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What is Golden Oldies Rugby?

Friday 13 October 2006

What is Golden Oldies Rugby?

Central Wellington streets are now lined with banners announcing the upcoming Air New Zealand Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival.

From 29 October to 5 November, the city will be filled with around 4,000 rugby-mad people from 15 countries for the week-long festival. Teams will come from a variety of countries including Japan, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Cook Islands, Samoa, Australia and of course, New Zealand.

So what is Golden Oldies rugby? Who better to answer this than the Wellington region teams that are gearing up to welcome the guests.

The Horowhenua Crusaders are one of the oldest Golden Oldies teams in New Zealand. They started in 1976 and have traveled to all of the World Rugby Festivals.

“Camaraderie is what it’s all about,” says team manager Michael MacGregor. “Golden Oldies rugby shows that there is life after retirement. There’s no hanging up your boots after you are 35.”

Hutt Valley-based Stokes Valley GANGSTERS have made quite a name for themselves on the national Golden Oldies rugby circuit. Their name tells a story in itself, meaning Gentlemen and Non-players Gathering Sundays to Entertain Rugby Supporters. Their off-the-field attire makes them hard to miss; it includes a gangster-style hat, black shirt and pants, a white tie and braces and sports gear bags in the shape of violins.

“We do stand out, even if I do say so myself,” says team manager Allan Sharman.

The team was set up by a group of friends who all played club rugby together.

Allan says getting involved in Golden Oldies rugby is a logical follow-on from playing club rugby. “It’s basically keeping in touch with friends you’ve gathered over the years. And it’s a good form of fitness.”
He says the Golden Oldies movement also places a huge emphasis on family, where the wives, partners and children often show up in force at games and festivals.

And one of the main priorities is simply to have fun. “The good thing about Golden Oldies rugby is that everyone has a good time,” Allan says.

Golden Oldies rugby began in New Zealand in the late 1970s. Former All Black and New Zealand Rugby Union Councilor Tom Johnson, who lived in the Wellington region at the time, visited North America and found that people remained involved in rugby in Canada and USA through masters’ and veteran’s movements. The first Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival took place in Auckland in 1979.

Distinctive to Golden Oldies rugby is that no score is kept during games, so each game ends as a draw. Golden Oldies rugby also employs a coloured shorts system, which denotes the ability and age of the players. Red shorts mean the player can be claimed but not tackled, gold shorts mean the player cannot be tackled and those aged 70 – 79 wear purple shorts, which mean the player cannot be tackled or touched. The much-celebrated players who are 80+ are awarded special committee shorts.

The 16th Air New Zealand Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival will take place at three rugby grounds around Wellington: Petone Recreation Ground, Kilbirnie Park and the adjacent Evans Bay Park, and Ian Galloway Park.

“The Wellington public is welcome to attend any of the games,” says the festival’s Director of Rugby Operations Steve Dunbar. “This is an opportunity for anyone interested in Golden Oldies rugby to find out what it’s all about.”

Games will take place on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the week, with up to 75 games in total being played each day. At all venues, the game times are 11.00 am, 12.15 pm, 1.30 pm, 2.45 pm and 4.00 pm.


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