Tony, what a man.
Tony took over as captain of the club after we had been through a particularly poor couple of years on the pitch. We were a bedraggled bunch that considered how many pints you could drink, and songs you could sing, more important than what you could do on the pitch. As for training that was a 4 letter word?
Tony changed all that. At a time when we hung lights from the goalposts and trained in semi-darkness, he took the club by the ear’oles, shook it, put trust in a selected band of brothers and drove it forward.
I was privileged that Tony chose me as his Vice-Skip during our successful period at the start of the leagues. I didn’t have to do much as he always led from the front and hardly ever got injured. I was just happy to contribute as one of his confidantes.
We trained and we trained, in the dark at the club, and through the Summer at Eaglesfield school. Pre-season was agony, Paul Stump was invited to introduce his Navy ‘Gun Run’ training techniques to us, what fun, lifting and lugging the goal posts up and down the pitch racing in teams (sick). Tony introduced the ‘Deck of Cards’ (sick again). Dave Collen introduced the ‘Bleep Test’ (sick again again). Tony was the fittest and stubbornest man I knew, he wouldn’t give up on anything and wouldn’t ask anyone to do something he wouldn’t do himself.
As our fitness improved, Dave Collen provided the coaching finesse (strange word at CPRFC) and we improved in leaps and bounds.
Our 1st league game was away to Thanet Wanderers. They kicked off long, I chased the ball back, it bounced back off the crossbar straight into the arms of their centre, five seconds, 6 – 0 (a try was 4 points then). Tony called us together behind the posts, swore a bit, reminded us of what we were there to do and we did what he asked in total belief. That was one of only 3 tries that were scored against us during an unbeaten league season. The ‘Berlin Wall’ had been born along with our ‘Pirate’ names 2 weeks later.
He led us to more success on the pitch but he never lost sight of having fun off it. The Easter Tour to Portugal was exceptional. We took more than 2 teams away with us for a whole week and luckily the tournament fell on the weekend we arrived. We won the tournament with ‘The Battle of Loule’ going down in club legend. . The locals didn’t much care for our brand of rugby therefore we were spat on by the opposition in the ‘tunnel’ and by their supporters as we left the pitch…….never mind eh? We won. It’s that BIG cup behind the bar. Tony led festivities in ‘Tom & Jerrys’ bar by hosting the Captain’s drink in front of all the locals much to their surprise and amusement (sick). And he still managed to get up the next morning and make breakfast for our room. We had the time of our lives and by the end of the week there were only about half a dozen people still able to walk. Our next fixture was at Old Brocklieans (not league and we got stuffed).
The club’s success and it’s reputation off the pitch were instrumental in attracting ‘better’ players looking for good rugby with good times. As mentioned elsewhere on the website, this eventually took us to the National leagues.
By this time Tony had stepped back, but he and I were still involved coaching Colts on Sunday mornings. We taught them in the ways of CPRFC by buying them jugs of shandy after training and home games (Tony’s idea). We ended up with a couple of 1st teamers.
His commitment to the club never wavered, his enthusiasm never dimmed.
We were bloody lucky to have him.
Thanks Tony, ‘Deeds Not Words’……………in spades.