Silverdale Rugby Club’s Snails team was undefeated this season – which long-standing members say is very rare.
The team consists of over 35-aged players – the oldest is 65 and the average is around 45. Some are former North Harbour players.
Snails stalwart Colin Nepson is team captain, assistant coach, manager and plays First 5/8. He has been with the team for almost a decade.
Because it’s a social grade, no scores are officially kept and it’s considered non-competitive. However, all the teams keep the score themselves, and it’s very far from non-competitive, Colin says.
The Snails’ results this year were a single draw, against Helensville, and the rest solid wins, including the final against Massey Maulers on August 14 – luckily played just before lockdown.
The results can be put down to many things, including coaching by Tane Solomon and the luxury of their biggest-ever squad of 36 who can be rotated so no one plays while fatigued.
However, Colin says the key difference this season was the team culture, stronger than ever after the tragic death of one member last year.
“The turning point was during the second lockdown last year, when one of our players committed suicide,” Colin says. “That hit us really hard. It brought us together and was a catalyst for a lot of change – as individuals and as a team – to make sure guys are open to talking about their feelings and not living in isolation.”
“Footy on a Saturday is all about having fun and it’s an outlet for work pressures and stress. We wanted to make sure that players know that the toughest thing is not the ‘battle’ of a game, but to reach out and ask for help.”
He says this philosophy crossed over into how the team trains and plays – “On the field we have a mentality where everyone turns up and backs each other”.
The Snails have fielded a team since the late 1960s – almost as long as Silverdale Rugby Club has been in existence.