19/05/2017

More than a game...

I think I can trace my love of Rugby and all associated with it back to three things.

Firstly, as indeed with most things, the influence of a teacher. Or in this case, the spouse of a teacher! Mrs Shatford's husband was a keen rugby player and he used to come into Westward Farm Junior School in Tilehurst every week after school in the mid-1970s to introduce the eager and intrigued member's of his wife's class to the basics of the game. Not something that regularly happened before starting secondary school in those days; certainly not where football was all you tended to play in the winter months!

Secondly, with my Mum's side of the family coming from Swansea childhood holidays offered a wonderful opportunity to become immersed in the sport - and its community values -  in an area I have always regarded as its cultural home. Every Easter The Barbarians would take part in a traditional holiday tour against South Wales' major clubs, culminating in a gloriously free-flowing game against Swansea on Easter Monday at the famous, iconic St. Helen's Ground along the Mumbles Road....

St Helen's Stadium 

And thirdly, I remember being enthralled as a nine-year-old when I picked up a book in our local Library about the British Lions first victorious Tour to New Zealand a couple of years earlier in 1971...

Roaring Lions Book

I think this curiosity had in turn had been promoted by watching The Barbarians play New Zealand at Cardiff in 1973. A game which was billed as an unofficial re-match from the tour when the balance of Southern Hemisphere Rugby power would surely be re-asserted. A game which witnessed arguably the greatest and most replayed try of all time...

The whole mythology and mystique of those Lions tours to the Southern Hemisphere in an age without Sky Sports or social media was captivating; literally the stuff of legend. They have famously been described as ' a cross between a medieval crusade and a Sunday School outing.' We certainly wish Park House's own JJ - Jonathan Joseph - all the very best as he embarks on his own Odyssey in New Zealand later this summer..

Jonathan Jospeh
www.lionsrugby.com

Jonathan Joseph with Derek Peaple 

Winston Churchill of course once called Rugby 'a hooligan's game played by gentlemen'.

And it was at a dinner in Cardiff last Friday to preview the forthcoming Lions Tour that I had privilege of being able to listen to the wise words of one of the true gentlemen of Welsh and British Game - a legendary player who was a key part in that 1971 tour: Gerald Davies...

Gerald Davies

A former teacher himself, Gerald spoke of the values and qualities of character that bind together players from different backgrounds, his words resonating with anyone in education who seeks to build a team in a school, be that a tutor group, class or subject department. A childhood hero who lived up to every expectation forty years on. It was pleasure to spend time with him...

Gerald Davies with Derek Peaple
Gerlad Davies autobiography
Gereal Davies signature

The evening was organised by The Events Room...

I've been so impressed by working with them since we held our first Evening With the All Blacks last Autumn, followed by the Nigel Owens event in March...

Rugby Legends 1
Rugby Legends 2

The events that they organise also crucially support a local charity or cause through fundraising or the sale of memorabilia, so they have a real sense of purpose and giving back to the community, resonating with our own values as a school.

In this context, last Friday's evening in Cardiff was also therefore an opportunity to learn from another of the truly great gentleman of Rugby, and to reflect on the legacy of his values...

We are now looking forward to exploring how we can work with the Bill McLaren Foundation here at school to further its aims.

And that's why for me Rugby will always be more than a game...

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