The 2020-21 season so far for Exeter sport

Whilst all clubs can agree it has been one of the strangest starts to a new season, this year’s sports clubs have taken it in their stride and focused on all the positives of being part of Exeter’s sporting community.

Weekly training has taken on a new form with clubs holding online workout sessions and regular committee workshops to make plans and stay on top of their goals as much as possible. This year’s clubs have prided themselves on their ability to stay connected to their teammates and offer well-being support in all manner of ways to see each other through a challenging time.

With the 2020-21 BUCS league finally cancelled across all sports in early January, intramural competitions have been the name of the game when restrictions have allowed, keeping morale high and training at the forefront. With more time off the pitch, fundraising efforts for various charities with a particular focus on mental health have also taken a leading role this term across all the clubs, raising over an incredible £150,000 altogether and putting the University at the top of the national leader board.

As well as virtual competitions, hopes for individual events and the outdoor cricket league later in the year remain, as we stay updated and respond to the changing situation as quickly as possible.

Chiefs’ triumph with Exeter alumni

What a year it’s been for Exeter rugby, celebrating the Chiefs’ double victory in the European Champions Cup shortly followed by the Premiership win.

EURFC saw three former students helping the winning team – Jack Maunder starting as scrum-half, Sam Skinner coming on as a replacement and Haydn Thomas among the coaching staff.

Skinner, now a Scotland International, studied Business Economics and captained the University to BUCS championship victory at Twickenham in 2017. Thomas, a former scrum-half, studied Chemistry at Exeter and played rugby under Rob Baxter (Honorary Graduate, 2017) – who was then coaching at the University and is now director of rugby at the Chiefs. Thomas is now part of the coaching team at both the Chiefs and the University.

University of Exeter Director of Rugby Keith Fleming said: “It’s great to see our partnership between the University of Exeter Rugby Performance Programme and Exeter Chiefs flourishing at the highest level. Having two recent alumni in Jack and Sam playing in the final along with Chiefs Senior Academy and University of Exeter first team head coach Haydn Thomas amongst the support staff, is something we are very proud of.”

Elsewhere a new and exciting chapter is currently unfolding right on our door step with Exeter Chiefs rightfully earning a place in the Allianz Women’s Premiership 15s.

We have several current and past EURFC players representing Exeter Chiefs on a weekly basis: Merryn Doidge, Jessica Thomas, Flo Robinson and Daisy French to name a few. EURFC alumna and previous Athletic Union President, Alex Powell, is also representing the Exeter Chiefs this season and head coach, Poppy Leitch, has also recently signed for Exeter Chiefs this year.

Looking at other clubs across the country, Zoe Heeley joined EURFC with very little rugby experience and after three successful years at Exeter University, is now a regular starting player for Worcester Warriors premiership side. And just last week Amber Reed, Bristol Bears captain, was named in the 30-women Red Roses camp who were recently crowned Grandslam Champions for the second year in a row.

The men’s side are also making waves on the professional stage with current clubmen Will Yarnell (Vice-captain), Luke Mehson and Richard Capstick making premiership appearances for Exeter Chiefs. And internationally, recent alumnus Lasha Jaiani played for Georgia against England at Twickenham!

Exeter Hockey Club - A look at last year

Despite the unusual conclusion to last year, the hockey club still achieved a lot to be proud of.

On the pitch, the men’s 1s secured their Premier League status for a remarkable third year in succession and remain the only University to be represented at this level. A notable win came against Reading, where GB Olympian Simon Mantell scored the winning goal, which ended up keeping EUHC in the league. It is safe to say he has already written himself into club folklore during his short spell at the club.

Whilst for the women a change in the BUCS structure permitted the 1st XI to compete in the BUCS ICG Women’s Hockey National League. There was also a change to the 3 Saturday leagues sides with the move to Isca and UofE, which has strengthened our relationship with Isca Hockey club. As it stands, the 1st XI have retained their position in both their Wednesday BUCS league and the INVESTEC Women’s Hockey League Division 1 South playing in partnership with Isca Hockey club.

As for the wider club, there have been no relegations and a special mention must go to the women’s 4th XI who achieved an excellent promotion and were undefeated all season until they were knocked out in their BUCS semi-finals.

Elsewhere, charity and welfare continued to be another focus of last year with the men’s and ladies’ clubs raising a combined total of just over £16,000 for men’s health charity Movember and a further £10,000 for mental health charity MIND. Fantastic achievements from all involved!

Exciting times for football at Exeter

With a huge thank you to recent alumni support, EUAFC are very pleased to welcome new coach Javier Martin for the upcoming 2021 season. As an experienced football coach and previous FA Coach Mentor, there are high hopes for the development of the club.

Club captain George Warne added, “He has been fantastic in the few sessions we’ve had and has brought a real air of professionalism even in the short time he’s been with us. A special mention must also go to our alumni network who donated substantially greater than any other during the university’s Giving Day. Your continued support and advice motivates us as a committee to strive for progress despite the difficult situation we find ourselves in.”

Alongside Javier, the club have also recruited new sports psychologist Jordan Hayman who has also offered the team a fresh perspective. With the help of Javier and Jordan, hopes for the club are to start closing the gap that currently exists with opposing teams in BUCS football.

The women’s team also have a couple of notable mentions this year for club members who are doing incredibly well outside of university football. Goalkeeper Poppy Soper received her first senior call up to the Wales Women National Team for their Euro 2022 qualifier against Norway and the team are very excited to see her development over the next few years as she joins as a fresher this year. And second year Lydia Huntley continues to play first team football for Plymouth Argyle Ladies in tier 3 of the women’s football pyramid in The FA Women’s National League. After exceptional performances throughout her first year, there is no doubt that she will continue to grow as a really versatile player in both her centre midfield and defence positions.

On behalf of the Golf Club, thank you to our alumni for your continued support

A warm thank you to our alumni community on behalf of everyone involved in the golf programme at Exeter for your continued support throughout this strange year.

Whilst it’s been a disappointing time for sporting activity and our usual golfing events, we are so pleased that the Golf Alumni Day in August and the more recent Pairs Invitation Day were able to go ahead in a slightly altered format; and incredibly grateful for the support they offer our scholars.

From what would have been a cancelled Golf Alumni Day, incredibly over £6,000 was raised which has gone towards our student golf programme and will help our scholars access fantastic coaching, top quality practice facilities and the opportunity to travel to international golf tournaments. Your support makes a huge difference to our students.

And to continue the good news, we are delighted to reveal that the target for the proposed golf studio has been reached! Thanks to months of generosity from our alumni and one final donation from the R&A, the studio is all set to begin the building process for 2021.

We look forward to hosting you at Exeter golf events again later in the year and updating you with studio news as soon as possible.

Exeter Boat Club – A look at term one

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and an unusable canal(!) EUBC were unable to host the usual pre-season training and finally made it back onto the water at the end of September. Since then, the majority of the Senior Squad have been out training in a range of boats from 8+’s down to singles.

Novices too have been able to enjoy water sessions, giving them a great opportunity to really get to grips with their new sport.

For the time being, the club have their sights set on various fundraising activities in lieu of cancelled competitions and are optimistically looking forward to the opportunity to attend Henley in some fashion over the amended dates 10 – 15 August. Keeping our fingers crossed!

‘The University of Exeter are one of the reasons for my success’ - Georgia’s Lasha Jaiani

Alumnus Lasha Jaiani recently spoke with Talking Rugby Union about his support from former teammates and University coaches before playing at Twickenham against England in the Autumn Nations Cup.

“I received texts from the coaching staff, the strength and conditioning team, my friends and my former team-mates before I played at Twickenham against England. That was a great motivator and it continued against Wales and Ireland. It was nice to see that the University is really supportive of their alumni rugby players.”

The interview continued, recognising Exeter’s flourishing relationship with the Premiership and European Champions and how experience at the University can help players prosper professionally.

“University rugby is a really good level for young rugby players to play in,” Jaiani says.

“Exeter rate you as a rugby player and by that I mean they know what level you need to play at so you can improve. I went from playing in their freshers’ team and slowly built up towards the 1st XV which was a great way to do it. The coaching team, as well as the S&C staff, were exceptional and I think that is one of the many reasons of my success today so I am really thankful to them and the programme they provided at university.”

Sports alumni networks

Did you used to be part of a sports club at Exeter?

Whether you’ve just graduated or left the University long ago, you are now part of our wonderful sports alumni community and can benefit from our growing number of sports alumni networks.

So how can you get involved? There are a number of ways you can stay connected: you can share your stories and photos of your time playing sport at Exeter and we will add them to our existing network pages for former and current students to look through. Reconnect with old friends and former teammates and stay up-to-date with the latest club news and events such as annual dinners and sports matches. You can also volunteer to support the current teams and club committees either through talks at workshops, taking part in events or helping with fundraising.

What’s it all about? Take a look at our Q&A with alumnus Richard Ellison (BEd, 1982) former England cricketer who has been involved with the Cricket Alumni Network.

Why did you want to get involved with the cricket alumni network? To reconnect with those players who I was at university with and to also meet other former students from differing times at Exeter and St Luke’s.

What are the aims of the network? To establish friendships with all Exeter Cricketing alumni and students and to meet on a regular basis to reminisce of our time at Exeter.

Do you have a favourite memory from Exeter cricket? Working hard to succeed with an ambitious group of players. It was also a lot of fun! Winning two UAU titles, beating Loughborough was always memorable and a semi-final win against a strong Durham side on top field was also a highlight.

Where has life taken you since Exeter? Professional sport, a teaching career and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) match referee.

What plans are there for the cricket alumni network in 2021? Hopefully, when the COVID-19 situation has settled back to normal, a reunion of players from their differing times at Exeter and also watching the current Exeter University cricketers play.

Please share your memories with us and contribute to our website by emailing us with any photos and a little about:

  • What your sport at Exeter meant to you
  • Memorable moments
  • Life post Exeter

If you would like to change your contact details with us or know of any sports alumni who are not receiving our updates or event invitations, please use and share the alumni and supporters contact form in order to stay up-to-date.