“Roy Boy” retired recently, and deservedly so. At 83-years, he was thinking it was probably time to enjoy a few relaxed twilight years. And his rugby career.
So he flicked the family's Paengaroa kiwifruit orchard onto his son – he will watch kiwifruit grow rather than pick them. And he will focus on his rugby. Because “Roy Boy's” rugby career is kicking on.
“Yup, I will still turn out,” says “Roy Boy”, aka Roy Baldock. He's still in quite good nick. “I had a couple of heart attacks in 1999, and I am full of stents, but good otherwise.”
The year 2018 will be “Roy Boy's” 25th season of turning out for the Eastern Districts Golden Oldies Devils. He plays in the engine room, in the scrum. He's a rake.
“I always wanted to be a hooker,” he chuckles. The hooker is also the team's chairman.
“I do anything that's wanted of me. Sometimes I play the full game, sometimes I don't. If someone comes along and wants a game, I would sooner let the younger ones have a go.”
“He runs on, runs off and gets in the way quite a bit,” jokes Mark Riddell, himself a Devil. “But believe me, he's got spirit.”
Roy reckons he's carrying a bit of condition. “I'm 76 ks – should be 75 – but I'm carrying a spare tyre.
Probably because he's not working anymore. “I'm sitting round reading mum's girl magazines.”
This week Allan was at a “serious” meeting of the Devils – as opposed to a “not serious” meeting. Mark explains a “not serious” meeting, or training, happens on Thursday nights when the team gathers “to have a few beers and exchange bullshit.”
Training apparently starts 7pm sharp then runs into the night. You aren't required to break into a sweat – in fact it's frowned upon. You could be fined for actually training.
Boots are pulled on in anger just once a week, on game day – Sunday.
The “serious meeting”, presided over by Allan, was to discuss plans for the Devil's 40th anniversary celebrations coming up this Easter.
It's going to be a big night followed by an equally big day. There's a past and present members meet and greet on the Saturday night – a similar format to Thursday night training or a “not serious” meeting – followed on Easter Sunday by half-a-dozen local golden teams playing three games each.
“Golden Oldies playing three games in one day probably tells you something about the intensity of the competition,” says Mark.
It's a celebration. In 1978 a team of over 35 players and partners fundraised to go to Canada to attend a Golden Oldies World Festival. This started the Eastern Districts Golden Oldies in Paengaroa.
It went on for a few years before folding. “But then a new generation of oldies came along and resuscitated it, keeping rugby alive for over 35s in Paengaroa.
“So for our club, 40 years is a great achievement,” says Mark. In that time there have been many Golden Oldies festivals. There's another in Christchurch in April.
“Sir Ron” – Ron Don – will no doubt be going. He's one of a team full of characters. “He been to festivals around the world, he's known globally,” says Mark. “He's fanatical about golden oldies, loves it to bits.”
Roy and Anne are fanatical too. “We didn't do anything ‘til we joined the Golden Oldies – now we've both been all around the world.” These two are tight.
“We've been married coming up 58 years,” says Roy. “The first 40 were the toughest.” The bravado ends there as he grabs Anne's hand for a photo.
Anyhow, to business, and the Devils want every past member of their Golden Oldies team to know about the Easter Celebrations. They can message Mark via: email@example.com or call him on: 027 3644989. Or you may want to play Golden Oldies rugby for the Devils.
It would take the pressure off the president, or “Roy Boy”, who'll be turning out at Easter. In his 84th year, Roy actually qualifies to wear purple shorts, which means the opposition can't tackle him.
He prefers his red ones, which means the opposition can stop and hold him rather than tackle. He prefers it physical.
“They don't charge in like wounded bulls in Golden Oldies,” he says. “But I can take the knocks. It doesn't seem to worry me. It's not getting any harder. I don't wake up on Monday morning feeling broken or bent.”
What keeps him going? “I just keep going. And I do it on the strength of a few runs.” But no training as such – only Thursday night training, which can run deep into the night, of course.
The Eastern Districts Golden Oldies Devils will play eight-to-ten games this season, the results of which will be irrelevant. “Every game is a draw,” says Mark. “It's just that some draws are better draws than other draws.”
The Devils played an Australian team in Queenstown a couple of years ago. The jingoistic Aussies boasted they hadn't been beaten in ten years – until that day, when the Devils lifted their game and punished them. The Aussies still insisted they hadn't been beaten in ten years.
“We said no-one lost mate. It was a draw. It was simply a better draw for us.”
Golden Oldies is more about training running into the night and mateship. Even if it does involve Australians.