Up and down the country, every rugby club has one, that one person who lives, breathes and sleeps their rugby club. They are the stalwart rugby enthusiast, they know the result of that game against the opposition from 1977, they know what the weather was like on that tour in 1986, they know who made the winning try in that match in 1991....they are the club oracle, and more importantly, the Club Legend!
Westcombe Park rugby club in Orpington is no exception, with a large club member base, it also has its army of “old gits” as they are affectionately known. Yet, there is one man who is most worthy of the title of Club Legend; John Ward-Turner, or JWT as he is known to most.
Johns current role is Touch Judge for Westcombe Park's 1st XV fixtures. Yet JWT wears many hats around the club, from Captain of the 1st XV in 1970-71, to Club President in 2008-2010.
I caught up with JWT, to ask him a few questions about his long relationship with WP, and although I thought I knew a lot about him, I was shocked and astounded at what I discovered...
How long have you been a member of WP?
I joined Combe in 1962, so approx 54 years.
How did you hear about Combe and what made you join?
On leaving the army, I was going to join Sidcup RFC, the club that I was a member of before I joined the army, but the newly elected captain that year was the scrum half, so I saw no chance of first fifteen action.
At the time, I used to drink in the Tigers Head, Chislehurst, and the landlord's son was David Gook, who played Hooker for Combe for many years. He suggested that I came down to Combe, which is what I did, and have never looked back.
How many roles have you had at Combe, and can you name them all?
With well over 22 different roles over 54 years, I can't remember them all, but to name a few:
Captain of 1st XV | Captain of 2nd XV | Dinner secretary | Committee member | Vice President | Touch Judge | Club marketing manager | Hon Secretary | trustee |Kent radio rugby round up | County 4th official | Club president | 1st XV manager | Golf day organiser!
Do you ever see youself not volunteering at WP in the future?
What is the major difference with rugby from say the 1970s, (when you played) to now?
Professionalism, and I do get very uptight when I see the lack of loyalty to the club by the first fifteen players who are just chasing the money. Especially when they are finished with the first fifteen, and then do not offer themselves for other XV's.
What other interests outside of rugby do you have?
What time is left over from rugby, I am the master of Westcombe Park Hash House Harriers who have met once a month for a run on a Sunday morning since 1971, and are still going strong. Any Combe member would be most welcome to join us.
I also sing and am on the committee of the Croydon Male Voice Choir, as well as being The Foreman of the Southwark Court Leet, and of course I do have to find time to run my own advertising and PR business which I started in 1987.
How does your family feel about WP? Are they as enthusiastic as you about rugby?
Not too good as Mrs WT felt that as my two sons were growing up the club saw more of me than they did! However, It's better now as she knows it keeps me busy and probably not under her feet at the weekends.
Do you see anyone else at WP as a club legend, and why?
Always a difficult one, as we at Combe are very lucky to have a large number of willing volunteers, but there are a few who have put in many years of hard work into the club!
Names that spring to mind are Robin Taylor, who did an immense amount of work as Hon Sec, John Yeates who worked very hard when we moved from our old home at Craven Road to our current abode in Goddington Dene, organising the take over of the club and setting up the lottery funding.
Alan Gaunt, who was Chairman of Facilities for many years; Vern Williment who has been involved in many jobs over the years for Combe like selection dinners and lunches, and also Terry Hadaway, a former President and also treasurer for a long time.
JWT is a character, and anyone who has had the privilege to share his company for an evening, will know he has a captivating personality, can tell a story or two, and has the ability to make everyone laugh and have a jolly good time...now that needs to be added to his list of attributes, surely!