We continue our look at some of the teams who will be in the new Southern Conference League that will be launched at halftime of the London Broncos versus Castleford Tigers game.
With the Conference split over two divisions we have been looking at some of the sides taking part.
The club was formed in 1992 from the successful Civil Service South East Team and began life on the Suffolk coast as ‘Felixstowe Eastern Rugby League Football Club’.
After a favourable first season of friendlies, Felixstowe Eastern joined the Eastern Counties League, competing with Peterborough, Hemel Hempstead, Cambridge Tigers and St Ives. Felixstowe won the League with seven wins out of eight.
During the 1994 – ’95 season the club successfully introduced Mini – Rugby to the area through the Puma Little League.
Due to the wide catchment area of players’ homes the Club moved to the County Town of Ipswich in time for the 1995 – ’96 season and were successfully elected to the London League.
The Club based itself at Ipswich RUFC, a club of 125 years standing where Felixstowe Eastern became Ipswich Rhinos Rugby League Football Club.
In addition to fixtures in the London League Division 2 (North East), the Rhinos also entertained Uxbridge Blues, United Services, 7RHA (PARAS), Metropolitan Police, Blackpool Scorpions, Cambridge University and the London Broncos Alliance Teams.
The Rhinos continued to entertain Cambridge University, the week before the Varsity Match. The Club has also supported the annual Evening Star Newspaper Christmas Appeal, by staging a Special Challenge Match.
Having won the London League Division 2 (NE) title during the 1995 – ’96 season, losing only two matches, the Rhinos were duly promoted to Division 1 of the London League for the 1996 – ’97 season. The summer of 1997 saw the birth of the Southern Conference League, which the Rhinos also competed in, and committed themselves to. With no formal winter games to play the Club take on friendly fixtures during these months.
In 1998 the Southern Conference League became the Rugby League Conference. Ipswich Rhinos finished fifth out of a total of 15 teams.
In 1999 Ipswich Rhinos won the Eastern division of the Conference and progressed to the play-off stages but were beaten by Oxford in the quarter finals.
In 2000, Ipswich finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division.
Ipswich regained the Eastern Division title in 2001, remaining unbeaten against Eastern clubs. The Rhinos went out at the play off Quarter finals stage to Crawley.
In 2002 Ipswich finished third overall in the Eastern division, having won the league twice in the previous three years. Ipswich were also the only side in England to lower the colours of Coventry Bears with a 22-14 home win in June 2002. The end of season play-offs, which have always stretched the Rhinos in the past, saw two wins over Champions Luton and an away win at St Albans with a defeat at home to Coventry and a walk-over in the return match with the eventual National Champions.
Year of successes
2003 was the most successful year in the club’s history. Some outstanding performances culminated in a first ever RLC semi-final,
To cap a fine year Pete Le Marquand was named as the best Stand-Off in the RLC and was nominated for RLC Player of the year along with Ipswich winger Dave West who was shortlisted for the RLC young player award. Finally Ipswich Rhinos were named RLC Club of the year.
Ipswich Rhinos were founder members of the new Premier Division south and have continued their success by reaching the end of season play off every season with a number of players obtaining representative honours with the England Lionhearts, the south of England Lionhearts and student representative sides.
Peter Le Marquand, Paul Le Marquand, Adan Cook, Brendan Cook and Richard Pollard from the 2010 squad have all played for The England Lionhearts. Peter Smith obtained Scottish Students honours.
In 2010 the club changed their name to the Eastern Rhinos to consolidate the club’s second team and youth teams under one name and moved their home base to Colchester.
The target has to be to develop youth Rugby League both in the Community and in local schools.
The Rhinos are the only team to have competed in every season of the southern premier league – now named the London Premier League and are also the only team to have made the play offs every year. The closest they have come to being champions is runner up – the last of these in 2015 losing the grand final to London Chargers.
The Rhinos run a primary and junior set up that began in 2008. Since inception the club has had numerous London origin representatives, the club were 2018 London Junior League Champions. The last 2 rhinos first grade captains have come through the junior set up and there have been a number of young Rhinos contracted with London Broncos Academy – currently Rob Oakley is playing for the Academy U19s.
HAMMERSMITH HILLS HOISTS
The Hills Hoists were established at the end of 2008 by Australian ex-pats living in London. The West London area of Hammersmith, Acton and Shepherds Bush lacked a Rugby League team but possessed many potential players and this prompted the creation of the Hills Hoists. Since the clubs founding the Hoists have grown and are proud to have had players from over 16 countries wear the clubs colours and welcome all potential new players from first timers, to former NRL and representative players.
Tomoorow we will look at four teams two from the West in North Herts Crusaders and Bedford Tigers and from the East Cardiff Dragons and Torfaen Tigers.