For 20 consecutive years, since 1997, the first weekend of October has allowed veteran rugby players the chance to recapture their former glories, on the pitch and in the bar, at the Jersey Veterans Super 10s.
The 2016 tournament featured 15 teams - made up of nine English, two Welsh, two French and two Channel Islands - all of whose players and supporters were determined to party like it was 1997.
A handful of this year's participants would have been old enough to have met the over 35 qualifying age when the inaugural tournament took place, with the oldest player award going to 60-year-old Dave Penberthy, father of former Reds' fly-half Aaron. Dave was over from Cornwall with St Agnes, making their 11th tour. The 'Aggies' were resplendent in various guises of pop star fancy dress (including the Three Degrees) and held their usual brutal court session in the clubhouse on Sunday afternoon.
Talking of fancy dress, we also had an entire squad of cleaning ladies from Leeds, a flying RAF elephant, some turtles from Farnborough, and the Star Wars collective, captained by Lord Vader and representing Old Freemen's from Surrey.
You don't get as much singing around rugby these days - partly it's seen as old-fashioned, and when you go to a pub or clubhouse after a match there's usually a match on the TV rather than a few songs. And because there's less singing, fewer of the younger generation know the words, so the downward spiral is perpetuated. But the Vets weekend features the full song-book, from Running Bear and Sloop John B to Used to Work in Chicago and Yogi Bear, not forgetting contributions from our French visitors, notably Alouette.
The Super Frelons from Le Rheu, near Rennes, made their 16th consecutive Vets tour last weekend, and as ever added a real joie-de-vivre to the whole occasion. French rugby supporters rarely seem to forget about the fun, even if the form of their national side may have been no laughing matter of late.
Regular visitors the RAF Vultures even brought their mascot Ben Elephant, as part of their fund-raising efforts for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
There were some great stories, although most if not all were subsequently filed under the heading 'tour rules'. The most hilarious one was rewarded with the 'Champagne Moment' prize.
As well as awards for stories and old players, there were some gongs for rugby, with four finals on pitch 1 on Sunday afternoon. The winners in ascending order of performance were:
* Shield: Guy's Hospital Penguins 35 Tonyrefail 19
* Plate: Jersey Wanderers 33 Leeds Corinthian Rattlers 7
* Bowl: Denbigh Dogs 26 RAF Vultures 14
* Final: Henley 28 Guernsey 14
The host club would like to thank:
* Barclays, our sponsor, who support Jersey rugby at all levels
* Sean Dunne, our Club Manager; Myles Landick, our Groundsman; and the army of helpers
* The referees who keep everything running smoothly on the field
* Our band of photographers Jacquie, Rich, Katie and Steve - a selection of their work features here, with more on Facebook, and our music man Mr Chris Tanguy
* Our physio Helen who provides the reassurance that you’re not broken
* Jersey Water for keeping everyone (re)hydrated by kindly bringing in a special tank of drinking water
* Mailmate for printing our programme for many years
* Cliff for his splendid efforts on the microphone
* Kate, who has run the event from the word go and continues to do a marvellous job in organising us all
* Everyone who played, supported, socialised and organised the visiting groups for helping to make the event the happy, fun occasion that it is.
23 Mar 2023
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