Joe Marler, the England rugby star, was a huge hit when he visited Uckfield’s All Weather Pitch yesterday (September 3).
He was in demand for photographs and “shirt signings” from many of the youngsters who play on the pitch at Uckfield Community College.
Top name in football at the gala afternoon was Dick Knight, who battled successfully to establish a new stadium for Brighton and Hove Albion FC.
The event, held in warm sunshine, was to mark the pitch going into its “second playing year” having been officially opened on a damp November day in 2013.
‘Man mountain’ Joe Marler
Tributes were paid to the group of people who worked for many years to establish the pitch which is used by the community college, the town’s rugby club and the Grasshoppers junior football club.
Marler, who was educated at Maynards Green Primary School and Heathfield Community College, is the England prop and plays for Harlequins in the Premiership. He is one of the sport’s huge stars and has already played 22 times for England and 100 times for his club.
He was described as a “man mountain” at the ceremony and official Rugby Football Union statistics show him as being 6ft tall (1.84m) and weighing 18st 8lb (118kg). You can read more about Joe Marler here (external site)
Guests explained the all-weather pitch concept and how the money was raised to allow the development to go ahead.
It took five years from once the scheme formally started.
Mr Knight, now life-president of the Seagulls, pointed out it was a relatively a short space of time. It had taken the Albion 14 years to get their own stadium again, having left the former Goldstone ground.
Among those present were the chairman of East Sussex County Council, Cllr Colin Belsey; Uckfield county councillor, Cllr Claire Dowling; Uckfield mayor and deputy mayor, Cllr Ian Smith and Cllr Jeremy Hallett; the chairman of Uckfield Rugby Club, John Lewis; the principal of UCTC, Hugh Hennebry; “Mr Grasshoppers”, Ian Bennett, who has been with the club since its formation; the project consultant, Bob Lake; representatives of companies and organisations which helped fund the scheme and many youngsters who play rugby and football.
‘Why I took up rugby’ – Joe Marler (short video)
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