Jeff and Jim were the cornerstone of the Kenilworth revival through the nineties and who could ever forget the real birth of the revolution - a game against Old Leamingtonians who at that time were two levels above Kenilworth. Jeff and Jim tackled like demons which the other players in our squad admired and responded with similar big hits. Poor Fitz was on his year out at Old Leamingtonians at this time and early in the second half decided to depart the proceedings and leave his mates to succumb to further very big hits and a big defeat. Jeff had truly arrived, and Fitz returned.
Jeff and Jim were so good that they were selected for Warwickshire - totally amazing as they could not turn out for Kenilworth in League or Cup games as they had not satisfied the 180 day qualification rule in force at that time. Despite getting assurances from the RFU that they were eligible we were even docked league points for playing them in two consecutive league games early in the 93/94 season. Jim soon married a local girl and returned to Australia but Jeff remained always threatening to go home but not quite managing to do so. He befriended Sophie Westrope, sister of Charlie and star of Warwick Boat Club.
Meanwhile more Antipodeans came and went. They comprised prop Grant Anderson who went down on his bended knees in the club and proposed to his girlfriend then proceeded to ring his future father in law who promptly ordered them home and flanker Stephen Middup whose major claim to fame was that he got fixed up with a local girl within 24 hrs of landing in Kenilworth. Richard 'Donk' McBride, another Kiwi, arrived from Birmingham & Solihull on a big time contract and left via a garden in Birches Lane. Kiwi Aaron Running arrived from London Scottish to save our 97/98 season from ending in relegation - he was last seen with some Kiwi mates lying on the floor of the bar after our Cup Final defeat in May 98.
Meanwhile another Aussie Dave 'Shaggy' Bourne had arrived, albeit very quietly and via Leamington. Dave started the 97 season at fly half and an article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph announced that it was his intention to go through the season without kicking a ball. This ambition (and indeed Donk's) was cut short unfortunately by the RFU who decreed that Kenilworth, being a 'professional club', could not play any foreigners who did not have a work permit to play rugby. Dave's considerable skills were therefore consigned to the second XV, the silver lining being the winning of the Warwickshire Second XV Cup in 1998. Donk also played for the two's during this fine cup run before departing in the summer of 98.
During August 97 an air mail letter had arrived at the club. It was from a Dane Rowlatt asking about the possibilities of playing with Kenilworth whilst he was over in the UK for a couple of years. Believe it or not Kenilworth were the only club to respond to the numerous letters which Dane had sent to other clubs in the Midlands. Communications were set up and Dane was picked up at Coventry Station in Sept 98 and brought down to the club. He was not alone and had brought two mates, Tony Munro and Dave Farrell. They joined in a training session and had Brainy rather excited at their considerable skills. The club put them up in Balti Towers for their first week and then Casa Ashworth thereafter and the Kenilworth Kiwis had truly arrived. Unfortunately they arrived just at the time the RFU made their decision on Dave Bourne and neither of the trio could play in the first XV, although we later found an Irish granny for Dave Farrell to allow him to play league and cup rugby. Tony played for the twos and in the 97/98 season scored some 40 tries, 36 for the seconds, helping them, with Shaggy, to win the Second XV cup. Roly decided to try his luck at Coventry and played for their extras before coming back to us late in the 97/98 season. Illness in his family caused Dave Farrell to return home early in 1998, never to return.
During the mid season break Dane also had to return home due to the death of his father but he courageously returned for the start of the 98/99 season.
At the start of the 98/99 season we were given very good news that our, and indeed other clubs in similar positions, approaches to MPs, the RFU, etc etc had resulted in a change of rules, and that Professional clubs, like Kenilworth, could now play foreigners without the need for a work permit and as long as they signed Amateur forms. We had four unfortunately (Tony, Roly, Shaggy and Jeff) which was later reduced to three when Jeff was given home status due to the time he had spent in the UK. Only two could play and unfortunately Tony was generally the odd man out and generally had to turn out for the two's. This was a tragic loss as anyone who saw Roly and Tony play in tandem could not help but notice their telepathic understanding. Rules were rules however.
The results and performances of last season mostly spoke for themselves, with the odd lapse, and Kenilworth attained their highest ever league placing when finishing sixth in Midlands 1. Roly, Shaggy and Jeff were immense and had other teams enthusing about their skills. Roly was made player of the year and Tony got serious with Claire. All four had truly become an integral part of Kenilworth RFC and mixed with old and young alike encouraging and coaching and learning the art of a good night out at Elkharts.
All good things come to an end however and Roly, Tony and Jeff announced that they would be returning home in the summer of 99. Dave Bourne announced that his contract at Warwick University was not to be renewed and he would also be leaving (for Norway) in November. A 'Maori BBQ' was held in their honour down at the club and this was attended by over 200 people from all over the UK - those who had befriended our intrepid Antipodeans throughout their stay. Wonderful food was eaten (although we are still wondering how they did it) and Willie even managed to organise South Africa v New Zealand on the telly. Good music was laid on well into the night and club record bar takings were recorded. KRFC had said good-bye to their Antipodeans but there was only one problem - no one had actually left yet !
The festivities were repeated some two weeks later when another very large crowd turned out for Tony and Roly's 'final' leaving do, the night before they left. A similar crowd returned (well I think they went home) for the 'final final' farewell to Tony (and Claire) and Roly on the Sunday - someone remarked that they had more farewells than Frank Sinatra but we did not care. Gifts were exchanged which had Lynne and Willie in tears. The final departure was rather anticlimactic but they were gone. Kenilworth RFC was a sad place that Sunday afternoon. You will be hard pressed to find two finer ambassadors of New Zealand, two real nice guys who could never be replaced. We wish them all well for the future and hope that Tony and Claire spend a long and happy life together down under. Please return some day.
This left Jeff and Dave. We never really thought that Jeff would go but he did, taking the lovely Sophie with him. Leaving do's were held at the Boat Club, the Rugby Club and Legs Eleven. His final game was, rather fittingly, our 75th Anniversary match versus Lichfield, and in true Jeff fashion he left the stage early to tumultuous applause. Speeches and farewells were made at the club and checks were made all night that the Five Nations Trophy was still in the hands of the man from the SRU. An extra container was laid on by the club to allow Jeff to take all his Kenilworth jerseys home. Jeff and Sophie departed - Jeff delighted with his final gifts, the new IGES training top and the new Kenilworth change strip which he had coveted so long. Jeff - we thank you for your significant contribution to the Kenilworth revival in the 90's and ask you to look after Sophie - we wish you a long and happy life together.
This only leaves Shaggy. He ain't gone yet and we are trying to keep him here. Watch this space !
Now about this American who has just arrived..........................!