I never played Colts Rugby, for at least two reasons. (Female and hate pain.) I started playing hockey again at university so I get the whole Colts thing. We used to travel all over Wales to play, and being at Aberystwyth, every game was two hours away, which required a mini bus on a Saturday and a coach on a Wednesday.
Playing with your mates is a fantastic feeling. You have so much in common at that age. You are playing for the joy of the game, against opposition who generally feels the same. Your mates are all going through what you are - exams, study, first excursions in the adult world with perhaps jobs, definately alcohol and the opposite sex. There is an unwritten understanding between you that you are playing for each other, and because you are single - that is a 100% commitment.
One Wednesday, in particular, we played at Swansea University. Swansea were the real rivals, having an excellent 1st XI as well. We won 2-0. (as a goalkeeper the nil was the thing I strived for the most). They had over half their team as university internationals, as opposed to our 4 players. After the game we had the post match teas. Pie chips and beans for the hockey girls and rugby boys, salad for the footballers and netball players (I kid you not). The three coaches of sports people were divided up into those that went home early (generally the footballers and netballers), the rugby boys, and the late stayers - which was generally the hockey girls and odd obscure sport (Squash etc.) We were not allowed into the Swansea Students Union. A little matter of a Juke Box going through a window a few years earlier. (Must have been playing Abba at the time). And so we went down the Mumbles mile. I think there was something like 13 pubs along the Gower front. The beautiful Gower peninsular was hidden from view for two reasons:
1. It was dark
2. Being Wales it was raining.
We were picked up about 10 o'clock outside the Dylan Thomas pub, on the coaches. The rugby boys went on one. A really old one, as the only way the coach company would take them was to use a clapped out of charabang. This was due to an enthusiastic rendition of Father Abraham, when all the windows were punched out a few years earlier. (they must have been one hell of a party side.) The rest got on a newer more comfortable model - us being ladies and all that. The return journeys were always fantastic trips. We sung many songs, some of which would have been acceptable in church, particular favourites being the song in the title, Roll a Silver Dollar and Show me the way to go home.
Watching as an adult, and for three years as a parent, the camaradarie and team spirit of the colts reminds me of those heady times, and I get where they are. For every game of Ye Ha, there was a game of Rabbits. For every pint out of a shoe, there was a round of Cardinal Puff. For every Staffordshire Cup, there was a Welsh Universities League win. NB 80% of the players were English, so it's always good to get one over the colonials.
The team spirit is both admired in the Club and envied. Envy because older players remember their own Colts days, and I think almost wish they were back there, away from the cynicism of the Leagues where the spirit of amateur rugby is lost amongst players trying to get the most for themselves, will kill a ball rather than compete for it, and take a cheap shot at a younger, fitter, faster player. They are now playing with people they cannot always relate to. Some have families, careers, other interests which perhaps come first. Age is no longer a consideration, but ability, and they may have nothing in common with the other 14 (22) players.
They are the most consistent team in the club, winning the Staffordshire Cup with alarming regularity, and yet in adult rugby the club never quite build on their success - with other clubs in the Midlands turning their Colts into a successful 1st team. Something I think the club should focus on how we can put that right, and get more players adult rugby ready. (Dudley K's have won promotion based on their Colts winning side of two years ago. one the Colts of that time beat on their route to the National Plate Final, and yet only 4 players are in the Burton 1sts.) hence there is a steady drift of young players from the Club. Burton are not unique in this, but if we can crack that problem, then the Community Club we aspire to will build.
In terms of my own hockey career, I continued to play, pregnancy aside for the next 20 years. I enjoyed it immensely, but it never ever reached the heady days of the Univerity 1sts. Sure I still have trophies at home, the players talented, but we were no longer on the same wavelength as people.
Well done to the Colts team - Staffordshire Cup champions for the 4th time in 5 years.
Happy memories of the Aber girls - 80-82.
As a postscript, I have just found quotes by Will Greenwood (World Cup Winner) and Ollie Philips (england 7's international and professional rugby player:
If I had to give something back in a Faustian Pact to ensure immortality and I had to choose between returning my world cup medal or having my memory of 3 years deleted from existence, there is no contest. The medal is in the post. The 3 greatest years of my life were spent on a rugby field at Durham University”.
"My days tearing around the terrain of the sacred Hollow Drift have to sit right up there as one of the fondest memories of my rugby career. The spirit that is embedded within Durham University is the pure ethos of rugby itself and is the very reason why I still play this great game. Cut me open and I bleed the Palatinate purple. It is very foundations of my rugby existence and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Thank you DURFC."
'All I have to do is Dream' - Everly Brothers - I don't know why, but it was the song on the coach on the way home.