“Sam Who?” I hear you say.
OK, TTT will admit that the name doesn’t resonate quite as highly as the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio and Conor O’Shea on the list of ‘Take The Three meets …’ interview features but, while Sam Drury may not go down in international rugby history, he will most definitely go down in Ossett rugby history.
On Saturday, at the ‘tender’ age of just 49, Sam played his 700th 1st XV game for Ossett and Take The Three had the honour of an exclusive invite to the fixture. What better to mark the occasion than a top of the Yorkshire Division 4 clash away at opponents Stocksbridge and a pint or two after the fixture at The Tap – the very hospitable local watering hole?
Sam’s achievement is all the more impressive considering he’s a tighthead prop. He joined the Ossett RUFC ranks as a fresh-faced 16 year old back row in 1980 before ‘progressing’ to the front row in 1985 and making his 1st XV start later that season. The side has depended on him supporting their hookers ever since. How many hookers exactly? “That’s a great question, oh my god. I’ve got no idea. It’s definitely double figures!”
Sam may not think he’ll reach 800 but he’s still going strong: “I’ve lost quite a bit of weight recently and feel fitter than I have done for a lot of years and I want to keep playing.”
Ossett RUFC recognises 1st XV players reaching various milestones (50, 250, 400 and 500 games) and while other players in the squad have hit 500 games, they’re late in their rugby careers. But the club wasn’t sure what to do to mark Sam’s 600th appearance in October 2009 – because no-one else had ever reached that number.
Ossett Brewery, the club’s main sponsor, stepped up. It wasn’t quite organising a piss-up in a brewery but it was close, the local brewery launching a new ale specially called SAM’s 600. As for the tasting notes: ‘The beer was brewed using English malted barley along with cluster and Chinook hops to produce a wonderful straw coloured premium 6.00% ale, smooth robust and full-bodied,’ a bit like the man himself.
“That was fantastic, The whole event was fantastic. I had a little inkling about the launch night. We’d had a committee meeting and then walked across to the pub and I saw loads of cars. My family were there. To have my mum and dad there – and I’ve got five brothers and they were all there and my nieces and nephews – was awesome. Sadly my dad died in January so isn’t around for this one.”
Even big Lol and Conor don’t have ales named after them, so how do you cap that to mark the 700th?
Messages of congratulations from legends of the game of course:
The support has also come in thick and fast from his teammates, a host of messages of support being posted on the club’s website. Fellow front row Rich Lister posted: “Congratulations on reaching the 700 game milestone mate! As always, very proud to be running out with you on Saturday.”
What’s the secret to keeping the body in one piece for nigh on 35 years? Sam puts it down to “doing a bit extra and staying injury free. I’ve always done weights and kept myself fit. I had put a bit of weight on a while back – I got up to 22 stone and thought I better do something. I lost three stone and that’s given me a new lease of life. And absolutely a few pints of SAM’s 600 on the side!”
For Sam though the biggest thrill is now seeing his son Jack take up the game. “Particularly since I’ve been in my forties Jack has started and that made me want to play a bit longer.” They now play alongside each other, the young 24 year-old running the no.10 channel which, according to his father is “not good! No, I’m kidding I don’t mind. He appreciates the forwards which is good. If you have a good scrum, he’s always the first one in slapping people’s backs. To play with him is fantastic. The first few games he played I was the worried dad but then it was my fault he started because he had a free weekend and was sat at home. So I said, ‘why not run out with the Twos?’ So he played scrum half for the 2nd team and loved it.”
Ossett will commemorate Sam’s milestone with a proper bash on 26th October, including special presentations. It’s stories like this that make the game of rugby such a brilliant one to be a part of.
Now you know who Sam Drury is.