‘An exciting place to watch rugby!’

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Club skipper Markus Burcham reflects back on his first season in the role and gives his thoughts on Blackheath’s change of venue.

It would, without doubt, be a hard act to follow – after all, people kept telling him so.

To succeed a man who not only captained Blackheath with distinction for the best part of a decade, but who was also respected as one of the best semi-professional players in his position in the land, was a daunting prospect.

So when, with little fanfare, Markus Burcham was appointed Blackheath skipper in the summer of 2015, the first player from the back-line, outside of the pack and the decision-making half-back positions, to be handed the accolade since the legendary John Gallagher in the late 1990s, a few eyebrows may have been raised.

They needn’t have worried though. Under Markus’ stewardship, a largely re-modelled pack meshed together quickly with the upshot of Blackheath’s best season in their twelve year stint in National League One, challenging for promotion until March and finishing third.

Easy job this captaincy then?

‘It was made relatively easy for me,’ said Markus. ‘I was quite nervous when I started, but having the support of experienced players such as Gregor Gillanders, Tom Baldwin, Simon Whatling and Aston Croall – players who I’ve got huge respect for – behind me, allowed me to grow into the role.’

‘Sometimes running in from outside-centre, you don’t fully understand a situation, so you need good generals with technical expertise to be there with the right words and guidance.’

‘But it’s not all about experience and leadership on the pitch,’ he continued. ‘We’ve got a good group of people from the director of rugby through to our coaches, players and support staff, which rubs off on our members and supporters and creates a great atmosphere.’

And after a year in the job Markus has learnt that captaincy carries other responsibilities.

‘It’s brought me much closer to the club itself and made me far more appreciative of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes from match day organisation to the youth sections. The Minis and Juniors are an integral part of the club and it’s important the elite players play their part in aiding their development.’

Markus’ captaincy also coincides with a period of change for Blackheath following the decision to move their National League One fixtures from Rectory Field to Well Hall, an action which has upset some Club members. However, while sympathetic to those views, the 26-year old, who enjoyed one of the highlights of his career to date in representing England Counties in their 32-3 victory against France at the Club’s renowned venue earlier this year, is also realistic about the change.

‘I fully understand people’s emotional attachment to Rectory Field through both playing and supporting, and although I’ve only been here a relatively short while, I’ll miss it a great deal.’

‘However, there are certain things that need to happen to give ourselves the financial security to progress, or even to just stand still in an increasingly competitive environment where we’ve seen too many clubs fall by the wayside.’

‘Well Hall puts us in great shape to move forward and our job now is to make it an enjoyable and exciting place to play and watch rugby. ‘

After two successive victories Blackheath take on Coventry, currently third in National League One, at their new home on Saturday. Kick off at Well Hall in Kidbrooke Lane is 3.00 pm

Graham Cox

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