Gloucester Rugby Club’s Dennis Wamsley received the ultimate tribute from his club and their rivals, the Wallamba Bulls, when they accorded the indispensable veteran the “tunnel of love” for making his 400th first grade appearance for the Cockies at Gloucester Park on Saturday.
Rising 50 in December, Wamsley was deeply gratified to have both teams line up and cheer him through a tunnel of players from his home ground after the Bulls’ impressive win.
“I’m a bit sore. It was pretty physical. They were too good for us, but it was most generous of the clubs to give me the tunnel and to clap me from the field, the Bulls especially,” said the man known as “Myrtle”.
Dennis Wamsley began his rugby career as a schoolboy at Allambie Heights in Sydney, joining the Cockies as a youth and continuing through storms and sunshine ever since, long enough to mark up a rare milestone for the club.
“It’s a massive achievement. ‘Myrtle’ has been a marvel for our club, our Mr Fix-It,” the Cockies’ club president, Michael Wooster, said. “We have played him everywhere, from hooker to fullback.”
Last Saturday week, Wamsley played on the side of the scrum, ran out the 80 minutes and contributed a try to the Cockies’ bonus point 34-12 defeat of the Old Bar Clams, but they found the Bulls too fast and physical last Saturday, going down 34-0.
Years ago, on a timber-felling trip to Moppy, an hour into the Barrington Tops, cutting firewood and fence posts with team-mates to raise money for a rugby trip to New Zealand, one of Wamsley’s team-mates called out: “Come on, Myrtle! Get the fire going and put the kettle on. We need a cup of tea.”
He never lost the nickname. Adding incentive to his longevity, Dennis is relishing playing in the same rugby team as his 19-year- old son, Kenneth, a considerably heavier 115kg forward than his father as a Cockies prop and MNC Colts representative.
But time will close down his career at the end of the season, Dennis declaring: “I’ll be 50 on December 15. That’ll be it. It’s been a good innings, made a lot of mates, had a lot of fun.
“I was 8 1/2-stone when I started rugby, and am not much heavier now. But the bruises are catching up to me. Now, I’m just hoping to help Gloucester into the play-offs.”
In the milestone match, the Wallamba Bulls accounted for the Gloucester Cockies with a 34-0 bonus point win to sustain their slim lead in the competition, level on 10 wins and 50 points with the Dolphins, with the Bulls marginally ahead on the points scored for and against table.