Playing Rugby

Now rugby was a different matter, I was actually interested in rugby, I was a season ticket holder at Headingley, home of the Leeds Rugby League club, indeed I worked at the club selling programmes and doing whatever odd jobs my Uncle Ralph wanted me to do there, he being catering and bar manager in the stadium, so rugby I could play.

It was a different sort of rugby of course for our Headmaster, RF Holland MA(Cantab), a Captain Mainwaring look-alike and a man below his station as our head, held the belief that we were a nationally important feeder school to the elite of university’s, Cambridge being his personal choice, and as such we should be presented and behave as Gentlemen and play the Union version of the game and in this he was backed by his sports instructors and especially the one who specialised in rugby union, Colin Tyrer.

It was Tyrer who took us for a house match one afternoon while we were in the fourth year, our Form 4S playing Form 4D – if I am making this all sound a little Victorian and Tom Browns Schooldays then yes, that is precisely what life was like at Leeds Modern School, and I loved every minute of it.

The end of term inter-form games were a round robin competition between the four forms in each year and the rugby competition was particularly well fought out, in fact literally well fought for each form immediately picked its biggest lads and its form-room bullies to be in the team – and then they picked me to play full back.

At some point in the game the play was all in our half and the ball had long since disappeared under a huge mound of bodies in the biggest of the mud puddles, fists flew, bodies piled on top of bodies, yelps and curses were heard and then suddenly Tyrer, who was officiating the game, blew his whistle, the ruck ceased and we all gazed to him to see why he’d stopped us.

He was staring right down the other end of the pitch where my opposite number, Glynn Jones the 4D full back was stood on one leg clutching his own goal post, Tyrer bellowed at him to join the kerfuffle up our end of the field, and Jones shouted something back that none of us could hear properly although it did sound an awful lot like “Please Sir, I’ve broken my leg”.

In a scene right out of the bit in the film “Kes” where Casper is caught swinging on the goal posts by the sports teacher played by Brian Glover, Tyrer ran up the field to Glynn Jones and we all followed.

Tyrer examined Jones’ leg and declared it not to be broken after all, “You’ve got a dead leg boy, walk up and down for a bit” and despite Jones protesting that he couldn’t put any weight on it let alone walk, Tyrer grabbed him by one arm and marched him briskly up and down the try line, Jones screaming out in agony whilst doing so and being told not to be so soft and to walk it off, “like a man”.

After five minutes even Tyrer realised that Jones wasn’t going to be able to walk this one off and continue in the game so he told him to go and sit on the touchline and wait for the game to finish, which he did and forty minutes later as we all trooped back to the changing rooms there was Glynn Jones still laying where he had been deposited, on the touchline, still complaining that his leg was broken and still being admonished for not having walked it off a long time ago.

And half an hour later as we left the changing rooms all washed and scrubbed up a treat there was Glynn Jones being helped into the back of an ambulance with Tyrer telling the medics, “Its broken you know, I knew as soon as I saw it”, and indeed it was, he was in plaster for the rest of the next half term.

Still at least we all now know that you can’t just “walk off” a broken leg.

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2 thoughts on “Playing Rugby

  1. I think I remember Mr. Tyrer. He was roped into the school play one year – ‘Twelfth Night’. He was (type)cast as the Clown.

    There was also a Mr. Graham (P.E. and R.E., I believe) who played rugby for Headingley (fullback). All his spare time, and there seemed to be quite a lot of it, was spent on the Leeds Modern playing field kicking penalties and conversions from improbable distances and angles. The spectacle provided a splendid distraction for staff and pupils alike.

    At least by this time. thanks largely to Alan Bennett’s satirical TV references, the notorious ‘spares’ system of organising games lesson teams had been abandoned. The unathletic were designated ‘spares’ and could be called upon to make up numbers in any other team. Refined souls could thus find themselves competing uncomfortably with the first XV (or XI) heavies!

  2. I think I remember a Mr Graham being replaced early in my first year for R.E. by a Welsh preacher by the name of Lloyd-Griffiths, a slightly disturbing chap who, had someone told me was fond of taking boys to stay at his holiday home in the dales, would not have surprised me.

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