- 54-year-old John Thwaite plays for North Ribblesdale RFC
- The prop has played close to 1,000 matches
- Find your local club here
Every grassroots rugby club has a stalwart player but they aren't always as experienced as North Ribblesdale RFC's prop John Thwaite who is playing in his 36th consecutive season for the first team.
Having joined the club as a 16 year old, Thwaite has played close to 1,000 matches for the North Yorkshire side and has no plans to hang up his boots anytime soon.
“I went along as a teenager to watch both my brothers play and when I turned 18 I started playing for the first team,” says Thwaite.
“As a prop there is no hiding and I love that there is a battle within every match against your opposite number.”
Thwaite has barely missed a match in the last three decades and continues to train twice a week with the team.
“I live on a farm and I’m a builder so I’ve always been pretty active so there’s no real secret to how I’ve been able to play for so long. I’m just lucky I suppose.”
There are several moments in Thwaite’s playing career that particularly stand out as highlights, the opportunity to play alongside his three sons topping the list.
“It was quite a surreal feeling running out there with my boys but we didn’t make a big deal out of it because we still had a job to do.
“My eldest, Michael, was playing at fly half and William and Andrew were both in the forwards with me. Two of them still play each week with me and I think that’s why my wife comes down to watch now, she never came when it was just me playing!”
Thwaite also had the chance to run out at Twickenham when the club reached the 2004 Junior Vase final – an event that didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts.
“A burger van caught fire and so we were only able to play for 40 minutes but it was still an incredible moment to be able to run out on that pitch. Not many players get to do that.”
So, having spent most of his life pulling on the blue and white jersey, what keeps him coming back?
“I love the sport. There is something on that pitch for everybody, it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are. Everyone can fulfil a role in a rugby team and that is so unique.
“I’ve met a lot of folk in the game and I’ve been around for so long now that I’m coming up against the sons of blokes I used to play against.
“I don’t know how long I’ll carry on for, I’m not getting any younger I suppose but even if I’m not playing I’ll still always be around North Ribblesdale RFC. It’s where I’ve grown up.”