King’s Rugby have been recognised for their contribution both on and off the pitch over the past 18 months with the Canterbury Club of the Month award for June.
Also known as KCS Old Boys, the Lions Origin Club went above and beyond during the pandemic by raising money for the NHS and significant clubhouse refurbishments.
Club captain George Taylor undertook an epic challenge to climb the height of Mount Everest via the stairs of the clubhouse, covering more than 46,000 steps in just 24 hours last summer.
He raised more than £18,000 for the two causes as a result and, as well as supporting the NHS, this money ensured that the project to build a new balcony which will revolutionise the clubhouse at Motspur Park in southwest London can go ahead.
And club chairman Paddy Ralston said it was an honour to receive the Canterbury Club of the Month award, adding that Taylor’s fundraising typifies the spirit that runs throughout the club.
“We were looking into funding the balcony when lockdown just started, we had a big fundraiser the week before the first lockdown was announced,” said Ralston.
“So all our other plans that summer went to nothing. Our captain George Taylor decided to do a big fundraising project then by climbing the stairs of the club to the height of Mount Everest.
“He raised significant funds both for the balcony and the NHS, which was a wonderful thing to do. There is just something about the club, that the players seem to have a lot of spirit.
“We don’t pay any of our players, they play here because they want to play and that is something we are very proud of. We’ve got some players who could be playing at a few higher levels.
“But because they have got their friends here, the players have really bought into that spirit.”
Do you know a Lions Origin club that deserves to be recognised for their contribution to the community as well as the game? If so, nominate them via the Lions Origin club of the month form
Taylor, who completed his Mount Everest challenge by climbing 3,096 flights of stairs while wearing ‘budgy smugglers’, echoed Ralston by hailing the club’s close-knit community.
“The relationships that people have at the club and the way that it acts as a social hub is huge, I’ve never actually experienced a club like it in that,” explained Taylor.
“We have a group of hundred or so players and a lot of them, if not all of them could consider themselves to be extremely good friends with each other and that plays such a big part.
“[The pandemic] made me think that we needed to do our part, both to benefit the club but also to give something back by raising money and awareness towards the NHS at the time.
“No-one has ever climbed Mount Everest in a pair of budgy smugglers, still no-one has climbed Mount Everest in a pair of budgy smugglers, but I sort of tried and sort of did it.”
Formed in 1907 by former pupils of King’s College School Wimbledon (KCS), the club moved to their current base in 1992 after their clubhouse at Robin Hood Way on Wimbledon Common burnt down.
Since then, the club has grown and grown through to the current balcony project, which will help produce a wonderful place to play and watch rugby as the first team return to London 1 action.
The club also possesses a thriving minis section, first established in 1993, which helped introduce 2013 British & Irish Lion and England international Alex Corbisiero to the sport.
“Alex Corbisiero was an incredible lad and with Alex from then it was all history. He stuck with us until he was about 13, 14 and he moved down to Cobham with his family,” said Ralston.
“He then went to the American school and played for various other clubs, but I’ve stayed a very close friend of the family ever since and Alex has been a wonderful lad.
“He has come down and helped us with various fundraising functions, but the Lions has always been special to us as a club for so many reasons and Alex [touring in 2013] was a wonderful moment for the club.”
Corbisiero toured with the Lions eight years ago to Australia, making two Test appearances after initially missing out on selection due to an injury which kept him out of the 2013 Six Nations.
A late replacement for Ireland prop Cian Healy, he went on to score a try in the third Test as the Lions won the series 2-1 – and Corbisiero credits King’s Rugby for developing his love of the game.
“If it wasn’t actually for King’s, who knows if I would have found rugby or not, it is the first place I ever found the game,” said Corbisiero, who was first spotted when he was just four years old.
“I played with the same group of guys until we were about 13, 14 years old and until we sort of ran out of numbers and then eventually migrated to another club together.
“But I am still friends with some of those guys, lifelong. The club was an amazing place for me to go and have fun, my dad would have fun, I’ve just got so many fond memories of King’s.
“I am grateful to them for helping introducing me to the game and helping build that love. Probably one of the reasons I came back was because I enjoyed it every weekend, I had a fun time.”
The everlasting bond Corbisiero has with King’s Rugby came to the fore when he was diagnosed with cancer in November 2019, with the club showing him support every step of the way.
“I think Paddy, who helped found the club, and his family are so invested in it,” he said. “It’s a labour of love; it’s done out of love and that trickles through the whole club in what it embodies.
“It is very much an arm round the shoulder throughout my whole career. The club was amazingly supportive in my professional career and my life after rugby. They still promote anything I do.
“They support anything I do, help raise for charity, messages of encouragement while I am facing cancer and adversity. It really is something I am grateful for, and such a special place.
“It is something that needs to continue in life, these community clubs have such a large place to fill in helping in shaping people in their lives and their community and environment.”
The Canterbury Club of the Month award comes with a certificate, a training pack including balls, kicking tees, water bottles and bottle carriers, and a £250 Canterbury store voucher.
And Ralston hopes the recognition, along with the club’s ambitious plans for the future, will ensure King’s Rugby enjoy a bright future as the world begins to return to normality.
“It’s a real honour and a real reward for all our players and members that have worked hard throughout the last year to keep the club going and to make its position really strong,” he said.
Taylor added: “We knew we hadn’t wasted our time, but it shows actually that perhaps we have made a difference in the community, we have done something positive
“Hopefully now it is a catalyst to do more things in the future and to make sure we continue to do our bit and keep that angle at the club and not just concentrate on ourselves and the rugby.
“Yes, that is really important but actually the club is a community, it does play a part in the local area and give back to a lot of people so it means a great deal and I think it’s a fantastic award.”