'Winkies', as Winchester College Football is affectionately known, is a unique phenomenon. Following XVs last month, the two captains reflect on their first impressions of the game when they joined aged 13, through to the honour of leading the teams out for the biggest game of the year.
"When I first joined Winchester College, the idea of Winkies seemed fairly nonsensical; the nets, the ropes and the bizarre names of rules such as cabbage. However, as the weeks went on, I began to enjoy the apparent lunacy. Learning from scratch with the top years as coaches reinforced the idea that it is very much ‘our game’ and it began to instil an aura around XVs and those who played in it.
Personally, having played two years of XVs, and captaining in my top year, has presented challenges, such as Hot Roll. In theory, Hot Roll should rank your team in order of ability from number one, the captain, down to twentieth place. Having said this, the ordering can be strategic and motivational. In an attempt to get the best out of your players, it may prove helpful to place key positions in your team, such as your kicks – the equivalent of rugby’s flyhalfs – higher up the roll to make sure that they are brimming with confidence going into the game. Regardless, the Canvases - the squads for OTH and Commoners - are almost wholly run and organised by the captain and a few boys who might have played the year before, which instils a sense of comradery and togetherness that is unique to Winkies."
"My first experience of Winkies was the same as almost everybody in my year. In Common Time of my first year, once a week, I went with the whole year to learn the game from a handful of top years. Initially the endless rules and seemingly impossible task of kicking a football on a pitch that is entirely made up of thick mud were challenging. But quickly, as with many of my year group, I began to love Winkies. The fact that all games are played in inter-house competitions means that there is an amazing, ‘tribal’ (in the best possible way), competitiveness that surrounds every game.
The first ‘big game’ I watched was XVs in my first year. It was an absolutely incredible spectacle. For weeks, the match had been the only topic of conversation amongst all the boys so it was good to finally understand what all the fuss was about. I will never forget walking into Flint Court and seeing all the amazing decorations for the first time.
With a few exceptions, the ‘Winkies experts’ are all boys in the school. Because of this, there is a very strong sense of ownership surrounding Winkies, and all of the boys, with almost no exceptions, love the games. There are dons who really understand the game and some of these coach the two ‘canvases’. Generally, however, Winkies is led by boys. The captains have to organise sessions, teams, logistics and the team selection for XVs. This all adds to the magic and competitiveness of Winkies, especially XVs. For me, the most special thing about Winkies is the sense of community it creates. Boys who have been Winkies rivals for four or five years come together to form the OTH and Commoner teams and then everyone in those groups gets totally behind their team."
18th May 2020
The traditional programme of inter-school sporting fixtures has been a feature of life at Winchester for more than 150 years. With no opportunity during lockdown to face familiar opponents, Mark Burley, Director of Sport provides an insight into the history of sport in public schools, as well as the role that Winchester has played in making it such a prominent part of school life.
18th May 2020
Winchester College has a long reputation for community service. No person is more responsible for this than the remarkable Mrs Clare Talks, Geography don and Director of Community Service. Here she provides a refreshing insight into the environmental impacts of an unseasonably warm Spring and a tranquil, undisturbed lockdown.
16th May 2020
According to his Div don, "more people have climbed Everest" and the final stages of an endurance event, such as this, will be the toughest, but sixth form pupil Freddie remains unfazed and focused on raising money for a charity close to his heart.
15th May 2020
Nat tells us about the perils - and lure - of going out in the sun in London during lockdown.
9th May 2020
James is running to get out of the house, and taking his dog with him.
4th May 2020
Despite missing his last term of Winchester, Thomas is attacking each day with a positive attitude and keeping things in perspective.