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Darren Messenger to take over as Shelford Women’s head coach

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Darren Messenger will take over as Shelford Women's head coach
Darren Messenger will take over as Shelford Women's head coach

Darren Messenger has been appointed head coach of the Shelford women’s team as the club strengthens its coaching set-up.

He will come in to oversee the whole women’s programme, working with five other coaches across the women’s first XV and the Nomads second team, and assisting with the transition of players into the senior structure from the age group teams.

Messenger has had a lifelong association with Cambridge Rugby Club, including helping the Exiles win the Greene King IPA Eastern Counties One West last season, and he will be replacing head coach Oakley Cox, who has left to work in New Zealand.

It was a big season for Shelford women during the 2021/22 campaign as they won the Women’s NC1 East title, and fielded a second team in the league for the first time.

“Darren will bring a fresh set of eyes to the women’s coaching team which is just what is needed as the squad develops both on and off the pitch,” said Shelford director of rugby Will Cotterill.

“He has a wealth of experience as a player and a coach that will allow the women’s squad to develop another layer of tactical knowledge much needed to compete in the higher leagues.

“Darren’s values align with Shelford’s which is really important. We have worked hard to develop an inclusive culture at the club and an environment based on enjoyment, development and welfare.

“Having Darren leading the women’s program will help the club to maintain our culture and environment while we work to improve our performance on the pitch.”

Cotterill said: “Darren has recently stepped down from coaching the Cambridge Exiles and is looking forward to continuing the development of our women’s rugby program.

“Darren’s motto of ‘if you’re not having fun playing rugby, then what’s the point’ is a perfect fit for Shelford where we all continually strive to enjoy our rugby experience and prioritise enjoyment, development and welfare.”

There are further changes in the club’s coaching set-up.

John Naylor will remain as the senior men’s backs coach, and Johnny Berwick and Solo Baliesomone will continue as Nomads coaches.

But there will be a slight switch of focus for Miles Anderson, who will become a player-coach after two years coaching the forwards.

“He had some very successful game time last season and will be needed on the pitch more this season,” said Cotterill.

“We are lucky to have such a capable coach who can make such an impact as a player as well.”

It means Jono Farmer has been brought in as a second forward coach.

He played rugby in New Zealand for Mahurangi, North Harbour and Richmond, and made it into the Samoa training squad in 2010, and has spent six years coaching, most recently with Bury St Edmunds.

Cotterill added: “We are also engaging Dan Richmond and Stefan Leibenberg to work as position specific coaches and Russell Earnshaw as our coach developer across the senior squad as well as our mini and youth section.

“These guys all have played and coached at a high level and will challenge our coaching team to be open minded and continually looking to learn.

“The knowledge they impart to our playing group as well is invaluable. One thing I learnt from my coach development was to never sit still, even when you are successful.”

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