Villager Football Club have appointed Andrew Hughes as their coach for 2014. The club has maintained their stance in not paying players to play rugby, and to build on their legacy, a bold coach is needed. Hughes, a 36 year-old Western Province Prep. School teacher, and family man seems, at first glance, to be the perfect fit for the role. Having coached UCT u20 for 12 years, Gunner, as he is affectionately known by friends and players, is well renowned for creating the type of atmosphere in which young and ambitious players thrive.
In what is a refreshing outlook, Hughes views his coaching role as more of a mentor, guiding players towards achieving success both on and off the field. “As a teacher I view sport as a pastime for players who are beginning to build their professional careers. Too often people forget that professional sport is a non-entity for most,” he says. Having coached at the University of Cape Town where players have full academic loads, he is very aware that most players have commitments outside of Rugby.
“Super A League Rugby clubs have, for a long time, paid their players, some earning up to R15 000 a month. In our view this is unsustainable for clubs,” Hughes said. Villagers took the decision in 2012 not to pay players playing for the club. Hughes believes that this will not impact the club’s player base next year, although 2013 has indicated the opposite with numerous 1st XV regulars opting for greener pastures. “Club rugby is not professional. There are no sponsors for this, and clubs are bleeding themselves dry trying to keep up. This is not what club rugby is about.” Rugby traditionalists and romantics will love this stance, but whether or not this famous club can get back into the Super League A in 2015 remains to be seen.
Hughes believes promotion can be achieved, but to achieve this would require something different. “Without being paid, players will need something to entice them to turn out for the “Dirty Whites”, and that is why we are aiming to provide a professional type of coaching set up, as well as create an exceptional atmosphere where players will thrive.”