The month of February represents different things for different people. For many it marks the eventual lapsing of January, a month characterised as a period of gloom, post-festive blues and reflection. For many students at Durham, however, its advent represents the arrival of an altogether more enticing prospect.
Yep, that time of the year has arrived and Varsity has returned, an event that will see a formidable contingent of Durham teams make the journey to compete in a whole host of sporting competitions. 31 college sides will travel to York on Sunday, all of whom will surely be eager to attain success and secure the subsequent bragging rights over our – relatively – local rivals.
In footballing circles, Grey and St. Cuthbert’s are Durham’s chosen representatives in the men’s game, with the latter’s B team fixture preceding the more prestigious event later that day. Indeed, Grey’s undefeated record in the league since their shock Floodlit Cup departure in October should stand the side in good stead for the contest.
For the women, Josephine Butler and Trevelyan are the delegated teams in the A and B team fixtures respectively, with the Butler side surely going into the event with confidence owing to their table-topping exploits in the Women’s Premiership.
Four Durham sides travel up for the rugby, and after Collingwood’s success last year it is the turn of last season’s Premiership champions Hatfield A alongside University A to represent the men.
The transition away from combined college teams in the women’s rugby, means Durham send up two teams from individual colleges for the first time in the form of St Aidan’s A in the A team fixture and Trevelyan in the B team fixture, and will have to adjust to the non-contact version of the sport played by the York sides.
Hockey provided a rare success in Durham’s last varsity visit to York as Hatfield A dominated Goodricke in a 5-1 victory. This time around it’s up to Premiership table-toppers Collingwood A who look to continue their fine form as they represent Durham in the A team fixture. Van Mildert will hope a change of scenery can result in a change in fortunes after a disappointing start to the season, as they play in the B team fixture.
Badminton players will form a considerable proportion of Durham’s travelling contingent, with six fixtures being allocated to the sport in the men’s, women’s and mixed forms of the game.
St. Hild and St. Bede A team will compete in the men’s fixture, while St. Cuthbert’s and John Snow will make the journey to represent the women’s and the mixed teams. In the B team games, Van Mildert, Stephenson and St. Cuthbert’s have been chosen to participate.
Although there are no women’s fixtures, Ustinov and St. Hild and St. Bede have been chosen to represent the university on the basketball court, while St. Aidan’s and Trevelyan will compete in the volleyball.
In lacrosse, it is difficult to imagine University relinquishing their unbeaten record in the A team game given their recent league record, while St. Chad’s will play in the B team fixture.
The fixtures extend further than mainstream sports, however. College teams have also been chosen to represent the university in darts and pool, with Grey’s darts team seeking to replicate their rampant Monday night run on the bigger stage.
The college’s pool team – alongside Collingwood in the B team fixture – will also be making the trip down to York.
Durham will hope that all 31 college sides can produce the same sort of form that led to a convincing 94-31 points win last year.
Either way, this tournament is a showcase of the great, unique collegiate systems of both universities, and at the very least it will give the travelling Durham contingent a chance to enjoy nightlife outside of Jimmy Allen’s and Klute.
Photograph: Durham University