This honour is in recognition of the fact that he has enhanced the lives of adults and young people of all ages and abilities living in the Middlesbrough area through rugby union.As a player at Middlesbrough Rugby Club he demonstrated all the characteristics that were to become the hallmark of his contribution to the Club throughout his lifetime as a coach and administrator:
- a desire to ensure that young people and adults gain the maximum benefit from playing a game that they thought was not possible,
- a commitment to ensure that particularly disadvantaged young people (many of whom he taught at school) were given an equal opportunity to succeed in the game and enjoy their participation,
- a total commitment to teamwork,
- a desire to ensure the highest possible standards of play and behaviour.
From joining Middlesbrough Rugby Club over 40 years ago Bernie has given continuous service to the Club, to rugby and to the wider local community. He played 400 games for the 1st team, served as Club Captain, played for England U23s and Yorkshire County in an age when the County Championship was the foremost competition below international rugby.
During his playing years and as first team coach, he always used his considerable knowledge and expertise assisting, supporting and developing young players throughout the Club, including those who were eventually to reach the highest level, such as Robert Andrew and Rory Underwood. Bernie taught PE, became Head of Department, Head of Year and later progressed to Assistant Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher.
Although Bernie played the game at a very high level, he always gave equal consideration and time to less able players and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom he taught, coached and at school encouraged them to join their local clubs. As a player Bernie wanted to win, and the teams he played in and those he coached were very successful, but this desire was always balanced and tempered with an underpinning sense of fair play and respect for the opposition.
When he retired from playing in the late 1980s, Bernie continued to serve the club in a number of crucial positions, working voluntarily as a coach, administrator and selector and used his considerable teaching experience to assist hundreds of young and adult players to develop their game and improve their skills. He was always prepared to step in and fill any role requiring commitment and dedication. He has been Club Coach, has coached various age group squads and acted as Coaching Co-ordinator; he has served as Director of Rugby, Colts Organiser, Player Registration Secretary and Referees Co-ordinator; he is currently Junior and Mini Organiser, Schools Liaison Officer and undertaking the duties of Safeguarding Officer.
Even though he is now retired from work, Bernie continues his involvement with young people, visiting schools (including those that don’t play rugby) to encourage youngsters to visit Acklam Park to experience the game. He has reached out to local primary school clusters to encourage pupils to become more physically active by participating in sport, whilst at the same time ensuring that the Club is properly organised to provide youngsters enjoyment through the best possible playing and social experiences as they progress through the different age groups.
As Junior Organiser he has taken the lead in arranging the refurbishment of Tollesby Pavilion, which the Club leases from Middlesbrough Council along with two pitches additional to those at Acklam Park, such facilities being used primarily by our junior age group teams. In 2016 he prepared a successful bid to the Teesside Philanthropic Society for £3,500 to carry out essential roof repairs to the pavilion, and then organised the implementation of the work; he also galvanised parents into self-help groups to help with internal improvements to the building, part-funded by a £1.000 grant he obtained from the Sports Council, as well as sourcing floodlighting for Tollesby to allow evening coaching sessions to take place.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Bernie loves the game of rugby union and after a game on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning he will spend hours chatting with players and parents giving them the benefit of his own knowledge and experience, but also listening to their views, improving his own and their understanding of the game and the operation of the Club. This aspect of Bernie’s approach is perhaps the most enduring and invaluable to the players and to the Club.
Bernie’s involvement in MRUFC has been substantial and unique and his impact over decades has been immense. The Club continues to field four senior teams and thriving colts, junior and mini sections, resulting in hundreds of young people and adults enjoying and playing the game of rugby union each weekend. This success has much to do with the hard work, enthusiasm and energy of Bernie Coyne.
In an ideal world every club would have it's own Bernie Coyne.