From Flying Fists To Drake's Ducklings! ...

From Flying Fists To Drake's Ducklings!The lacrosse section of Poynton Sports Club was formed only in 1973. The section nevertheless still has a long history dating back to 1889, when it was formed as Offerton Lacrosse Club.

Over the years the club has had its ups and downs and travelled around Stockport and districts in what can only be described as a “Nomadic” existence frequently moving from one ground and headquarters to another. We have now been at Poynton for 12 years and we are very pleased to be part of such a well run and happy organisation.

The Offerton Club may not have been the most successful side in the history of the game but the minute books show time and time again that is has always been one of the most sociable and friendly clubs in the area. Remarkably, one of our more prominent members Jack Wilkinson, first appeared on the scene during the 1921/22 season and he still attends meetings today, although he declines to play!

The most controversial incident in the section’s history occurred during the 1933/34 season when there was an incident which could have resulted in the club being disbanded. During a match between Old Hulmeians and Offerton, an Offerton player was sent off by the referee.

There was then a fight between three Old Hulmeians players and one Offerton player! (Records do not show who won!) it was reported that the Hulmeians spectators invaded the pitch and joined in! The game continued in the same vein and when one considers no protective equipment was worn in those days it took a very brave man to go in where the sticks and boots were flying.

This was far from the end of the incident. On the following Monday, at the club meeting, a letter of protest was sent to the ruling body regarding the conduct of the opposition and the referee. After a few weeks of consideration the league committee’s reply to Offerton was brief, brutal and, under the rules of the day, without any right of appeal. The club was suspended for the remainder of the season and all the results for the games played “expunged from the records’.

This meant that the club would be relegated due to zero points being attained and although many attempts were made to reverse the ruling or establish a bearing the league’s ruling stood and the club’s fate was sealed. It should be noted that recent discussions with players involved in that game revealed that not only were Offerton treated harshly but the player sent off was totally innocent of any offence, having been singled out by the referee purely on the say so of some of the Hulmeians spectators!

A Special General Meeting was held to decide the future of the club (held on Friday 13th). However, the majority decision at the meeting was to carry on and campaign for a change in the league rules to allow for a right of appeal. As if to press their claim the following season the Club won the 2nd Division Championship and the Junior Flags competition!

A much happier occasion was the 1973 A.G.M. It was announced that Poynton Sports Club had moved that a lacrosse section be formed and so it was proposed by M. Clarke and seconded by J. Wilkinson that “The Offerton Lacrosse Club join the Poynton Sports Club and become the Lacrosse Section of Poynton Sports Club”. So after 85 years as Offerton there was to be a metamorphosis from which emerged the Poynton Lacrosse Club.

The following years proved very difficult as membership fell after reaching a peak in 1976 when few teams were operating each week. But these were very important years as the foundations of the present section were being formed. As the senior membership fell an ex-Offerton player, Phil Drake returned to Poynton in January 1977.

He set about formulating one of the best Junior schemes to be run by any club at that time. He introduced many of the local youngsters to Lacrosse, firstly at Poynton High School and then to local primary schools. So great was his enthusiasm to introduce Lacrosse to boys before the traditional sports of football and rugby could take over, that many people were predicting Phil’s presence at the maternity wing of Stepping Hill Hospital!

Gradually things improved and by 1978 the 1st team were in the 2nd division, the ‘A’ team in the 4th division and the ‘B’ team in the 6th division. There were to be a number of hiccups in the progress of the new club over the following years as senior players retired before the younger players coming through had sufficient experience to take their places.

A number of younger players — “The Drake Ducklings” — have proved to be very talented players but one was always out in front. Jamie Symmington was to become the first “home grown” Poynton player to play for Cheshire Under 18’s, Under 21’s and senior team. In June 1984 he was chosen to play for England in a pre-Olympic tournament at Los Angeles. Proof that the sporthig talent in Poynton will always ensure a steady flow of junior players.

The existence today of Poynton Lacrosse Club is due to the leadership and enthusiasm of many people. With a history stretching back almost 100 years there have always been people associated with the club who, when times were difficult and the very existence of the club in doubt have come to the fore and generated new enthusiasm and determination. But the record of one man, Jack Wilkinson, will surely be held for many years and probably never surpassed. For over 50 years he has been a member of Offerton and later Poynton, his wealth of playing and administration experience has helped everyone at this club. Over the years, his attendance record at club meetings is quite unbelievable.

Our thanks must also go to Mats Clarke and Neville Holt of Poynton Lacrosse and Geoff Swann who as President of Poynton Sports Club during and following our entry into the Poynton Club have always been a credit to their sport and sportsmen everywhere.

Howard Smith

Originally Published In The Poynton Sports Club Centenary Magazine