Family pride in Stride milestone

Philip Stride, centre, with sons Matthew, left, and Graham
Philip Stride, centre, with sons Matthew, left, and Graham

Cornborough helps England notch first victory

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Philip Stride had every reason to be bursting with pride following Fareham Heathens seconds’ victory over Basingstoke thirds recently.

The Heathens’ 44-5 win will not go down in the history books as one of rugby’s classics.

But it will forever be a momentous occasion for club stalwart Stride, who fulfilled a long-term sporting ambition during the Palmerston Drive clash.

For years, the 51-year-old has dreamed of lining up alongside his two sons – Graham and Matthew.

And this month that dream became reality when 17-year-old Matthew earned his first call-up to the club’s senior ranks.

The game’s rules state that a player has to reach the age of 17 before being eligible for selection at that level.

Twenty-year-old student Graham reached that landmark several years ago and has been lining up with his dad ever since.

But despite several back injuries and two operations, dad Philip has continued to put his body on the line in order to have the honour of playing alongside both sons.

That opportunity arose earlier this month, with the schools’ half-term break freeing Matthew from his rugby commitments with Portsmouth Grammar School.

And it was a day that Philip will treasure, alongside his sons, for a long time.

‘It was an absolutely fantastic day,’ said Stride senior.

‘It’s been a goal of mine ever since the boys started rugby, and I always promised I would keep going until it happened.

‘The laws of the game state that you have to be 17 to play senior rugby, so I had to wait until Matthew turned that age and then the half-term break to achieve it.

‘I can retire with a massive smile on my face after having to endure such a long wait. A few times I thought it might never happen, though.

‘I’ve had to have two back operations – the last one six years ago after picking up an injury in training.

‘I managed to get back playing again but have been avoiding training ever since.

‘At my age you seem to pick up injuries more often and the recovery time seems to take longer and longer now.

‘I used to just ache on a Sunday after a game but now it’s stretching to the Monday or Tuesday!

‘But I’ve got a real passion for the sport and the thought of playing with Graham and Matthew kept me going.’

Despite the gulf in age, Philip showed his young guns how it’s done with a try in the victory.

However, it was the kids who had the last laugh at the final whistle.

‘The day was everything I expected it to be, and by completing the game I met the first of my expectations!

‘But while I scored a try, I got a bit of stick after for dropping the ball over the line without actually scoring.

‘As for the boys, Graham won the man-of-the-match award, while Matthew, who normally plays in the back row, played out of position at centre but still managed to set up a couple of tries.

‘It was very pleasing and, hopefully, we’ll get another runout at Christmas and at the end of the season.’

After such a long wait, all three Stride family members lined-up again in the same Heathens side as they lost 31-20 against Winchester at the weekend.

And while more games are planned between now and the end of the season, Philip admitted time may finally be catching up with him on the rugby pitch.

‘The knocks are getting harder to recover from nowadays so I’ll maybe have to take up refereeing next season,’ he said.