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ONE of the Bahrain Rugby Football Club’s greatest stalwarts bowed out of competitive action in style after claiming his 150th cap for the institution’s veteran team.
Jonty Crosse has played for the Bahrain Golden Oldies for more than 20 years and signed off his career with a 24-14 win over Khobar RFC.
Crosse, a hooker, is considered a man of great stature within the rugby club, having played his first game for Bahrain in 1975 while he was still at school in the UK. Since then, he has represented the first, second and veteran teams, as well as other iterations which are no longer active.
“I turned 60 in November, so I promised my wife, Eibhlin, that I’d stop,” Crosse said.
“The law of averages in rugby says that you’ll get hurt eventually, and especially at my age, the aches and pains start to add up. Eibhlin was starting to dread me playing every time, but I wanted to eke out my career to retire after my 150th cap as it’s a milestone I’m extremely proud of.
“It was fitting to bow out playing a team I know and respect and who I’ve played against many times over the years.”
Another player heading off to sporting retirement is prop Sal Wilson, who earned his 100th Golden Oldies cap in the same match.
He holds the record for the oldest player to represent the Bahrain first team, at 50 years old, and has contributed enormously to the rugby club’s Cancer Warriors team who raise awareness for male cancers and offer advice and support to sufferers and their families.
Both Crosse and Wilson put in excellent performances on Friday as they signed off in style. Afterwards, the two contributed generously to a social event for both teams and guests.
As well as his contributions on the field, Crosse has offered a significant amount off it. During the Eighties and Nineties, he started a club called the Arabvision Revues, which were social events featuring a collection of skits and satire.
During the Gulf War, he organised ‘Backs Against the Walls’ parties from August 1990 to February 1991, at a time when tensions in the region were high and a heavy number of expat families left the island. Of those that stayed, more than 750 guests attended these festivities as a way to relax and make friends in troubling times.
Such gatherings founded the club’s reputation as a good place to hang out, leading to the present day where it is regarded as much a social hub as it is a sporting centre.
Between 2005 and 2007, Crosse was elected president of the club.
He said: “I want to say thanks to the club from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been involved for so many decades and it’s been an amazing honour and privilege to play for it through thick and thin.
“The rugby club has changed massively, from its beginnings as barely a field in Muharraq, to its second home in Saar, and now the wonderful, booming facility in Janabiya.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to the club, Andy Walsh – the captain of the Golden Oldies – and all my fellow teammates.
“People think we’re complete lunatics. Fat, balding and should know better … and they’re completely right! But it’s a great thing to be involved with as you make great friends for life.”
As for what’s next, Crosse expects Eibhlin to drag him along to Pilates or yoga classes to keep fit, but he will still support his veteran buddies on match days. Indeed, now that games are being live streamed on social media, he is angling for a commentator’s job.
Current rugby club chairman, Mike Cunningham, had some kind words for both Crosse and Wilson.
He said: “It’s been a privilege to have played with both of these legends of the club over the years. Crosse has played for practically every senior team we’ve put out at some stage, and almost 45 years of service is an incredible legacy in any form.
“Not only that, but both guys have been outstanding servants off the field as well as on it. Whether it’s fundraising, social events or community projects, they’ve had a hand in them all. Wilson in particular has organised numerous tournaments in support of the Cancer Warriors, something we are most proud of.
“On behalf of the club, I wish both of them the very best in the future and will be delighted to see them continue to be upstanding members.”
l On May 2, once again the DHL Barbarians will be vying for the trophy when they take on Bahrain Select during DHL’s annual memorial rugby match. DHL’s 10th annual memorial game pays tribute to the DHL colleagues who lost their lives whilst working in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008.
To honour their memory, members of DHL’s rugby team from across the world have been flying into Bahrain every year since 2009 to take part in the match and help raise funds in support of local charities.
The match will kick-off at the rugby club at 7pm.