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Ramblings of a second-row forward: April '72 – June '78
Bevere – the Nissan hut years I joined the Club in April ’72 shortly after starting work for Worcester CC in the Architects Dept. I had considered joining Malvern RFC, as I was buying a house in Cradley, but it was going to be some months before it would be ready to move into. At the time I was travelling back to the family in Warwickshire at week-ends and lodging midweek at the Severn View Hotel in Worcester. I had time on my hands and I was keen to join a club after playing for four years for Rugby Lions. Worcester had a good fixture list and I needed to keep-fit which filled a couple of empty evenings and so it began...
I turned up at Bevere for training, which at that time of the season, was not too serious so there was plenty of time to chat and get-to-know people. Those first training evenings helped to forge friendships which have stood the test of time. I wasn't available for games at the weekend but I could play during mid-week. One evening I found myself pulling on the Gold and Navy shirt for the second fifteen and packed down in the second-row with Martin Richardson (better known as "Skiddy" - I never really found out how he came by the name). The Richardson brothers were well known in the Club. Jem was a former first team captain and had played for North Mids. Pete switched between rugby and rowing. Another Richardson, no relation to the afore-mentioned brothers, was David, a front –row forward who looked after me over the next few years. I was very vulnerable jumping at the front of the lineout with both hands in the air and feet off the ground. David and I forged a good partnership and we went on to become long-standing friends. My recollections of those 'end of season' training sessions are quite hazy but I do remember meeting Nev South, David Veal, Jim Coomber, Tony Halford; all full-on characters who became friends. Sadly Nev and Jim have since passed on. Mention should be made of the ground and clubhouse at Bevere Drive; it's location in the middle of a housing estate, two pitches and World War 2 Nissan huts as clubhouse, changing rooms etc. Saturday night dances were atmospheric and well attended, much to the annoyance of the local residents. The get-togethers after the game in the Nissan hut were very much family affairs. I know my two young girls soon made friends with the other players and their families.
I received a welcome letter at the beginning of the 72/73 season from the Secretary, Brian Howells which I thought was a nice touch. David Walter was Club coach and Dave Robbins (DIR) was First team Captain. I managed to be selected in the First XV and partnered Clem (The Fish) Davies in the second row for most of the season. Clem was the enforcer, so if there was any trouble he invariably sorted it. I remember playing Kenilworth and DIR was having trouble in the scrums with his opposite number so he asked Clem to fix the problem. At the next scrum there was a grunt and both hookers collapsed, unfortunately DIR was left on the ground and had to be taken to hospital where he had 20 odd stitches in his eyelid; a bad case of mistaken identity?
Another character who joined at the same time was Ivor Lloyd, a scrum-half who had played for the Tank Regiment overseas. Our paths were destined to cross as he lived just a few miles from Cradley which was to be my home for the next forty years. As Team-mates, we took turns to drive into and out of Worcester. If I drove we came back via Rushwick and the country road to Suckley, if Ivor drove it was the A417 back to Cradley. Needless to say there were plenty of watering holes whichever route was taken. No matter who was driving it was always "Let’s get over the Worcester bridge before 8 o’clock". Lloydy was a scrum-half who was difficult to keep down, he had a quick service and was always sniping around the opposition scrum-half. He did expect lineout ball on a plate so when there was a an occasional 'one off the top' he did moan "not another Terry Hackling tap-down". In spite of all the banter, we have been friends forever.
Roger Davis also joined that season. He played as a Number 8 and during the season we got to know each other very well. We had building construction in common, Roger was an Architect and I was a Quantity Surveyor. This proved to be an ideal combination to be linked with the Club’s move to an alternative ground. It was during this year that Dave Robbins took to calling everyone "Ern". I think it was because he enjoyed the Morecombe and Wise television show. It is strange to think that some players who played under Dave's captaincy still call each other Ern even after nearly 50 years. Other names from that season Tim Shaw (centre), Bill Davies (wing), Terry Skyrme (fly-half) Alwyn Morris (prop) and a young Paul West (wing-forward) , Dick Turner(second-row), Phil Collins (full back).
73/74: My second season in the navy and gold. Coach and captain remained the same. Overall the results were slightly improved over the previous season. The major event during this season was the sale of the Club’s ground at Bevere Drive and the purchase of the land at junction 6 of the M5 motorway, later to be named Sixways. Roger Davis and I were appointed in a professional capacity to prepare tender documents for the new clubhouse and siteworks. The cost of the work in May 1974 was £105,416 and the successful bid was from a local Worcester building company – Spicers Builders.
Worcester’s last game at Bevere was against Blaenavon on 24 April 1974 with Worcester running out winners 19 -17. The new ground had quite a high water table so constructing the drainage work presented some difficulties. A new glass-fibre onion shaped septic tank was being installed and required a large excavation to be continually pumped to clear the ground water. Once the tank was installed, the pumps were shut-off and just to be on the safe side a JCB digger was driven over the top of the tank and left overnight. The next morning the digger was on its side and the tank was well out of the ground due to the extreme water table pressure. Needless-to-say a revised scheme was quickly devised and installed. Brian Gunston joined during the season and soon made the scrum-half position his own rapidly earning the nickname the "Dursley Dodger".
74/75 Sixways ground but no clubhouse. Neville South elected 1st XV captain. No coach. Not the easiest of seasons as home games had to be played mainly at Sixways but still using the changing rooms at Bevere. We had no clubhouse so used the Swan at Whittington for après-rugby activities. Occasionally Perdiswell Sports Fields was used; a wide open expanse of individual sports fields but it did have changing facilities, although they were a considerable distance away from the actual rugby pitch. I remember one instance when one of the front row needed the loo at half-time; when he finally made it back the second-half was nearly over. He was never allowed to forget his call of nature. Names from that season : Nigel Clay (wing-forward and Tax Inspector for the Inland Revenue).
75/76 Sixways – the beginning. Neville South captain for a second year, still no coach appointed. A big year for the club; beginning with the opening of the new ground and clubhouse on 4th September 1975 by Mike Gibson, Ireland International. He played in the centre alongside Nev – an experience for both of them. The new clubhouse and ground proved to be a great success. Johny Morewood and his wife Pam were appointed club stewards and made a great job looking after members and visitors alike. Max Boyce played to a full house on a couple of occasions, with plenty of "oggi oggi oggi". Names from that season: Richard Loughran, Strider to some of his friends (full back). Known to entertain the crowd by doing hand springs when all the playing action was at the other end of the pitch. Martin Pocock (second-row/nr 8), probably the youngster in the side but destined for a interesting career for Worcester, the County side and finally at Malvern RFC.
76/77 Sixways - Neville South captain for a Third term with Andy Hamill, an Irishman from Ballymena, appointed as coach. This was a reasonable season where we won more than we lost. The Floodlight Trophy competition still proved to be a stumbling block, we were knocked – out by Coventry, the current holders, losing 0 -20.
I missed one game that season; against Stoke, at home, due to a very bizarre incident. That particular day I was in charge of my two girls, 7 and 4 years old respectively. My wife was a County Netball player and was playing away, she normally looked after them but this day thought I should be in charge. I had arranged for the steward's wife to look after them. Just before kick-off I was told that the youngest had been knocked down and the ambulance was there already. There was panic in the dressing room and one of the third team players was quickly promoted. I immediately changed out of rugby kit and left in the ambulance with both girls. Kate had concussion and was kept in overnight as a precaution. She was fine the next day but my life was a misery for the next few days. Later I found out that Kate had been knocked down by the same lady I had asked to look after them. It was a very unfortunate incident, Kate had run out in front of her car which luckily was going very slowly. Needless-to-say I was never asked to look after them again on a Saturday when I was playing. Names from that season: Glynn Griffiths (centre), Guy Griffiths (hooker)(no relation to Glynn), Mickey Knott(wing-forward/ centre), Chris Johnstone (utility back row), Andy Gebhart (wing-forward), Mark Davies (full-back/ flyhalf).
77/78 Sixways - Mickey Knott elected captain. Andy Hamill, coach for the first half of the season, Dave Robbins completed the second half. Little did I know at the start of the year that this would be my last season playing for Worcester. A strange season overall. Thanks to a successful Cup run we managed to win more than we lost but there were 10 games cancelled for one reason or another. We managed to beat Camp Hill in the North Midlands Cup Final 9 - 0.
Our reward for winning was an away game against Chesterfield in the qualifying competition for the John Player Cup, unfortunately we lost 9 -18. Towards the end of the season I knew that I was going to retire. I was in the process of buying an old derelict cottage in Cradley. We were selling our modern 4-bed house and planning to live on site in a caravan while the cottage was modernised. It meant working full time as Quantity Suveyor and then working evenings and weekends on site. There would be no time for rugby for the next eighteen months or so. I missed the camaraderie of being part of a team but those friendships forged in the heat of battle on the rugby field have with-stood the passage of time. I couldn’t have wished for a better rugby club to join all those years ago. The Club, and Rugby, have changed considerably in the intervening years but when I watch Worcester in the Premiership I still bleed “Navy and Gold”.
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