Tony Penfold passed away on Monday 25th May.
Charlton Park Rugby Club was in his heart, as he was in ours, and it is a real sadness that we can’t get together immediately to send him off properly. That will have to wait, but it will happen.
He fitted the Charlton Park mould perfectly. Underestimate him at your peril – he was, after all, a front row. Tony’s outward sociability, sense of fun and simple enjoyment of life was underpinned by a steely determination to prove himself. He bounced back; his background in wrestling gave him a powerful competitive instinct along with a sense of where weaknesses in others lay. So, although he had played little or no rugby when he arrived, he soon became a fixture in the first team.
He applied his personal ambitions to his club, which he saw as needing a kick up the backside. When he volunteered to take on the poisoned chalice of captaincy in 1985 there were many who still needed to be convinced, so he grabbed it by the horns and set about instilling his high standards into everyone else. They slowly discovered that behind the sociable exterior there was a man who never backed down, who was stubborn and driven and who worshipped the club. He became a captain through hard work and force of personality, not by being the best player, and he quickly convinced players to follow.
Tony captained Charlton Park for three years, from 1985 through to the end of the 1989 season and in that time he helped lay the foundations for the success that was to follow. His second year of captaincy was the first year of the leagues. Charlton Park just scrambled into Kent One – we expected to be in Kent Two. and he enforced ‘no train, no play’, gave total loyalty, expected it back and led us to promotion from the front. The key game was against Erith just after New Year, we trained during the holiday and won comfortably.
Fitness and planning, take the games seriously and party; that could be the club’s mission statement. Many have bitter memories of winter nights at Eaglesfield, the lung-bursting slog up Donaldson Road to the top of Shooters Hill, ultra-competitve 3-a-side touch and then several pints in The Bull. With Tony, training sessions, important planning meetings, and after-match debriefs could lose all their focus if the bar stayed open. But bets were taken, no matter how much he’d had – press ups, runs up Shooters Hill – there to be taken, by willpower alone.
In his third year we comfortably survived in South East Three. Job well done, Tony handed captaincy over and six years’ later we were in the National Leagues. Later he moved away and we only saw him at VP occasions; the last, I think, the 125th anniversary lunch. He still wanted to corner you and question whether the club was on the right track.
It is emotional to think of Tony and Jody picking his all-time CP team, as described by Pippa. He always emphasised the importance of selection and insisted on it taking place around a table on a Sunday morning, all captains fully briefed – determined to be fair. He was a thinker, a charmer, a worrier – hot-headed, strong, a really crap line-out thrower, an experimental cook who nearly poisoned next door’s dog, but above all he was intensely loyal. He stepped up to the plate, encouraged and nagged and drove us mad. What a lovely man. We are grateful.