AT THIS time, about 30 years ago, one thing I used to dread was the end of the rugby season.

Not blessed with great skills, I was one of those players who could play out of his skin one week, and deserved to be skinned the next, no matter how hard I tried to keep some form of consistency.

I am a founder member of Caerleon RFC, just running the line for the first season, in 1970/71. Then, when the team was short, in the second week of 1971/72, I was called up at centre, at Llandaff Fourths. I got winded and a panda (black eye) for my troubles.

One consolation, as the last day of the season raced up, was ‘the tour’.

Caerleon’s first was in 1974, in London. It was just an excuse to run around like loonies for three days, with the odd bout of drinking. A few reputations and nicknames were forged on that tour.

In my days at Caerleon they went to Ireland, Holland, Scotland, Southport, the West Country and then, in 1979, Northern France, to Arras, where I and Dick ‘The Pie’ trotted out for the local team, as they were short.

I always thought that I would hang around and help out the club when my playing days were over, but I had my head turned by the little white ball game.

But, in the main, my rugby days were great fun; I managed to stay serious injury-free, well, save for the odd twisted ankle, teeth punched out, concussions, broken nose, cracked ribs and dislocated fingers.

Ever mindful of more injuries, I dedicatedly taped and bandaged ankles and fingers before each game, much to my teammates’ delight. Now, whenever I see the odd Caerleon ‘old boy’, they always remind me about it.

I look back on those days and think of the players in their different positions; centres used to be around the 11 stone to 12-stone mark, props 14 stone-ish and second rows about a stone or two heavier.

You only have to look at today’s ‘man mountains’ to realise that we could never have survived now, for, as the saying goes, size is important.

The professional game I don’t recognise at all from my days watching Newport at Rodney Parade, in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

I went over recently and I couldn’t get over how there appears to me more whistling from the referee, which is then the signal for hordes of water-carriers, people with microphones and earpieces to invade the pitch.

Just like a lot of things in life today, I think myself and my generation had the best of times.

The game is now all about bumping into each other, big tackles, cash and points, with great clubs from the days when I used to watch the game hanging on for grim death.

Definitely, not as much fun, on or off the pitch, from my days.

Nigel Corten