to the Durham sporting scene. With all matches halted following the arrival of a second national lockdown and college sport limited to but a few, fleeting training sessions since March, there has been little to cheer about.
However, despite all of this, there were still plenty of sporting achievements for Durham sport throughout the course of the calendar year, and, in spite of the difficult circumstances, they deserve to be given the necessary recognition and celebrated to the fullest extent.
At the start of 2020, when the sporting calendar was still full to the brim, one of the first successes for Durham came on the rugby pitch as the University men’s first XV were crowned BUCS Super Rugby champions with a hard fought victory against Leeds Beckett. Losing only three games all season, and with starting flanker Fitz Harding now signed professionally to Premiership outfit Bristol Bears, it was undoubtedly a successful campaign for DURFC.
Premiership glory was prevalent elsewhere and most notably, throughout the Durham women’s lacrosse setup. The club, as a whole, won four leagues and one cup in the slightly curtailed season – another impressive return for the whole club, who also have nine players competing for international places over the course of the year.
Just a quick walk from the lacrosse pitches takes you to the hallowed AstroTurfs, the site of many successful seasons for the University hockey club who were named Team Durham’s club of the year for the 2019/20 season. The women’s 1s enjoyed an unbeaten league season, coming second in the national BUCS league and reaching the cup final prior to its cancellation. The men matched this achievement by coming first in their national BUCS league whilst also securing promotion to the England Hockey Premier League by winning their weekend league.
On a more individual note special mention must also go to George Bourne, Team Durham’s sportsman of the year, whose year was topped off with a gold medal in the men’s quadruple sculls at the U23 World Rowing Championships.
However, as the new season rolled around, Covid-19 was still wreaking havoc on sport in Durham. While some sports were given the go-ahead to start training, yet others remained on the side-lines.
DURFC’s men’s 1s began their inaugural season in the Premier League. It has been a tough start, losing all of their first four games, but this takes nothing away from the very achievement that is Durham’s presence in the league. There is surely more to come.
Elsewhere, despite being unable to take to the pitch, DURFC have had further success with third-year Josh Basham making his debut for Newcastle Falcons in November.
Off the pitch too, DURFC, alongside a host of other clubs, have been busy raising money for charity. They topped the fundraising table, with Josephine Butler Football Club and Hatfield Rugby Club close behind amongst many others.
There was sadness too, as rugby in Durham lost a legend with the passing of Fergus King MBE.
Even where sport has returned, it has been very different. Contact is limited, balls and cones have to be sanitised, and social distancing is in place where possible. Yet the fact that it is back at all is surely hope for a more sport-filled Epiphany Term.
While college sport had hardly got its boots back on before being sidelined again due to the second lockdown, plans are now in place for a swift return should conditions allow.
Whenever sport does return in 2021, it will surely do so with a greater appreciation than ever before. So many of us have missed sport in Durham at all levels. Whether that be representing a University first team or a college E team, sport is central to the experience of so many students here in Durhm and has been sorely missed.
Its return cannot come soon enough.