When Rotherham Titans kick off the new Championship season against newly promoted Ealing Trailfinders next month one particular face will be standing on the touchline as he has been for more than 20 years.
Greasborough GP Chris Myers is about to start his 24th season as Rotherham’s doctor. His first season-1991-92 - when Rotherham were competing in North Division One against clubs like Tynedale, Hartlepool Rovers, Birkenhead Park and Stockton, belongs to a different rugby planet altogether. As Rotherham rose through the leagues to win promotion twice to the Premiership, (2000 and 2003) Chris was a constant presence and trusted friend to players and coaches.
Titans’ new coach, former Wales international Mark Jones, is the 14th Chris has worked with.
“The changes have been enormous. When I started, the ethos was amateur. The players had jobs outside and rugby was a social outlet. They played for enjoyment” he says. “Then we developed into the full time professional era. Players now look at rugby as a career and have a different frame of mind.
“Undoubtedly, they are much fitter now and better prepared. When I first came here, players trained twice a week.
WNow they are full time, have outstanding people to help them, on site physios and are stronger than ever before.
There is potential for more serious injury, but because players are stronger, they are able to manage some of the problems. Players may be prepared to risk injury but that’s not something I’m ready to accept. At times, you have to forcibly remove them from the pitch. They get so wound up, they forget it’s a long season.
“I’ve always said to every Rotherham coach, if I am not happy I’ll remove a player and I hope it suits you, because if it doesn’t, I’m in the wrong place.
I want Rotherham to win every game, but I won’t risk a player’s long term health for the sake of a single match.”
In almost 25 years, Chris has seen several talented players, developed by Rotherham, move to the Premiership and become internationals-David Strettle, Ramiro Pez and Juan Pablo Socino-so who is his favourite?
“Flanker Hendre Fourie who went to Sale Sharks and was capped by England. He was the most wholehearted of players. Retiring off the field, but when Hendre was on, he was outstanding in everything he did.”
As the new season beckons, Chris will not be the only medical officer on the touchline. Under new RFU regulations, each Championship club must have two doctors on duty at home games, and like Chris, his partner will have to pass the annual RFU medical exam to ensure he’s competent to deal with pitch-side trauma.