The Saints’ 2016 End of Season Awards are fast approaching, with voting now open in a number of categories. One of these categories is the Rugby Spirit Award, and last year’s winner was Norman Barker, a legend of school and junior rugby in the local area.
In a recent interview with BBC Radio Northampton, Norman described how honoured he was to win the award and how important rugby has been to him during his life.
“This was an acknowledgement from the Premiership Club,” he said. “There was a little embarrassment! I was flattered and very pleased, but there are so many people like me in rugby that could do the same job as me and I’ve been singled out; I’m very lucky!”
After his playing career, Barker became a teacher at Sponne School and then Northampton School for Boys. While working as a teacher he played a pivotal role in the development of a number of full and age grade internationals, most notably Steve Thompson and Courtney Lawes.
When describing his role in the development of such players, he says that it is all about nurturing them as the potential is always there, adding: “I’m not taking any credit for this because these boys have potential. What you have to do is make them realise that, with a little bit of effort and a little bit of heart, they can make the big time.”
Having grown up just a stone’s throw from Franklin’s Gardens, he attended Northampton Grammar School so that he could play rugby. Now in his seventies, it is clear that Norman still thoroughly enjoys his involvement with rugby and his passion for the sport is as strong as ever.
“I see the little ones, the six and seven year olds, and they look at you like your words are wisdom,” he said. “They really do try to do what you want them to do and it’s very challenging, but also very rewarding!”
If you know someone who has given years of dedication and service to rugby union in the Northampton area, whether it is coaching, administration, playing, washing the kit, making the sandwiches or looking after the pitch, then you can nominate them for the 2016 Rugby Spirit Award, supported by Northampton Borough Council.
Head to www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/rugbyspirit for all the information; nominations close on Friday, April 22nd, and the winner will be presented with their Award at the Saints’ End of Season Awards on Monday, May 9th.