‘I prefer to grow old disgracefully’

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An 80-year-old grandad has been honoured by team mates as he continues to pull on his boots for the rugby field.

Jimmy Airnes, of South Shore, has been given a new pair of shorts by Blackpool Masters Rugby League Club to celebrate his commitment to the team.

Masters Rugby is a game for anyone 35 years old and over with the colour of a player’s shorts determining the strength of tackle that can be made. Anyone over the age of 60 wears gold coloured shorts and a “tag tackle” is used to stop them.

However, Jimmy was presented with a first of its kind – blue shorts to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Jimmy said: “I still love playing, I feel like a young man again when I play.

“I still get knocked over at times , I do, but tacklers are soon to pick me up and apologise. I’m sure some of them think they have broken bones. But the lads at the club are great with me and we have a laugh while enjoying the game.”

Before starting playing, Jimmy admits he had no idea about the sport.

It led to him going to the library after his first game to find a book on the rules of the game. He said: “I got into it by complete accident, I was a racing cyclist when I first started but, after getting married and having kids, I needed to put the hours in at work so had to give the cycling up.

“It was only when a colleague at work asked if I wanted to come down and watch a game of rugby that I got involved. But little did I know the team was always short for numbers and before I knew it I had a pair of boots on my feet!”

After playing the sport for 20 years, second rower Jimmy took a break from the sport and went back to cycling.

It was only seven years ago, at the age of 73, he returned to the sport to play in the masters league. The 80-year-old also has no plans to stop playing in the near future. He said: “As long as I am enjoying playing and my health is OK then why should I stop?Since I started playing masters rugby, I eat sensibly and do not drink too much plus I do my own bit of training in the week.

“People say you should grow old gracefully, well I would prefer to grow old disgracefully!”

Jimmy also enjoys spending one night a week at Blackpool Stanley Rugby Club where he coaches youngsters the 
basics of the sport.

He said: “People’s perception of older people has dramatically changed and it’s much better these days.

“I really enjoy playing and coaching at the club, I have no intention to stop either soon.”