Landmark day for Markus!

10 Nov 2023

Blackheath against Richmond is always a special game, it being the oldest continually played fixture in world rugby (the clubs first locked horns on Richmond Green in 1864).

There’s a particular significance to tomorrow’s meeting also, as it falls on Remembrance Day, both clubs having lost numerous players during the two World Wars.

For Blackheath though, the match will also be a landmark for, arguably, their most influential player of recent years.

Markus Burcham will pull on a Club jersey for the 250th time (over 150 as captain), a milestone only passed by two other players in the modern era, and the first member of the back division to achieve the feat.

Markus first joined Blackheath in 2011, before stepping down a couple of levels to play for Thurrock RFC while completing a sports science degree.

He returned in 2013, playing 158 consecutive league matches, and missing a mere handful across eight seasons, a remarkable testament to his fitness and endurance.

However, in early 2020, having recently passed 200 games, and finding a new job in Bournemouth (the town he grew up in), Markus decided to retire.

‘At the time it felt right, I was moving away, getting married, and my life was changing,’ said Markus. ‘But it was all a bit abrupt with Covid striking, and I started to feel I hadn’t finished.’

‘When Blackheath were struggling post-lockdown, I got in touch with Shanners (head coach, James Shanahan) and we agreed that my experience might help.’

‘Unfortunately, it was too late for that season, but relegation didn’t sit right with me, and I’m really pleased I was able to come back and help Blackheath get promoted straight back to National League One – where we belong.’

‘Now I have the target of 250 games, something few have achieved.’

And how does he feel about it coinciding with a home game against Richmond?

‘I was fortunate enough to play in the 150th anniversary match at The Athletic Ground in 2014 which was a 31-31 draw (the same outcome as the very first match in January 1864).’

‘Matches with Richmond are always very tight, never much more than a score in it, but I’ve not often been on the winning side.’

Hopefully that will change tomorrow when Markus runs out alongside colleague Leo Fielding who will be celebrating 100 Club appearances.

Blackheath v Richmond is 3.00 pm kick-off at The Utilita in Kidbrooke Lane. The match will be preceded by two minutes silence in honour of Remembrance.

Graham Cox