'When a man is tired of touring, he is tired of life.
For there is in touring all that life can afford.'
To tour has to be the ambition of all rugby players and it could be said no club takes this more seriously than Old Isleworthians. Our touring began in 1960 shortly after our formation. The first of many trips to the Isle of White was followed in 1968 by our first trip to the continent winning three matches vs. Kituro/Avia in Brussles, RAF Rhendhalen and RAF Laarbruch in Germany. In 1976 we started a tradition of touring twice per season which has lead to an outstanding record of sixty-two tours in past thirty-one years.
Since the advent of league rugby and the demise of playing opposition 'through the card' it's this tradition of touring and encouraging new players to participate that has been a major factor in our continuing success. Where many contemporaries failed we maintained a strong club spirit even in dark days of poor league results and fewer teams being fielded. It's when players of all standards get to play (everybody who is available gets a game on tour) and socialise together that friendships bonds are made. If it wasn't for tours some players would seldom meet let alone travel and play together. We like to think it's in our DNA, none more so than Tony Hawkes who has toured 59 times with OI's, and Tony Winslade who has toured, and always played, 57 times with OIs.
I wonder if the organisers of those early tours ever imagined we would embark on so many tours taking in some 11 countries on two Continents (Soon to include two more countries on two more Continents) Similarly, nobody thought the 'once in a lifetime, never to be repeated' trip to Florida in 1982 to celebrate our 25th season would be repeated 3 more times. (Certainly not the 'Magnificent 7' who completed all four, or the American spectator who approached us during a game on the 4th tour asking for a tour 't' shirt for this tour as he 'had the other three')
The trouble with talking about tours is so many memories are evoked and it's difficult to single a few out. OI's folklore features one Derek Meades en route to Nottingham when the coach departed Scratchwood services without him. Without any money and no clue as to the name of the hotel, he found the boys sometime later by looking for the hotel with the most noise in the bar. Who could forget 'not avoiding the oncoming bicycle' in Florida I, or accidentally setting fire to the stand seating during the Sevens in Latvia. Talking of which, Banger Bunce's flaming hands put on quite a show in Amsterdam, as did Alan Pearce as he fell out of a shopping trolley in RAF Wildenrath. The excellent diagnosis of a broken nose in Madrid (lucky we took an A&E nurse with us); Paddy moving from flank to the wing in the hope the pain from his broken arm would 'go off'; or Splash looking 'cool' in the VIP lounge then landing in a heap at the bottom of the stairs outside. Ingratiating ourselves with the locals seems to have been a trend, the 'Full Monty' competitive floor show in Florida IV certainly pleased the audience, as did our success in the 'bladder bust'. The late Tony McGill communicating his wish to purchase a jock strap in France, not using rudimentary French but by whistling, was something to behold, as was the reaction of the cab drivers when we toured to Bournemouth and then proceeded to pay said cabs about £40 to take us half way back home to play the first match.
Whatever your memories of touring the one overriding thought is always one of being part of something special, where everyday responsibilities fade away and one can live without fear of contradiction by others, except from the all seeing Judge who works tirelessly presiding over his flock to ensure fair play and equality. (Not too mention a full sock)
As those of us lucky enough to be going are looking forward to Singapore and Australia at the end of this season, it would seem our touring tradition will continue, long may it be so and remember our moto 'No Sleeping On Tour'.
Andy Brooks, OIRFC President and Tour Judge
TUESDAY TRAINING - 7:30pm start @ Isleworth & Syon School 4G pitch
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