What does Oldershaw Rugby Club mean to me?
I am a married mother of two girls in my 30’s, I like chilling with a good book, probably play Candy crush more than is healthy and love dancing around my kitchen with my friends after a few too many vinos. So, having read that previous statement you would probably assume that being interested in a sport like rugby wouldn’t even appear anywhere on my list of likes. Well, you’d be wrong.
Let’s rewind about thirty years to when I was about five…my dad played cricket in the summer and winter in the rugby, so most of my childhood weekends were spent either with the other kids whose dads played cricket or the same with the rugby kids. In fact, I’m still friends with some of those kids to this day. My memories of this time in my life are always fond. I used to love the bonfire night (this was the 80’s pre health and safety craziness) when club members would light a big bonfire, we’d have fireworks going off and lots of hot dogs to keep you warm on a cold November night. I remember my devastation one year when it was almost rained off. So I grew up watching my dad play rugby. (He even referred to this in the speech he gave at my wedding and reminded me of the time I was about ten and called the ref a lemon!) As I grew into my teens I began to notice the younger players on the pitch and suddenly realised how tight those shorts were. For a teenage girl full of hormones, it’s a good place to hang around! Even to this day, the smell of Ralgex takes me right back to being a teenager.
I loved being part of the club and the social side. I played in a battle of the sexes game and remember laughing till my sides ached watching the boys do a version of the ‘Haka’ to Humpty Dumpty. The club BBQ’s were fun and a great way to raise money as were the do’s, which usually meant coming along in fancy dress – the crazier the better. I also used to help out on Sunday mornings in the kitchen, doing the food for the Colts.
Apart from the social aspect, there was obviously the playing side. I spent most Saturday’s watching the game with my friends, wearing my 8ft long navy and gold scarf (which my mum knitted for me!) I even made sure my Saturday job was in the morning and not the afternoon shift so I could cheer my team on.
What becomes apparent about how important something like the community of a rugby club is, is when something totally unexpected happens. The summer of ’95 changed a lot of things for a lot of people. We lost one of our players in the most horrific way – on the pitch at training in front of his team mates. It is something that till this day still has an impact on the club. People deal with grief in different ways, but having the club as a focal point definitely helped some people. We still hold memorial games for this player. Where would I go to pay my respects for my friend if the club suddenly wasn’t around?
The club raises money for charities, last year an event was organised for the British Heart Foundation, again in memory of our friend. A phenomenal amount of money was raised. The club has also supported a local boy, George (Team George) who also has connections with the club. His family are raising money to send him to America for much needed treatment.
As well as my dad playing for Oldershaw, my brother played before he went off to Uni and I met my husband when he played in the Colts. So it’s fairly important to our family, there is a picture of my dad’s team on the wall from the 80’s, my husband’s team in the 90’s and I’m sure my brother is up there somewhere from the 00’s. I don’t get down to watch as many games as I used to, but I always like to follow what’s going on with the club and it’s great to see them getting some grants to do some much needed improvements to the clubhouse.
So, to go back to my opening sentence, no, I probably don’t look like a typical rugby fan, but my life would’ve been a lot different without it! Oldershaw Rugby Club is in my blood, it’s been that much of an influence in my life I even wrote a book featuring it!
(Oh, and I’ve often wondered why I’d never had the same interest in cricket…I think it’s down to the length of the shorts!!!)
As a foot note to this, since I originally wrote this piece, I have now taken up playing women's touch rugby, at Oldershaw, with a great gang of girls, we are the Oldershaw Diamonds. So, after 30 years of supporting this club, I now get to pull on the shirt!