In recent years PGRFC have used the traditional Boxing Day fixture to act as a testimonial game in tribute to a long serving club stalwart who deserves the title of being a “Hoppers Legend”. Following on from Keith “Dad” Brierley’s testimonial game of a few seasons ago, weather permitting the club is to honour another long serving veteran in the form of second row forward Graham Cox.
“Coxy” (who still turns out for the 6th XV on a regular basis) stands third on the all time list of playing appearances for the clubs 1st XV with an incredible 421 games since his debut in the 1973/4 season. How many games he has actually played for the club across all the senior teams is open to debate but a conservative estimate must be that it is well into four figures. The records also show that Graham crossed the try line on seven occasions during those 421 games although this may be up for discussion!
From the archives (kindly provided by club historian Mike Forshaw) are two photos from early in Graham’s playing career and no doubt the older club members will be able to spot some very familiar faces! There are some excellent hair styles and facial hair on display in both pictures. The first larger group photo dates from September 1975 whilst the team shot stems from September 1974.
Only Roy Dransfield (500 appearances) and Dave Percy (431 appearances) have featured more often for the 1st XV in the modern era than Graham. Since records began to be compiled by Les Anson in the early 1970’s the list of most appearances for the club stands at:-
Roy Dransfield 500
Dave Percy 431
Graham Cox 421
Mike Bailey 347
Phil Crayston 338
John Chesworth 333
Stan Sherlock 326
Joe Hindle 301
Dave Chadwick 296
Alan Wyllie 285
Micky Parker 277
Alan Sayle 269
John Bleasdale 264
Russell Flynn 255
Pete Carter 254
Neil Ashton 249
Eric Dean 244
Neil Leeming 228
Mick Billington 210
Wade Dooley 206
Glyn Dewhurst 204
With Paul Bailey, Richie Sands and Ian Ashton just missing out of this list with 197, 195 & 188 appearances respectively.
The match will be a Graham Cox XV vs. a Mike Bailey XV drawn from players across the club and outside. So far confirmed to play on Boxing Day are Sean Long, Chris Glynn, John Morgan, John Bleasdale, Glyn Dewhurst and Paul Bailey as well as many other familiar faces who have appeared for the club over the last few years.
Speaking on the game, Chairman of Rugby Mike Bailey said “Coxy is one of life’s true gentlemen. Having played over 420 games at 1st team level is a fantastic feat. He had just finished his 1st XV career when I started playing but I have had the pleasure of playing a number of social 6th XV games with him. I would say that Graham is very much a scrummaging and front of the line jumper as a second row and a formidable and very competitive opponent to boot. We are delighted to have a testimonial for Coxy as he is a true hopper.”
On his side for Boxing Day, Mike was keen to throw down the gauntlet! “I have got a decent side lined up to play against you Coxy so you better do some recruiting! It will be fabulous to see the likes of John Morgan, John Bleasdale and Chris Glynn back at the club whilst I must thank Sean Long for turning out and embracing the Hoppers spirit”.
The Chairman of Rugby XV Squad currently includes:-
Chadwick, Bell, Quirk, Gregory, Steel (W), Steel (C), Bailey (Capt), Edwards, Ashton (good looking one!), Dewhurst, Bleasdale (J), Morgan, Toon (J), Toon (C), Long, Bailey (P), Glynn.
Coaches- Dew, Lough, Chesworth.
Mike is still looking to add more players to his squad and is keen to hear from all past players who fancy playing on Boxing Day. If you are interested then please contact him direct on 07973131640 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
“To all supporters and members, please come down and support Coxy and his charity and I look forward to seeing you on the 26th”.
The game will kick off at 2pm and entrance is £5 with a special program. The proceeds from the day will of course go to Graham’s nominated charity. Graham has asked that all monies raised go towards pancreatic cancer in memory of his late brother in law.
The bar will be open and it would be a superb gesture of appreciation to Graham to see as many people at the game as possible on the day.