Over the festive season the news can dry up a bit. But we also find ourselves with a few moments to ourselves to reflect, surf some sites and look for some brief escapism when mid-shift on pre-Christmas shopping expeditions or somewhere between our 2nd and 3rd helpings of post Christmas Day trifle.
So in aid of providing a little content to fill such moments of semi-conscious interweb surfing, between reruns of The Griswolds Family Christmas and Die Hard, I thought to perhaps pre-write a few wee articles and drop them periodically.
This one is about recognising and celebrating our more venerable players – the guys who just keep on truckin’.
For folk around the Sydney area, one well known face is Michael ‘Monkey’ Munro who chalked up 600 games for Mosman Rugby Club (at the age of 70!) in 2021. And when last I saw him last year he was still a happy hooker with boots in the boot of his car. Fair play to the lad and long may he charge about.
And I know that in 2018, as pictured below, Russell ‘Rusty’ Mackie racked up his 378th game for Manly as a spritely 71yr old hooker coming off the bench against North Sydney. Although I lost track of him after that, so perhaps Covid was the end of his playing days (can anyone update?).
In the international game, at a comparatively juvenile 38yrs of age, Greg Holmes became the oldest player selected for the Wobblies since World War II when named on the reserves bench for a 2021 Rugby Championship Test against Argentina. While as far as I can tell, the oldest player ever in a World Cup was Diego Ormaechea (below) who turned out for Uruguay at a mere gelding 40yrs young. And for the sake of it, the youngest player at a World Cup was Georgian Vasil Lobzhanidze who played twice in the 2015 tourney as an 18 year old (who beat our own Jordy Petaiea by nearly a full year).
Back to regular clubland, Brian Sampson of Oakham RFC has played rugby for 56 years to 2022 and at 75yrs young he recently said he has no plans to hang up his boots as he approaches playing his 2,000th game. The rangey lock (pictured below) has turned out for Oakham RFC (near Leicester in England) for the past 34 years, but originally made his grade-debut in 1966 apparently. Yes, he is a grandad. Multiple times.
Speaking of 75yr olds, in early 2017 I came across one John Goldman who was also so aged and still turning out at tighthead prop for Mill Hill Rugby 2nd XV, at Copthall Fields alongside Saracens’ home ground in Barnet (London). Apparently he returned to rugby at aged 50 after giving it away when leaving school. And remarkably he kept on truckin’, generally at tighthead no less, for over 440 more matches and through two bouts with cancer and one heart attack, until finally hanging up the boots aged 79 in late 2020.
Gents of a certain vintage still applying for early entry status into heaven are not just restricted to Aus and the UK, though, with 84 year old Koichi Seino still being a notable player for the Fuwaku Rugby Club in Tokyo. Also in Japan there’s 89 year old lock Ryuichi Nagayama (below), still keener than mustard after being quoted as late as 2019 with saying “This may sound strange, but I lost my wife years ago, and now I would say, I don’t mind dying playing rugby.” Hear hear.
And of course it’d be remiss of me here not to mention Easton Roy, who was still playing at 96yrs of age. Easton started playing during WW2 and was still an occasional player at the Bridgehaugh home ground of Stirling County, Scotland until his last game, in 2019, on his 96th birthday! Thus, bookended by the imposing girth of Stirling Castle behind one deadball line and the William Wallace monument at the other, he’s regarded as the oldest player to have ever played.
But in recognition of the true heart and soul of any team – The Row – below we see Jeff, Brooksy and Banger turning out yet again, and still very much going strong, for Old Isleworthians RFC, west of London with a combined age of 182 years as of 2022. That’s the best combination age I’ve found yet. Although it must be said that Bangers shorts look a little clean and new for my tastes (perhaps he only just paid his subs?).
Anyway, there are a few gents to put most to shame. I’m 48yrs and still rolling about in the mud and these lads give me reason to keep going.
So give me your stories of the warhorses past, and perhaps still current, in the comments below…