Stephen Rank: You're never too old for a bit of ruggers!
There is no greater full-contact team sport than rugby, but at what age does your body start to tell you enough is enough? It's very common to have players who lace up well into their 50's hence the creation of Masters Rugby. However Stephen Rank is not your usual Masters dogsbody. At the ripe age of 52, Rank is still able to perform at one of the highest levels of amateur rugby and has played for his hometown club, Morpeth RUFC since 1992! Here's what Stephen Rank had to say to GRM in regards to Grassroots Rugby and longevity within the sport:
1. Tell us a little bit about your Grassroots Story
"I Currently play for Morpeth RFC and have done since 1992, I have also played for Beverley , Darlington Mowden Park , Nottingham Casuals and Northallerton 1st XV’s! My currently position is now hooker but I've played most of my rugby at 7 (flanker). I refereed up to level 7 for a few seasons , I now only ref the Junior games now on a Sunday morning .
2. How would you describe your playing style using a past or present professional rugby player?
" I would say I play hard! My style of play is very competitive but fair and I always like a bit of crack with my opposite number . I've been known to stretch the interpretation of laws on occasions . Most like Peter Wheeler (1980’s )"
3. How old were you when you first started playing rugby and what got you into the sport?
" I first played rugby at boarding school in Nottingham whilst my parents lived in South Africa in 1976. It was compulsory!"
4. Has rugby changed much since your junior playing days? if so would you say it is for the better of worse?
" Rugby is much faster and cleaner now . It is also more inclusive , I have played in several touch rugby tournaments with my wife , two daughters and son which are social events run by the Newcastle Falcons."
5. What are some of your best memories playing rugby?
" Funniest thing was on a rugby tour with Nottingham Casuals to Rheims in France! We went to a civic reception after a tournament with the Mayor of the town doing the presentations . After a few drinks the French teams and ourselves started playing naked bar skittles much to the Mayor’s disgust but to the delight of the local ladies!
6. Do you get up to much outside of rugby?
" When not playing rugby as said before , I referee , but I also ride a road bike and swim. For my 50th birthday I rode the C2C in one day and completed the Scilly Islands swim challenge which completely broke me!"
7. What advice would you give to people of a similar age to yourself who are in two minds about returning to rugby?
" If anybody my age wants to start playing rugby I would strongly recommend it whether you want to play touch rugby which is great fun or full contact . Most rugby clubs are now running ladies as well as men’s teams so there is something for everyone . Local clubs are always looking for players and are very welcoming . In my opinion rugby is the best team sport to play and the camaraderie within rugby clubs is second to none".