Harrogate Pythons RUFC’s Annual Dinner was held once again at The Old Swan Hotel. Postponed on three occasions the organisers gave their guests a treat with two top class speakers, Nigel Owens and Lewis Moody. Just under 400 sponsors, members and guests raised a record £14k for The Pythons.
The evening’s proceedings began with Chairman and organiser Julian Tatlow welcoming everyone, at last, to this annual event. As always he was keen to thank the main sponsors for the event with regulars Don Elec, Harrogate Steel, Oracle Finance, Ripon Select Foods and Slingsby Gin and made particular reference to new comers Raymond James Investment Services Ltd with Nick Hair hosting their guests. He reflected on a difficult 16 months and paid tribute to the club’s Head Coach Dan Bird for his innovative ‘training’ sessions keeping the players active and involved throughout the period. Dan was the featured player in the dinner’s programme where his rugby career was summarised with particular reference to his father Gerry who Dan thanked for his encouragement and involvement in his early playing days. Gerry was present as one of Dan’s guests.
Nigel Owens was the first guest to speak. This top class international referee Instantly recognisable as soon as he spoke. For 40 minutes he entertained the room with stories of the games he’s referred, the players he’s interacted with, the critical decisions he’d made at crucial times in high profile games – the room was totally involved. His anecdotes were funny, interesting and sometimes thought provoking. Probably the most poignant part of his delivery was to recognise how the game of rugby union was so important in developing values, discipline, sportsmanship and respect shown by all those involved with the game. He spoke of the 6 Nations Championship, in which he had refereed many times, as the envy of the rugby world, loudly applauded by the room. He finished with a song and received a standing ovation. Probably one of the best speakers on the circuit.
What an act to follow, but follow Lewis Moody did. 2003 RWC winner, England Captain, British and Irish Lion with numerous domestic and European trophies to his name. Lewis had spent the early part of the evening totally involved with our guests, he was engaging, generous with his conversations – a delight to be with. As was his playing style, it was clear Lewis Moody was speaking. He began by reflecting on his early rugby career and moved onto his RWC experiences where he played in successive finals and a quarter final. The victory in 2003 and his role in the play leading to the winning drop goal held the room in total concentration. The interactions and sometimes differences between the players and coaches, overcoming the challenges in preparation for 2007 and the disappointments in 2011 made fascinating listening. Being the first England player to be sent off in 110 years was something he wasn’t proud of but he made the circumstances surrounding the incident and the aftermath, as it was for allegedly punching his Leicester team mate and best friend Samoan Alex Tuilagi, hugely entertaining. Lewis has a charitable foundation inspired by young rugby fan Joss Rowley Stark, raises funds to promote awareness of brain tumours in children through the award-winning HeadSmart campaign, funds vital research into brain tumour diagnosis and gives families living with critical illness days out of the ordinary to lift spirits and create special memories. A standing ovation once again.
Simon Croft MC’d the evening and auctioned International Tickets, shirts signed by the guests and a box with full hospitality at Twickenham for the forthcoming Internationals. Thanks to all those who donated prizes especially Martin Wood of RSF. Raffle prizes were donated by local business and raised more than any previous dinner. The very popular silent auction was provided by Impulse Decisions. Terry Crystal, former England Doctor, was a guest once again with The Chairman. Matthew Powell sponsored the bottles of port delivered to all the tables. Steve Jeffries sponsored our photographer Simon Godsave and Simon Rodham sponsored the superb PA system.
”It was great to see so many people at our event, regular faces, some we haven’t seen for a few years and, more importantly, new faces and businesses supporting our club. Lewis and Nigel were top class and we’re lucky once again to have these high calibre speakers come to our dinner, all down to the generosity of our main sponsors” said Chairman and organiser Julian Tatlow. “It’s unbelievable how much support our small club gets from the people in Harrogate. Our Committee, members, players and supporters are so appreciative – thanks to all who joined us and contributed to the success of the evening”, he added.