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You first found rugby at college, and, after graduation, learned that there were rugby clubs to join in the city you now lived in. And what fun and enjoyment to play through your twenties with a great bunch of guys who also loved the sport and the good times. Then, around 35-years old, when the bruises and stiffness did not go away in a week between matches, you made the necessary but sad decision to hang up the boots.
Too old to play. Too many job and family responsibilities at home. Only the memories and the absent meniscus remained to remind you of those past rugger days.
But something wonderful and unexpected happened; older aged men formed Old Boys sides for players over 35 and over 40 and up. Now you could continue to play on a casual basis, infrequently, but still dressing up in a kit too small for your middle-aged spread.
Maybe a game or two or three a season against other sides your own age in reduced minute matches with ample substitution. And, wonderfully, a continuation of the post-game party and those hilariously, oft-repeated stories.
Give credit to the Japanese for being the first to form these extended aged clubs, and thanks to New Zealand for giving the nascent world tournament its memorable name, the Golden Oldies.
In 1985, the fourth Golden Oldies event was held in London, welcoming 144-teams representing 22-countries, and over 4,500 registered players. In that time, it constituted the largest sporting event ever assembled in Great Britain.
The USA sent over the most number of teams, regaling all with humorous attire. The Old Frothonians from Southern California dressed their standard bearer in a Disney “Goofy” costume who led the team that was wearing goofy hats with floppy ears.
That year, there was serious rugby and social rugby among the sides where points were tallied but result standings were not.
The rules were also stretched in the spirit of casual play, noticeably, in the game between the Australian Waaga Blue Healers against the USA World Owls. Rugby under the regular rules for the first period, followed by impromptu movements that included 60-year old Wallaby Harry Imivey being carried over the try line for a score by the opposition. And the Americans in gridiron formation, completing a 40-yeard pass (brought back of course). The game continued as the referee invited all players from both teams on to the pitch in a melee reminiscent of the school mob assembled en masse on the Close at Rugby School in 1823.
Great fun. Great tour. Great rugby.
USA Teams Participating
C.O.B.R.A. All Pinks
Chesapeake Old Boys RFC
Detroit Old Guys Select
Gents of NY
Lake Agassiz Dragons
Middle Aged Rugby Side
New England Mystics
Old BATS RFC
Penn State M.A.R.S. II
Pittsburgh Old Boys
Sacramento Old Boys
San Francisco Seniors
Seattle Old Guard
USA World Owls