By Matt Styles
With the news that college sport will be going ahead this term, South college students are primed and ready to make their mark on Durham’s sporting landscape.
Speaking with South JCR President Richard Freeman and senior members of both SCMFC (South College Men’s Football Club) and the netball team, Palatinate could gauge a palpable sense of anticipation ahead of the mini-leagues that are set to get underway this weekend.
“I can only really comment on the feeling around the football club but I’d say ‘excited’ would be the understatement of the century,’ SCMFC A team captain Rueben Bull tells us. “I can’t imagine the feelings are much different across the different sports, for example there has been a lot of talk about the Girl’s Netball teams hoping to assert some dominance!”
His intuition was right. Netball captain Crystal Truong spoke in glistening terms about the amount of talent within the college, stressing that “South has been such a fun college and I reckon that will carry on over to when we announce ourselves on the college sport scene. We have a fair few number of DU sportsmen and women and our college Strava account sees a fair amount of activity as well. Speaking from a netball point of view, we have amazingly talented girls that would make amazing captains and would carry the netball club incredibly far. This is just the start so watch this space.”
Despite being a brand new college, Pal-Born echoed a similar sentiment and believes that the college have done a fine job in getting people ‘involved and invested’ in college sport. Freeman tells us that with the help of ‘Pioneer Scholars’ who, having defected from their original college, aided freshers with the setting up a wide-ranging catalogue of sports and societies over the summer vacation.
“The Sports Captains (and Society Presidents) have worked so hard this year, with constant changes to the COVID guidelines, extra challenges in the form of getting equipment, setting up teams from scratch and organising training sessions they have really been amazing and the backbone of the current wider student experience we can provide at South.”
Though the club are now raring to go and cannot wait to ‘show the other colleges what we’re made of’, like all colleges South’s plans were majorly disrupted due to the Covid-19, with Bull among many others forced to quarantine in and around the time of trails back in Michaelmas term.
With four teams netball is currently the biggest club in the college, and for Truong it has at times been a difficult logistical juggling act. After months of administrative tedium – from WhatsApp group chats, ratification forms, Covid officer training and countless Excel spreadsheets (‘sorry girls!’) –Truong cannot wait to finally get out on the courts.
Freeman particularly lamented how Covid delayed their plans given the effort and energy that was devoted last Summer, reflecting how “COVID has massively disrupted all aspects of the Wider Student Experience this year. Before the re-launch of sports this term, teams only had three or four weeks of training, with COVID guidelines this meant reduced numbers for many teams having to put on multiple sessions for people to have go this has meant a slower start to sports at South than we would have liked.”
They haven’t been completely starved of sporting action, though, with students in their respective households able to access the college’s MUGA (Multi-use Games Area) facility. However, Covid-19 guidelines only permit 10 students at a time which, in Netball’s case, meant that no meaningful training sessions could take place.
However, the foundations are strong given the circumstances. Though at present not all sports have a South affiliation, with the college only in its infancy the hope is to build a diverse, competitive and thriving sporting community that can rival ‘the big dogs’ in coming years.
“We have established the majority of teams you would expect to find in a Durham College,” reflects Freeman. “We are finding that new sports teams are being created every term. Over the next couple of years I would expect teams to more than triple in members, multiple new sports to be set up and hopefully a lot of trophies in a cabinet. South is very much focused on what our students want it to be; I have no doubt that South will be a big competitor and one to watch out for in Collegiate sports.”
Pal-Born hopes that “as the college grows we can add more sports. South doesn’t really have a reputation at the moment so it would be great to get as many people into college sport as we come out of Covid. A few top place league finishes wouldn’t hurt either.”
Bull, similarly energised by such a prospect, has observed during his time that “the college is very diverse and people are showing interest in many activities. I for one would love for sport to become a commonly spoken about aspect of South in the future, and to be one of the first teams to bring this about would be amazing.”
Truong, meanwhile, believes the college sport system is reflective of the college’s ethos. “Our college motto is Libertas, aequalitas, civitas totius Mundi: freedom, equality and global citizenship. I think this shines through in how our college handles sports. Even though we are in the first stages of building our sporting empire, I have hopes that South will become one of the colleges that springs to mind when college sports is mentioned.”
It is, indeed, this lack of reputation and ‘new kid on the block’ status is precisely what other colleges should be fearing. A thrilling sense of the unknown pervades the college, who will be looking to hit the ground running throughout the coming weeks.
“It’s definitely interesting as no one knows what to expect from us so it should be really exciting. We’ve got a load of talent here so I think we might surprise a few people.” To see such talent, Pal-Born encourages readers to follow the club’s Instagram page (@south.collegefc), which feature clips of him “hitting row Z from ten yards out.”
Contrasting with this bantering tone, Mr Bull sent out a far more ominous message to their mini-league opposition which, incidentally, is comprised of the B teams of Grey, Hild Bede and Hatfield.
“A lot of the boys are looking forward to pulling through with the common Hollywood trope of the underdog being successful. I am all for it, no one knows anything about us; but they’re never going to forget who were are once they face us on the pitch.”
He then added a final comment which was as enigmatic as the college which he represents: “Mon the owls. That is all.”
Image: Toby Hillery