Having finally emerged from the long winter of the pandemic, the return of the blaze of gunfire at Bisley has been a welcome antidote to the isolation of Covid past. As a club, we continue to grow; as a team, we have begun to find our footing on the county and national stages. The future remains bright for the Old Suttonian Rifle Association and I want to acknowledge our recent successes here.
The season began not only as a rejuvenation of shooting post-restrictions, but also as a rejuvenation of the OSRA through new members, new talent, and new Old Suttonians. While some recent additions are ‘newer’ Old Suttonians than others, it has been wonderful to meet so many fresh faces, all of whom are willing to make the journey to Bisley to experience again their love of marksmanship or experience again friendships long since dormant. Our Easter Bisley event was the first moment of this new influx of members, where over fifteen attended the shoot and meal in the Surrey bar. I thank all those who have recently joined and encourage them to return to Bisley for our Blues’ Match in October.
Half of the Kent county fullbore team is made up of Old Suttonians and Bromleys (occasionally over that number). This year was no different: Chris Dale and myself represented Kent in the KGV and Inter-Counties matches in May and June respectively. I was also fortunate enough to represent Kent in the Imperial Inter-Counties matches, where Kent came fifth overall. With our presence in Kent growing, it is my hope that we can encourage the team to support more up-and-coming Kent shooters, Old Suttonians or otherwise. Further afield, Chris Pawlik has been making a name for himself in the Hampshire team, which he represented in the Clive Amstein inter-county competition in June. While many of our members are Kent-qualified, I continue to encourage members to explore other county teams, who may have greater team availability.
The Kent Open, a county competition shot at Bisley, was our finest hour as a club. With few Old Suttonians able to compete in the NRA Imperial Meeting, this was our moment to enjoy shooting as a club. I was delighted that we could sponsor two current Sutton Valence School students, Filipp Rivanenok and Elyse Ratcliffe, to shoot in this competition, the second year that we have done so. The SVS community in total numbered over a third of entrants. I was no less delighted that, at 1000x, the top three competitors were Freddie Pawlik (49.6), Chris Dale (49.4), and myself (49.3). This was a remarkable achievement for the club, not least because 1000x is invariably the most challenging distance. Laden with silverware from various other distances, this was a competition where the club performed on the county stage.
The 153rd Imperial Meeting, as usual, was a highlight of the 2022 fullbore calendar. Fickle, fishtailing winds did little to appease the unyielding July sun. Three Old Suttonians, Chris Pawlik, Edward Ervine, and myself attended the event and we all thoroughly enjoyed rekindling past friendships with other clubs, especially Durham University RC and Exeter University RC. In between his busy shifts with work, Chris Dale also made some appearances, which was delightful.
The standout achievement of this Meeting, however, was our first national cap as a team. After a good record at short range, I was selected to represent England in the National Match. This competition, which is shot between the Home Countries, requires a team of 20, five of which have no caps and five of which are once-capped. Each shooter fires one convertible sighter and seven to count at 300x, 500x, and 600x. With England having lost the National in 2021 to Wales, the pressure was on.
After my training with the English XX Lions squad in 2019-21 and following considerable county shooting with Kent, I felt somewhat prepared for the match, my selection for which I had been notified the night before. On the day itself, while my mind was steady and level, my body reverberated with pre-match nerves. Within the flurry of activity that whirls behind the point of the National Match, the shooter, with every need swiftly attended to like royalty, quietly awaits to play their brief role. Under the watchful guise of wind coach Matthew Ensor, I remained steady and held the bull. Giving into my process, I was able to squeeze the remainder of my shots in to score a personal best of 105.13 (ex. 105.21).
This report is bookended by two very different achievements of the club in 2022: new members and national representation. As Captain, I have no expectation of my members competing at county or national level, but I hope that the example and precedent of Old Suttonians in such teams will give them the inspiration and encouragement to do so if they wish. The OSRA continues to thrive because of its members, old and new. Its future will be determined as much by a social in the Surrey as it will be by bringing home the silverware. 2022 has shown how, after the dark nights of the pandemic, the future remains bright for the OSRA.