Cyfarchion O Cymru!
Greetings From Wales!
The Antediluvians RFC (ARFC) tour to the 21st Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival was August 21-18, 2016. This was the Antediluvians 4th visit to the GO Festival having previously attending Edinburgh, Scotland (2008), Sydney, Australia (2010), and Mar Del Plata, Argentina (2014). The Antediluvians were “Team Canada” at this GO Festival being the only Canadian Team in attendance. Other countries respective number of the teams from their country attending included Argentina (2), Australia (38), Bahamas (1), Brazil (1), England (2), Germany (1), Japan (9), New Zealand (13), Russia (1), Scotland (1), USA (6), and Wales (9). The grand total after late registrations was a total of 15 countries and 87 teams, with over 2,000 participants. The largest and longest running old boys rugby festival in the world.
The Antediluvians were great Canadian Ambassadors on and off the field in Cardiff. On the first day of our arrival Saturday August 20, a number of our tour group attended an ice hockey game at the local arena cheering on the Cardiff Devils semi pro team to a last second 3-2 victory over the visiting Czech Republic club team. The good old hockey game.
The official first day, Sunday August 21st, was the official kickoff of the Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival. The teams all congregated at the historic Cardiff Castle in the Welsh mist to begin the parade of nations through the Cardiff city core into Principality Stadium (formerly known as Millennium Stadium, new home for the Welsh National Rugby team and key venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup). There was a great abundance of food and drink and we were treated to a few songs performed by the Welsh Men’s Choir.
The ARFC had the unique Canadian parade theme of a combination of RCMP with their popular hats and lumberjacks, to recreate the classic Monty Python song “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK!” It was a great party late into the night meeting old and new rugby friends from around the globe.
The first day of games at the Cardiff University Fields was August 22nd. The ARFC had a late 3:30 pm kickoff. Tour Manager Arnie Gaudin had the ARFC team report for an early bus departure to ensure everyone got the full value of the day. One of the interesting story lines of the ARFC team was our oldest tour member, Norm Suvan, who recently turned 80 years young, and was playing for us in purple shorts.
The purple shorts are somewhat like a Purple Cross war medal in old boys rugby. A purple short player is allowed to run 15 meters with the ball, and no opposing player is even allowed to breathe on him. Norm is a pioneer in Edmonton rugby having been the founding member of the Edmonton Leprechauns Tigers RFC and the founder of the Edmonton Tigers RFC. He was a key person in the development of Ellerslie Rugby Park, home of the Edmonton Rugby Union. The Antediluvians first game was against the Bundaberg Rumruckers from Australia. Norm had Ashley Festor (daughter of Gayle Festor, recently deceased Tiger backrow legend), a videographer and photographer along to create the upcoming movie hit coming soon to the Cannes Film Festival "The Man in the Purple Shorts".
True to their name, after the opening kickoff the game was stopped by the Rumruckers to give all players on both teams a shot glass of their famous Bundaberg Rum. All Golden Oldies Rugby games officially end in a tie, but of course everyone being naturally competitive, keeps score. The Antediluvians demonstrated good forward control play, great passing and running by the backs, excellent defense and tackling to earn a 5-3 victory. The Bundaberg Rumruckers served up another round of rum shots, perhaps for medicinal purposes.
After the games at the playing fields, there was a great festival atmosphere of the teams mingling in the open air beer gardens, with ample supply of food and drink. As is the custom at these events, players and supporters trade game jerseys, hats, souvenirs, etc. The shuttle busses, on which there was great singing and harmonica playing, take the teams back to their respective hotels, to refresh before heading out on Cardiff Town. Cardiff having a population of 350,000 people, has a very large number of pubs and restaurants for everyone to enjoy.
Day 3 of the GO Festival Tuesday August 23 was a day off for the teams from the rugby pitch. This was the Big Day Out celebration at the iconic St. David's Hall, a stunning performing arts building in the heart of Cardiff. The celebration included food, drink, a live classic rock band, The Gilletes. In the auditorium was a formal program, with Phil Steele the well known Welsh rugby commentator, interviewing the classic Welsh rugby legends JPR Williams and Adrian Hadley. The audience got to ask some questions from the floor. The Antediluvians asked JPR his recollection of playing for the Barbarians RFC vs the New Zealand All Blacks in 1973, and being part of what many consider, the greatest rugby try ever scored down the road at Cardiff Arms Park. JPR did a masterful job of telling the story, highlighting Phil Bennett catching the ball by his goal line and side stepping some charging All Blacks, before starting to pass the ball. Eventually after some incredible running and passing by 7 players, Gareth Edwards scores in the corner to seal the victory for the Baba's. After the formal program, we had a great photo moment, and one on one visiting with JPR, for some select Antediluvians. Now on a roll, we headed down to the near by pub, The Arcade, to meet the friendly Welsh Rugby legend Barry John. It was a great afternoon in a Cardiff. Mick Molroney, an old team mate and friend of Norm Suvan joined the tour for a couple of days from his home in Dublin Ireland.
Day 4 Wednesday August 24 was our second day of games. The Antediluvians played the Emulators RFC from Orange NSW Australia. On the back of their playing jerseys was their great motto, "Adventure Before Dementia". On the front of their jerseys was their distinctive mascot for the tour, a Welsh dragon body with the head of an Emu. The game was an open free wheeling running affair.
Ray the Aussie referee was the best ref we had the entire festival. He allowed the teams to play a wide open passing and attacking game, and pulled the chain on the lads when required. Final score 7-3 for the Antediluvians.
After the game against the Emulators RFC, on a beautiful sunny blue sky day, the Antediluvians helped make history in the Guinness World Record Book. All the players, supporters, buss drivers, and concession workers at the beer gardens were required to set the new world record of 1,297 people, ranging from 4 to 87 years old, in the world's largest rugby scrum. Essentially, two teams of front, second and back row players, dressed in red and white shirts, running from goal line to goal line, who braved strained bladders and backs. It generated a huge amount of UK and international media attention, making the BBC National Sports, BBC National Radio (featuring an interview with Antediluvians RFC President Eric Germain), and national newspapers. The scrum was certified by the Welsh Festival Ambassador, rugby ref Nigel Owens. Nigel was also awarded with the Guinness World record of reffing the most international rugby matches. Truly a memorable occasion, and you got a free souvenir t-shirt for your trouble.
One of the unique Antediluvians individual tour awards was "Turd of the Day". The recipient was chosen from a long list of nominees for the day, by Tour Manager Arnie Gaudin and Team Captain Mike O'Donahue, and democratically endorsed by the tour group. The lucky recipients in order were, Wade Hines (missed the bus to the first day game with Adam Stamper),
Eliah McQuaid (made a great tackle on the opening kickoff of the first game on a very surprised gentleman wearing purple shorts),
James Chick (gave a perfect high Hail Mary suicide pass to Adam Stamper, who got nailed by Murray the Mauri in game 3. To Stamper's credit, after initially looking like he broke a couple of ribs, but was only winded, he made a goal line try saving tackle on Murray later in the game), Ron Duncan who joined us from Ontario was the next recipient for not passing in the end zone to Norm Suvan for our purple short hero to score a try. Derry Vale who played more than we thought he would, including with a Go-Pro video cam strapped to his head gets honourable mention.
Day 5 August 25 was a day that any well educated student of the game of rugby dreams of. We walked in the morning from our Mecure Cardiff Holland Hotel & Spa to the iconic Cardiff Arms Park, which is next door to Principality Stadium, the new home of Welsh rugby. The boys changed into their rugby kit for the first special game of the day, and led by Storming Norman,
charged out onto the field through the classic players tunnel and entrance, with our opponents on the day ( and new best friends, and drinking buddies staying at the same hotel for the week as the Antediluvians) from Perth Australia, The Arkives. Their team was made up of Aussies and a number of Kiwis who live in Perth including Murray, Dave, and Mike-Mike-Mike. This was a very tough game, probably the toughest we had on this tour given our opponents and the venue. With excellent runs and tackles on both sides of the ball on the artificial turf, the game was full on. This is the home of the professional rugby union Cardiff Blues team.
Dean Birch, our starting tight head prop scored the first try of the day under the posts after some great passing and support to move the ball down the field.
Steve Reiseg made a great break through the rugged Maori centers to score our next try. The game was tight with the Arkives taking the lead in the second half. Ken (Fuji) Fujioka made a great break down the middle to tie the game. The Antediluvians completed their great comeback from winning the set scrum on their own 30 meter line, with the power of forwards like Eli McQuaid, Mike Starosiuk, and Mike Richards. Then with a nice pass from Mark Ficht scrum half, to standoff Eric Germain, who made a lovely dummy pass and inside break run, then under pressure 30 meters out he passed the ball to James Chick on the wing, who made a great sprint and scored in the corner on the last play of the game, to clinch the 4-3 win. Priceless!
After the game the teams socialized in the inner sanctum of the prestigious Cardiff Arms Park, in the Welsh Rugby Union Trophy Room and lounge, enjoying the meat pies and the Brains beer. Of special note was the impromptu Antediluvians board meeting on the rugby ball shaped board room table in the Welsh Rugby Union trophy room. The only motion that was made and passed unanimously was to have a toast to all Antediluvians past, present and future, and to continue our pursuit of a great time enjoying old boy’s rugby on and off the rugby field. The guest book in the trophy room was signed, "Brothers in Cardiff Arms".
We held a team auction\kangaroo court at our hotel lounge at the cocktail hour that day. We sold Ian Ferguson back his mini bag pipes that he had misplaced after our parade to the opening ceremonies. All the extra tour kit and souvenirs went for a fair price, with all proceeds going to our team dinner. Even our Rugby Canada team kit bag, that was gifted from Don Whidden our late rugby friend, packed for tour by Ryan Thomas who couldn't make the tour at the twelfth hour due to his Mom's passing; Seize the day & enjoy the ride. Andy MacKechnie made the wise investment in purchasing the team bag to pack home all of his Lagavulin Scotch whiskey and rugby souvenirs (and also a few contributions from his lovely girlfriend Debbie, who was our great team physio, first aider, and sports massage therapist).
That evening we had the Antediluvians Team Tour dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant. The evening was organized by Richard Ingram and his lady friend Darlene Bachmann. Richard whose home team is the Kelowna Priest Valley Vicars RFC, played well for our squad as scrum half and in the centers. We had a chance to enjoy the present company, and toast everyone who couldn't be there, including our old rugby friend Roger Cowper, the Druid RFC Welsh prop who planned to go on this tour, put down a deposit, only to pass from cancer earlier this year. Carpe Cerevisi (Seize the beers).
Day 6 August 26 was thankfully our fourth and final game in five days. Our opponents back at the University Fields were the Whitsunday Whales-Port MacQuarie Vintage Ports RFC's. It should be mentioned that we had the good fortune of meeting five Argentina players from Clemente's RFC at the opening ceremonies parade, who we promptly recruited.