Club stalwarts prove that you are never too old for rugby

You are never too old for rugby as some familiar faces at Bournville are proving by their participation in the Walking Rugby programme at Avery Fields.

Club President George Foley and former Chairman Mick Palmer are among those who take the opportunity to try to prove the old adage that “form is temporary, class is permanent” at the twice-weekly sessions.

Both Foley and Palmer had long careers in contact rugby with Bournville with Foley, at 73, among the oldest of the Walking Rugby regulars.

Tony Arkey, currently sidelined by a knee injury, is the oldest of the regulars at the age of 75 but the beauty of Walking Rugby is that it has been adapted to allow players of all ages and abilities to take part.

As well as an excellent way of keeping fit, Walking Rugby is also great fun and an excellent way to maintain rugby friendships and form new ones.

“We set up the walking rugby initiative in 2019. We now have 20 players, including three over-40s women’s players, two of whom still play for the Golds,” said Palmer.

“We have six ex-players of which five played for the first team in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

“Most of us are in our late fifties and middle to late sixties. Two of us – George and ‘Magic’ Mark Miscowicz are 73 and Tony Arkey is the oldest at 75.

“The rest of the squad who have joined had no previous association with the club and joined as a result of the recruitment campaign by the club partner Community Group.

“Some hadn’t touched a rugby ball for 40-odd years and their motivation was to get out of the house, meet new people, stay fit and have a beer. Some have joined the club as members and a fair few now watch first team home games.”

The Walking Rugby side also benefit from coaching from Bournville first team flanker Louis Mifsud, who runs the Walking Rugby programme as part of his work as Community Sports Coach for the Avery Fields Community Foundation.

“I have had the pleasure of being involved with the Bournville Walking Rugby programme for several months now and have found it a really rewarding initiative,” Mifsud said.

“Regardless of ability and experience the quality, effort and enjoyment levels are always high – even over these chilly winter months.

“This programme offers far more than just playing rugby, it provides a strong social network and sense of community.

“Looking ahead I want to continue to see the team develop both physically and mentally while also looking into more fixtures and festivals.

“I couldn’t recommend the programme more – no matter your age or experience.”

The Walking Rugby programme at Avery Fields has been made possible by the generous support of the National Lottery: Awards for All and the Harborne Parish Lands charity.

“The Bournville Walking Rugby Programme continues to go from strength-to-strength as we work alongside the team to find new and creative ways to keep them engaged while attracting new members,” said Clarkson McLeod, Head of Community at Avery Fields Community Foundation.

“As both Head of Community and a Bournville first XV player, it is awesome to see such a large group still pulling on the club colours and going into battle in what I believe to be a revolutionary adaptation of our great game.

“I can’t wait to see how the programme evolves in the coming months.

“We would like to thank the National Lottery: Awards for All and Harborne Parish Lands for their continued support of our walking rugby programme.”

If you are interested in Bournville’s Walking Rugby programme, powered by Community Group, please email: community@bournvillerfc.co.uk

The Walking Rugby programme runs every Tuesday and Thursday (6pm to 7pm) at Avery Fields.

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