Thursday 7 July 2011

Rugby League Characters

This blog is the first in a series about people I have met through my involvement in Rugby.

In 1971 when I joined Bentley, the Doncaster based Amateur Rugby League Club, the coach was Roy Bell. Roy had played professional Rugby League for a number of clubs including Wakefield Trinity. He was a ball handling loose forward, who still played occasionally for Bentley, but only when his gout permitted. Roy was in his late 30s and had had suffered from gout for a number of years. His occasional appearances on the field usually resulted in a win for Bentley as Roy's skills were unique. He was a very good leader and his passes could creat massive gaps in the opposition's defensive line which, providing the right person caught the pass would more than likely result in one of the Bentley players scoring a try.

Bunty Stokes, a prop forward or hooker, was something of a Bentley legend because of his pre-match routine. He used to arrive at the ground before everyone else but would often be jogging onto the field just as the referee was about to start the game. Bunty spent all his time in the dressing room, pre-match, getting himself strapped. He had bandages on virtually every part of his body. The bandages he used were very rarely washed, they were a strange grey colour and went straight into his kitbag after every game. It usually took Bunty at least an hour to strap himself up and if we were late arriving, when we played away, we often had to start without him. Bunty would not take the field unless he had all his strapping on!

Another Bentley character was Trevor Neep. Trevor was quite a small guy but very strong. He was a farmer and rumour had it that he wrestled cows for fitness instead of coming to training. The incident I remember best involving Trevor happened in a game against Eastmoor, a Wakefield based club. The game was on a Sunday morning and because Eastmoor arrived short of players their coach Fred Lindop decided to play. Fred, one of the top referees in the game, hadn't played for many years but decided that his team needed him. Fred was very agressive on the field and ran with great enthusiasm whenever he had the ball. He was also very enthusiastic in defence making more than his fair share of tackles. In the middle of the first half he ran in to tackle Trevor Neep. Trevor, in his usual style, ran straight through Fred's tackle and left him lying on the ground with stud marks on his chest and the beginnings of a beautiful black eye. After a few minutes of treatment Fred was taken from the field, probably for his own safety, and didn't come back. After the game he rushed off in his car as he was refereeing a professional game at Oldham in the afternoon. I understand that he got a very interesting reception from the spectators at Oldham as he ran onto the field with a black eye that by 3.00 o'clock, when the game kicked off, had developed into a real 'shiner'.

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