THE weekend’s New England Rugby Reunion saw not only players come out of “retirement”, but several clubs too.
The likes of Armidale City, United Colleges, Uralla, Wright College, Armidale Old Boys and Teachers College were all reformed for the weekend, which celebrated 120 years of rugby in New England.
It was a huge occasion with about 700 players dragging the boots out of the cupboard.
For many it was a lot of years since they’d last been worn.
Many of the jerseys hadn’t been seen for a lot of years on the rugby field either.
Wright College were one of the clubs making a comeback.
The club was established in 1958 and had a presence in New England rugby in some form or other until 1993.
They also played under the banner of United and Page Wright
Wright itself was very successful through the ’60s, winning the premiership in 63, 65 and 66, and paved the way for the other college sides.
“The first college team was Wright,” Bruce Driver said.
“There’s quite a lot of tradition here.”
Driver organised the Wright contingent for the weekend.
They had about 35 players don the red jersey again with players coming back from as far away as Perth, Darwin, Canberra and Central Queensland.
“A lot of us haven’t seen each other for about 20 years,” he said.
He said being the smallest college on campus they were often underdogs but they played with a lot of college spirit.
They showed that hasn’t waned over the years on Saturday.
“We didn’t win a game, but we had a fantastic time,” Driver said.
That’s what the weekend was about.
Originally it was just going to be a reunion of the 1988 Armidale Old Boys side that won the colts premiership.
The plan was to play their grand final combatants from that year St Alberts during a round of the New England competition.
It just snowballed from there, and into one of the biggest weekends of rugby in Armidale for a long time.
Organiser Scott Williams was thrilled with how the weekend turned out, and wasn’t surprised by how big it became.
“You’ve got to find people’s heart strings,” he said.
He said everyone remembers training in freezing conditions and playing on iced over fields.
Things like that galvanise in people’s memories.
There was also the factor of catching up with people you haven’t seen for a long time.
“A lot of people here today never would have seen each other again,” Williams said.
Most of the clubs that were invited were involved in the reunion.
There were a couple of extras too.
“One surprise was the New England U12s from 1984 coming,” Williams said.
They wanted to join in the fun.
The weekend took a lot of coordination and was more than a year in planning.
One of the biggest processes was organising the jerseys.
They were all replicated from originals, crest and all.
“Interesting though there were guys out on the field playing, playing in their old jerseys,” Williams said.