Former rugby players reunite, rekindle memories

Lyna Mohamad

A group of former rugby players who were selected to be part of Brunei team in the 70s had a reunion event at Al-Afiah Hotel in Kiulap yesterday.

“We managed to gather more than 30 of us for this event, to strengthen our brotherly ties.

Some were not able to attend and we also invited those who were active in rugby during our time but did not make it in the Brunei School Rugby Team,” Haji Latif bin Haji Aspar said.

The Brunei School Rugby Team comprised players from two teams. They were formed by former students of Sixth Form Centre (PTE) and Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien College (SOASC).

The PTE Rugby team and SOASC Rugby team once played against each other, the first of when both teams’ potentials were seen.

They played against police and army recruits and emerged victorious, much to the surprise of many. They also beat a team of expatriates, which drew the interest of Colonel Norman Robert who was formerly attached to the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and was the President of the Royal Brunei Rugby Football Union.

Former members of Brunei School Rugby Team at the reunion event. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD

In 1977, Colonel Robert formed a team of over 20 players to represent Brunei in the Singapore Tour against established teams – St Andrew’s, St Raffles and American
International Schools.

Against St Andrew’s, they were beaten down hard in the first half, but fought back in the second half, and ended the match losing by only a point.

“Overall, it was successful trip and the team bonded and returned home as a ‘family’,” said Pengiran Omarali bin Pengiran Haji Mohamed, who was the captain of the PTE Rugby team.

Pengiran Omarali shared their interest in rugby started after watching a game on television, which led them to ask their former teachers Geoff Piper and John Dickinson to teach them rugby.

Many who attended the reunion had not seen one another for over 40 years. Their former coach Geoff Piper sent his greetings to the former players through a recorded video.

Piper, who is now in his homeland in the United Kingdom, expressed his happiness to know of their reunion but he could not join due to the COVID-19 travel restriction.

“It is great that you are all getting together and keeping fit. I remember a lot of your names, I remember a lot of good times, I remember lots of wonderful passes at rugby and lots of wonderful tackling and you were internationals when you went to Singapore,” said Piper.

The organising team members hope to organise more bonding activities for former rugby
players nationwide.