Whitley Bay Barbarians

Andy CampbellUncategorized

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Whitley Bay Barbarians

Established 4th November 1994


Founders: Ken Sykes

Club colours and badge: Blue and Gold, Evolved into Blue and White.

Current Home Venue: Whitley Bay High School, Deneholm, Whitley Bay, Tyne And Wear, NE25 9AS, Rockcliffe RUFC


The club started as an u14s team and today has age groups and 10s, 12s 16s and open age. The Barbarians all started because Rob and Paul Sykes, the sons of Ken Sykes had gone and played for another club and after being thrashed in a game, then in the locker room by the coach of this team, there were a few doors slammed and some choice words said Ken believed that to be the end of it. The plot thickened though Rob and Paul, undeterred, begged their father to start a team of their own, thus Whitley Bay Barbarians was born.

With no ground, not team, no strips, the proverbial blank canvas Ken Sykes set to work to get the Barbarians up and running. So came around the cold November morning in 1994 and 12 young boys and an eager father/coach started the journey of the Whitley Bay Barbarians.

After a few sessions under their fledgling belts the first game for the Barbarians came around organised by the then Northeast Development Officer Mick Hogan. Playing in their first game Whitley Bay donned the colours of the Australian national team, the famous green and gold (this was a strip that had been loaned to them by Mick Hogan so they had a

strip to wear for their first game). The first game didn’t go according to plan however this didn’t dampen the spirits of the newly formed team.

The team’s colours of Blue and Gold had come about due to Kens own love of rugby league and his fondness of Leeds Rhinos though the colours have transitioned over to Blue and White over the years to more local colours, that of the local football team Whitley Bay FC.

The original badge of the Barbarians was a ginormous sun enclosed in a circle and as I was speaking to Ken the story of how the original badge came to be was quite a touching one. In Kens own words, his late, lamented wife Linda had her own market stall business and one of the things on this stall was the original Whitley Bay Barbarians badge, when ken had said I don’t know what to do for a badge, Linda replied why don’t you use this? And like and good husband Ken listened to his wife and the badge was born.

The Whitley Bay Barbarians have always been known as a nomadic team, playing at such venues like Rockcliffe, Winlaton, Seghill, Whitley Bay high school and most recently North Shields RUFC, but the original place the call home was the Fox Hunter playing fields, Ken joked that Whitley Bay Barbarians should have been called Whitley Bay Wanderers. Ken admitted that he would have loved for the club to have had their very own ground, a place to call home and they were very close to purchasing Langley playing fields, but this never came to be.

I asked Ken what his fondest memories where of the Barbarians in the early days and many would believe most coaches would recant tales of trophies, silverware, and titles but Kens fondest memory is a one that I believe speaks volumes about what the spot of rugby league is all about.

Kens fondest memory of the juniors was that of a young man who had come to the club from what Ken described as a horrid upbringing and had no support network from his immediate family. The young Barbarians players did take some time to warm he was a little scamp at times Ken but embraced him as one of his straight away. The memory however is of when WBB played Hunslet boys club, the opposition player (from Hunslet) goaded this young man from WBB and received a reaction but what happened next, not even Kens eyes could not believe. All the lads from Whitley Bay Barbarians piled into a massive scuffle to protect one of their own. Ken says it was a “One in, All in” scenario. After all the commotion had calmed down the game became a war with massive hits, hard runs an all-out war of attrition. When the dust had settled though the score was nothing more than an afterthought, the team had come together, the bond between young men, that like brothers had been formed. That is what rugby league is all about, 13 men standing shoulder to shoulder united by a badge and brotherhood, a family, and a collective feeling that we fall as one and rise as one. As Ken says something that warms your heart.

Another fond memory was Ken watching the Barbarians start up their open age in 2003 under the guidance from Tommy Rendles and George Taylor. However, Kens fondest memory was when he was inducted to the Northeast Hall of Fame and when accepting his award looking around the room, he could see many a familiar face that had been affiliated with the Barbarians at one time or another.

One of the biggest players to ever don the Blue and Gold of WBB was a name well known in the rugby union world, none other than Paul Van-Zandvliet. The man known as the “tank” played a game for the Barbarians after some shrewd negotiating skills from the then coach Tommy Rendles and Kens memories as well as Rob Sykes was that of a human bowling ball knocking over the human skittles. Leaving a path of destruction on the field, Ken Sykes said he had never seen anything like it before.

Additional notes:

The orignial Women and Girls section was formed by Lee Carbutt under the name Northumberland Raidettes, building on the positive community development programme in the Seaton Valley area. They have had bases in several location including Whitely Bay High School and Astley High School and now have a regular home and a thriving relationship with Seghill RUFC. The club has fielded teams at u12’s, 14’s, 16’s and OA for 10 years and currently have a strong pathway for the talented players in the North East to access top level rugby with Dual Registration agreements with Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants. The club is proud to have had seen players represent the club and International Rugby League and Rugby Union teams at youth levels and OA. The aim for the club is to help to feed the emergence of other new clubs in the region with Women and Girls and to use this broader player pool to become a more established presence at the top levels of the Women and Girls playing structure.