'Reflecting on the great deal of good which has come out of these past 12 months'

Heineken Champions Cup Final, Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, England, UK 17/10/2020Exeter Chiefs vs

The Exeter team celebrated winning the Heineken Champions Cup Final - Credit: ©INPHO/James Crombie

In what is my final column of what has been an incredibly challenging 2020 for all of us, both on and off the field, I wanted to use these latest notes to reflect on the great deal of good which has come out of these past 12 months.
Obviously, our double-winning success – in lifting the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup titles – are clear highlights from a playing perspective, but so too has been the work the Chiefs and our charity, the Exeter Chiefs Foundation, have done in helping to raise the spirits of those in our local community.
The Exeter Chiefs Foundation has handed out a record-breaking sum of over £200,000 since lockdown began, while the charity’s coffers have recently been boosted to the tune of £42,000 by an online auction of signed memorabilia from the club.
This is a truly fantastic achievement and underlines the role the Exeter Chiefs Foundation continues to play in wanting to improve the lives of people across the region.
Equally, the success of the club’s ‘Make That Call’ campaign during the lockdown period earlier in the year also demonstrated the role our players and staff can have in such difficult times.
I know from the many messages we received from those recipients who received a call just how much a difference it made to them, helping to lift spirits during what were testing times.
Of course, the threat of Covid-19 remains as real as ever and it was underlined to ourselves in the past fortnight after a number of our players and staff tested positive for the virus.
Sadly, it meant that our much-anticipated fixture with Toulouse in the Champions Cup had to be cancelled. However, the health and well-being of our players, staff and their families has to be our number one priority always.
Thanks to our first-class medical department, headed up by Professor Adrian Harris, we were quickly able to manage the outbreak and that ensured our squad returned to league action again on Boxing Day against Gloucester. 
For as long as I can remember, Adrian has been the club’s lead doctor, combining that role with that of his senior management position at the nearby Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, which has provided the city’s frontline response to the pandemic.
As I’ve said many times, our real champions of the past year have been the staff of the NHS and our frontline key workers. Without their unwavering efforts our situation could easily have been so much tougher.
That’s why I was delighted when asked by the management of the hospital if we as a club could help provide a series of video messages saluting those very efforts.
If you have not seen it, I recommend you drive by the hospital and see the wonderful videos that are being projected onto the side of the Oncology Building, showing how we ‘The Champions of England and Europe’ are paying our own special homage to the ‘Champions of the NHS’.
Finally, as we look to the future, I want to thank everyone for their support over the past year. Seeing just 2,000 people return to Sandy Park for our recent game with Glasgow Warriors was something to behold and showed that together we can get through this period – and that one day we can return to some kind of normality.

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