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Worcester Rugby Football Club Former Players Association
A long, long time ago, (1956) in a far off country called Bevere, several young men (well they were then) decided to form a Colts section attached to Worcester Rugby Club under the auspices of Glyn Jones, a Teacher at Nunnery Wood High School. The success of the Colts section was the foundation upon which in 1970, a Mini Junior Section of the Club was formed. Several former players were instrumental in the formation of the Mini Junior Section, Phil Collins, Mike Robins, Bill Mason and others. Eventually, once a year, the fathers of the Mini Junior Section held an annual Boxing Day match against the former players of the Club. This again was a great success and a trophy was presented to the winning team – "The Boot", and there is also the "Kevin Houghton Memorial Trophy". These trophies were both on display in the Platinum Lounge of the Club for many years, and may still be displayed somewhere. The Kevin Houghton Memorial Trophy was presented by the late Anne Patrick of Kempsey, whose boyfriend, Kevin Houghton was killed in a motor car accident, and who was a player at the Club. And so the seeds were planted for greater things. Bevere was
sold and the land at Sixways was purchased and a Clubhouse and facilities were built and opened by the Irish and British Lions International, Mike Gibson, in 1972. The years passed and many happy events and times were held in the Clubhouse – remember Max Boyce, until our Benefactor, Cecil Duckworth, became involved through the encouragement of David Hallmark.
How time flies, it only seems like yesterday that David Hodgson, President of the Club at the time, at the Annual Club Dinner suggested that we should form a Former Players Association, similar to that which was in operation at Leicester and other well know Clubs. For some unknown reason he also suggested that I should be the one to form it. That was in 1995. With the support of many people we established a set of rules and regulations and formed a committee.
The Chairman was the late and great Bernard Blower, Alan Dally was Treasurer and a Committee of Brian Jones and Derek Thompson. From there a Database was e stablished with as many names and addresses of Former Players that we could think of, or gain access to, a Membership Form was designed and a Fee of £5.00 was agreed upon to cover postage, stationary etc. The following year the first Former Players Dinner was held in the old Clubhouse, with outside
This then became an annual event, always held on the last home game of the season, and that became the foundation of what we have today.
The success of the Former Players could not have been as successful as it has become without the help and support of the Club itself and in particular the late Maxine James who worked for the Club. She was the foundation on which the Association established itself. As the Association grew she took over the postage of invitation letters to all the Former Players, persuaded the Club to handle all the financial issues, and helped on the day itself. Without her involvement I doubt whether the Former Players Association would have survived. It was in recognition of her support, help and encouragement that the Former Players Reunion held on 7th May 2016 was entitled "The Maxine James memorial Lunch", at which her husband Don and daughter Pam were guests of the Former Players. Mention must also be made of the unstinting support, encouragement and help given by Kathy Leather during her tenure at Warriors, and is still very much involve in the Wanderers with her partner, Steve Lloyd.
The majority of the Membership came from the original Colts and junior teams and latterly the senior teams. No doubt many of you will remember the late Terry Price, Mickey Knott, James Coomber, Jim Booth, Terry Waldron, Roger Phillips, Neville South, Mike Robins, Derek Hyde, John Lumby, Peter Pinnell, Bob Paul, Bill Davis, Dennis Hooker, Richard Kimberley John Crawford and of course a well know name in the history of Worcester Rugby Club, Brian Wilkes, who was President of the Association for many years, and I am honoured to be his successor, also of course the special story of Dan James. There are many others who have passed on since the formation of the Former Players Association, and I am sure will be remembered in all our hearts with affection. One of the important parts of the annual lunch was to ensure the invitation of the widows of any former players were invited guests of the Association and I am pleased to say that many came along to rlive happy memories.
Over the years the Association grew in size and format and was, in recent years held in the Lounge above the Scrum Club. These became must attend events for former players, with many well-known guest speakers, including our benefactor, Cecil Duckworth, some from the RFU Committee itself, some well-known former players, radio personalities, (Dave Bradley), and politicians including Sir Hal Miller, former MP for Bromsgrove, RFU Council Member and at the time President of Blackheath RFC. Also our local MP Robin Walker MP(currently Minister of State for Northern Ireland) and more locally Adrian Gregson, leader of the Worcester Labour Party.
The lunch is always well attended and in recent year reached over 200, with former players coming from all over the world, including New Zealand. The arrival of the Premiership era meant that players were moving between Clubs and no longer played out a complete career at one Club. Also the format of the Administration at the Club, who had provided invaluable help and support, not only through Maxine, but in her successors, meant that things were changing.
The development of Sixways into a major stadium suited to a premiership and the regime change and development of Weston Fields was a significant event in the life of the Former Players Association, enabling a settled and firm foundation for the future. The annual Former Players Luncheon, still traditionally held on the last home match of the season, has moved from Sixways to the Clubhouse of Worcester Wanderers. This was a wise and sensible
decision as the Wanderers IS the amateur and independent part of the Club, and where all the building blocks of the Former Players Association were formed.
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