The Coffs Gropers Golden Oldies Rugby team play regular social games, get together for a drink once a week and also love an international tour whenever they get the chance. We spoke to Greg Ward about what the team is all about and what he enjoys most about being a member.
Hey Greg. Tell us how the Coffs Gropers Golden Oldies came to be?
During the ’90s, some retired players had been playing the odd game together, using the name Gropers, and in early 2000s they got more organised and incorporated the club, purchased jumpers etc. There were already clubs up and down the coast playing on a regular basis, so the Gropers played irregularly against them and toured NZ in 2003, playing in the World Golden Oldies Tournament in Wellington. Some traditions were forged on that trip, some nicknames were born, legends spawned, and an appetite for touring developed.
How often do you guys meet up?
About 20 Gropers play Touch every Thursday in a social game amongst themselves on the beach, then meet at the Coast Hotel every Friday for a few social beers. We also sell raffle tickets and put funds towards helping develop some of the great junior rugby talent coming out of the Coffs Coast.
Do people who join the team need to have experience in rugby?
Some of our members have spent a lifetime playing Rugby, but others not at all. Enthusiasm and a thirst is all that is required.
Who makes up the Gropers, and what would you say is the average age of the group?
Our members come from all walks of life, some are retired, most are now over 50, and Cecil is 80+ (we lost count!) We also enjoy a very close association with our neighbouring clubs, Woopi Wobbygongs and the DUBs from Dorrigo/Urunga/Bellingen.
How do you feel Rugby helps the members?
We liken our club to the Men’s Shed – a bit of casual, non-competitive sport, a common interest in Rugby, and a very social element.
Golden Oldies Rugby isn’t just local, but a more international organisation. How many teams and players would you say there is worldwide?
The World Tournaments attract some 3,000 players from many countries, so I imagine there would be ten times that many in clubs worldwide. The prospect of a tour sometimes ignites the formation of teams of former school mates, former club mates or work mates for that particular tournament.
What are some of the destinations Coffs Gropers have played both locally and internationally?
After the first tour to New Zealand, we have travelled to tournaments in Japan, Argentina, Norfolk Island, Cook Islands, and back to Wellington in NZ last year. We also attend carnivals in Moree, Walcha, Barraba, Port Macquarie, and others as far north as Ballymore. We are planning a tour to Prague and Warsaw next year and will be the first Southern Hemisphere team to ever play in those competitions.
What’s it like playing against teams from around the world?
Playing internationally is always a highlight; meeting players and having a game of rugby with similar Rugby enthusiasts and partaking in a few refreshing ales afterwards is what it’s all about. Rugby is an international language. Having a beer after a game in Mar del Plata, Argentina, with the former Japanese PM, Yosi Mori was interesting (not sure what he said though), and former Wallaby Steve Larkham joined the Gropers in Christchurch and added some spark to our backline.
What has been one of your most personal favourite moments while playing the Gropers?
Our club is well stocked with comedians and jokers, so there is never a dull moment either on the paddock, on the bus or at the pub, so every season is full of great moments. The clubs we play against usually contain former opponents or team mates from years gone by, so you can imagine the social side is always eagerly anticipated.
For anyone looking to join the Coffs Gropers, where is the best place they can get in contact?
We gather at the Coast Hotel every Friday at about 5pm for a quick couple and play a casual game of Touch at Jetty Beach every Thursday starting at 5:30pm(after Daylight Saving finishes, we play at Rugby Park).