Skolars Begin Their Epic Journey

14th February 2012

London Skolars are about to embark on their most testing season to date – and that’s before they even step onto the pitch. On Sunday, Skolars will be travelling to Batley in Yorkshire for a Northern Rail Cup tie.

This is just the first match in a fixture list which will see the team covering over 4,000 miles this season with scheduled trips to the North East, Wales and Cumbria in addition to their regular visits to Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Being the only southern-based team in Co -Operative Championship 1 has always meant a heavy travelling schedule for the Skolars but this season it has taken on a whole new dimension. We play three Cumbrian teams, Workington Town, Whitehaven and Barrow, have one trip to the North East to play Gateshead and away games in North Wales at the Crusaders and South Wales to play the Scorpions.

In fact their second fixture in the Northern Rail Cup, the early season knock out competition, is another away trip, to Neath in South Wales to play the Scorpions on February 26th, a journey the team will be making later in the season for a league match.

The shortest away fixture for the club is the 344- mile round trip to Doncaster in south Yorkshire, hardly a local derby!

According to full-back Neil Thorman there are positives and negatives to travelling these long distances to games. The negatives are pretty obvious.

“We usually set off very early in the morning and players, just like most blokes, love their beds. Also sitting on a coach for four to five hours at a time unable to stretch your legs and move about isn’t great preparation,” says Neil.

Food and television are the next bugbear. “Some players in the past have had to rely on service station food, and in some places it isn’t very nutritional,” he said.” And there’s always an argument over what movies we watch (if the television is working).”

On some journeys two drivers are needed but if there’s only one then that driver must rest for at least an hour, making the drive time even longer.

“Returning from games we sometimes only get back at three in the morning, when buses and the Tube have stopped working. When you do finally get home you perhaps have to get up at 7am for work on a Monday morning. ”

So much for the negatives, are there are positives? Neil reckons there are.

“When travelling on a bus for long periods there’s always a lot of banter that brings us closer as a team. On some of our really long journeys we are able to stay overnight in a hotel.

“So we will travel the previous day, maybe have a team run through and video session then on the day of the game we’ll have breakfast together and maybe run through another video, which a lot of home teams won’t get to do.

“However, this means Rugby League has taken up our whole weekend. A lot of the boys have wives, girlfriends and young families that they’d like to spend time with, which makes it tough.”

For some years now Skolars have used the services of Lanes Coaches, who transport the team all over the country. Graham Clarke of Lanes not only drives the team but is an avid supporter and it’s fair to say goes way beyond the call of duty by helping out with kit and equipment transfer as well a filling in wherever needed. Graham has been water carrier on may occasions and is an integral part of match days when the team play away. Graham has carried out just about every duty except playing, although he has turned out for the Masters team in the last year!

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