“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” – Oliver Wendell Homes.
Saturday is a rugby day! On Sept. 12, in 32C Okanagan sunshine, a few dozen good men gathered in Kelowna to play the game they love best.
The Priest Valley Vicars hosted our Cariboo Old Boys along with the Cobras from Calgary and the Edmonton Antediluvians.
The day could not have been better, despite Calgary having to borrow a few players to field their team.
In Old Boy’s Rugby, the rookies are 38 years old.
There is one pair of gold shorts on the pitch, telling his teammates and opponents that he is a septuagenarian and, as it happens, the eldest player this weekend.
Gold shorts do not get hit, nor do the octogenarians in purple shorts, none of whom were represented in this particular match. The majority of the players are in their 40s, (white shorts), and 50s, (black shorts), but a few 60-somethings in red shorts are present as well; they can tackle each other, but no one else can.
Nobody has more fun than these guys. They play hard, but they also know how much tougher it is to recover from their weekend-warrior injuries, so they don’t go after the kill in quite the same way as they did a few years ago. Regardless of the wisdom that accompanies age, the rugby being played is not watered down in any way.
The hits are hard, the passing is solid and there are still some serious speed merchants running the ball across the line.
They played 10-a-side games in 10-minute halves; five games were played all day and our home team did very well.
They won 6-4 over the Vicars.
Travis Whiting, now of Kelowna, was our man of the match.
Grady Sjokvist, now of Kamloops, was our man of the match against a combined Alberta effort, resulting in a 7-3 win for the Old Boys.
In the 15-a-side final battle, pitting BC against Alberta, the score was 6 to 3, in favour of B.C. and Derek Funk was our man of the match.
The penultimate challenge, and the truest test of their mettle came in the post-game boat race.
The Cariboo Old Boys with one extra man serving to handicap, took on Alberta, and beat them seemingly effortlessly.
Dean Fulton served double duty and so was named man of the boat race.
All in all, it was a glorious day.
Old friends caught up with each other, new friendships were forged; aches, pains and bruises were quickly forgotten with the salve of barbecue, beer, laughter and song.
With the Rugby World Cup currently being fought for, and our home-town pride, Jake Ilnicki, representing our country, rugby lovers are a frenzied lot these days.
Kayla Moleschi is training to represent Canada at the Olympics in Women’s 7s. This sport is growing by leaps and bounds; 150 years or so ago, William Webb Ellis did not see women playing rugby, nevermind as an Olympic event, and I doubt that he envisioned the game being adapted to keep players playing into their 70s and 80s, he not having achieved gold-shorts status in his lifetime.
The greatest thing about rugby is the amazing circle of people who surround it.
This is an inclusive group who live, not only to play the game, but to be a part of the energy and camaraderie that it creates.
If you’re thinking about dusting off your boots and lacing them up, visit Facebook and ask to join the Cariboo Old Boys group, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.