Belfast Warriors Touch Rugby Club has officially amalgamated with Cooke RFC to form the Cooke Warriors.
The merge took place on the 1st of October, a date which also marked the 5th anniversary of the formation of the Warriors by Paul Brown of the Ireland Touch Association.
5 years of steady progress has followed, with the Warriors growing large enough to now feature men’s, women’s, and mixed ability teams.
More recently, the Warriors looked to expand further, and their desire to link up with a local rugby club coincided with Cooke RFC’s plans to expand the number of formats of rugby on offer at the club, as part of their Club Development Plan undertaken with Ulster Rugby.
Back in 2019, Cooke saw the great potential in touch rugby to retain players retiring from full contact, as well as a new method to rehabilitate players returning from injury and increase participation among women and juniors.
The sudden and unexpected impact of Covid-19 meant any plans were de-railed, but they quickly got back on track in 2021.
David Keane of the IRFU knew of Cooke’s intentions and was aware that the Warriors were looking for a club, and so he introduced the two parties who quickly came to an agreement.
The Cooke Committee voted in unanimous agreement of the move, while 88% of the Warriors players backed the amalgamation. As a result, Cooke has become the first and the only rugby club in Ulster with a dedicated touch section.
Belfast Warriors Secretary and Assistant Coach Katie Fry said: “We really hope other rugby clubs in Ulster will follow our lead. We are very willing to help other clubs establish Touch teams through coaching, mentoring, referee training and any way we can.
“I have high hopes for Paul Brown’s efforts with Ballymena RFC and Ulster University Jordanstown who he is currently coaching and mentoring entirely voluntarily, to introduce Touch to more young people.”
Cooke RFC President Richard Irvine added: “The amalgamation with Belfast Warriors to create Cooke Warriors fits perfectly as part of our Club Development Plan.
“Attracting new members is critical to the survival and expansion of traditional rugby clubs and we are delighted to welcome the Cooke Warriors to Shaw’s Bridge. We are also proud to be the first club in the province to officially form a dedicated Touch Rugby section.”
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