Alan Martinovic has paid tribute to the very special rugby culture that exists at Hartpury as he prepares to step down as Director of Rugby at the end of this season.
Having led the rugby programme at the college for the last seven years, Alan, 60, has overseen Hartpury RFC’s rise into National League One, seven consecutive Under-18s AASE League titles and three BUCS university championships and even twice training with the England rugby team during his tenure.
He has also helped hone the talents of more than 100 young players who have gone on to represent their country and secure contracts with professional clubs. The success story continues to go from strength to strength, with Alan leaving Hartpury’s rugby programme in excellent health.
While 21 out of 56 players in Gloucester Rugby’s current first team and Gold Academy squads for 2015-16 have come from the Hartpury talent production line, nine of the Gloucester Academy starting line-up that contested Monday’s Premiership Rugby Under-18s final hail from Hartpury, with six more on the replacements bench. At senior level, Hartpury RFC are riding high in third place in only their second season in National League One.
“I have worked with some exceptional playing talent and some fantastic staff at Hartpury and I will leave with some brilliant memories of my time here,” said Alan.
“I am intending to keep working in rugby and I have one or two options to consider, but they do not include working in an educational institution in this country, as I believe that I have already had the privilege of working at the best. The timing of these things is always difficult to judge, but I feel that I am leaving the rugby academy in a very good place and I’m sure the rugby programmes will benefit from a fresh perspective.
“We have an exceptional rugby brand and it is of a huge sense of pride to me that we currently have the best performing student-based rugby programmes in the country.”
Prior to joining Hartpury, Alan was the driving force behind developing more than 100 age group internationals and 11 full internationals at Colston’s School, where he had the unenviable job of teaching teenagers the magic of mathematics for 32 years alongside being the deputy head and also rugby coach for 22 years.
During that time, they won an incredible seven Daily Mail Cups and lost only eight games in 15 years. Among the plethora of internationals the school produced were such luminaries as Gareth Delve, Olly Barkley, Alex Brown, Shane Geraghty, Lee Mears, Jordan Crane, Tom Varndell and Duncan Bell.
Given that Alan was also at Bath Rugby from 1996 to 2005 in a coaching and player recruitment role, star-spotting among others Matt Stevens, Alex Brown, Iain Balshaw, Steve Borthwick and Mike Tindall, it’s no surprise that then Hartpury principal, Malcolm Wharton, came knocking on his door.
“I have been very lucky to have had such positive relationships with both Principals that I have worked under at Hartpury. I am very conscious that without their support, Hartpury rugby would not be where it is today and neither would I,” added Alan.
“When I got to Hartpury, my initial focus was as much about identifying and removing the barriers to success in terms of organisation and process as it was about putting additional resource and effort into player recruitment.
“A lot of the players that come to us are extremely determined and driven to succeed and can get past some of those players who are earlier achievers. A lot of our success has been with players of that type.
“We’ve had guys who have come here at 16 with little or no representative rugby behind them who have gone on to play international rugby – people like Joe Batley, Elliott Stooke, Mat Protheroe, Mike Haley, Jonny Hill, Steph Reynolds, Ross Moriarty, Dan Robson and Billy Burns.
“The key driving force behind everything I have done throughout my teaching and coaching career is to have extremely high expectations of the young people in front of me. I continue to be amazed by how well they respond to setting a very high bar.”
Alan’s finest hour at Hartpury arguably came in the 2013-14 season, when Hartpury completed a unique treble - winning the AASE and BUCS titles and taking the National League Two crown; an achievement unlikely ever be repeated by another institution.
Hartpury Principal, Russell Marchant, said: “Alan has had a unique career in club, schools, college and university rugby. While at Hartpury, he has helped create unprecedented success and launch many players into professional and international careers. We wish him every success for the future and thank him for the exceptional leadership he has provided for our rugby programme.”