The new team looking to change the sporting landscape in Norfolk
- Credit: Anglian Vipers
A new rugby league team has been established in Norfolk with big plans to rise up the league pyramid.
Anglian Vipers have been set up to play out of Wymondham Rugby Club and they have plans to establish themselves as a semi-professional team in the future.
Whilst the sport is traditionally seen as most popular in the north of England, senior figures at the Norfolk club believe there is a vacancy in the county for another top sports team.
However, the main aim of the Vipers is to establish an inclusive club that will attract people to watch and play the game locally.
“Yes, it is traditionally seen as a northern game but I’ve been really surprised at the amount of people that say they watch rugby league on TV and know a bit about the game,” said treasurer Ed Lambert, who is helping the running of the club along with the three founding directors Chris Wildish, Rob Humphries and David Parkin as well as Marcus Bateson.
“We know it’s a massive ask and we’re never going to be as big as Wigan, St Helens or Leeds! But I think there’s a vacancy in Norfolk to have another semi-professional sports team.
"Our plan is to get into League One, which is the semi-professional third tier of the rugby league competition, and if possible progress from there.
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“There are a number of southern and Midlands teams in that. The game is expanding out of the heartlands and we very much want to be a part of that.”
The team is coached by Diss Rugby Club’s Nick Greenhall alongside assistant Jonny Wheeler and they have already played their first games earlier this month in the East League against St Albans and Bedford Tigers.
“Most of the lads we’ve got playing are union players who want to play over the summer,” added Lambert. “They’ve really caught the bug – they're really into and want extra training sessions.
“There’s a bit of a buzz around the club and we’re quite optimistic that it’s going to take off and we will have a club for a number of years which is what we want.”
Vipers are on the lookout for more players and encourage anyone interested in playing the game to come along to training sessions on Monday night from 7-8.30pm. Their games are on Saturday afternoons although they hope to play some of their matches on Friday evenings.
“It’s a case of the more the merrier when it comes to players,” said Lambert. “We’ve got 35 male players signed up but obviously they can’t all play every week due to commitments.
“People don’t need to be obliged to play as well – some people just want to come along and train, which is great.”
Eight ladies also regularly attend training and Lambert revealed the club is hoping to arrange friendlies against other teams later this summer if they can get the numbers.
From next year there are also plans to start a youth section to try and get as many people into the sport as possible.
“We’d like to do age groups throughout the summer and hopefully we can get into a few schools and have PE lessons around rugby league,” added Lambert.
“We don’t just want a men’s team – we want it to be an inclusive club to give as many people as possible the chance to play the game.
“The kids would obviously only be playing touch and tag – but it would be great for them to learn some ball skills, some tactics and so on.”
Whilst there is a goal to be in the third tier of the rugby league pyramid within “five or six years” the directors want to ensure the club is established on a solid footing before ascending the leagues.
“We need to build up interest and get people playing,” added Lambert. “We also need to bring sponsors on board.
“There have been some teams that have rushed their way into the semi-professional set up and it hasn’t worked.
“We need to build strong foundations before we even think about that.”