- Goldman continues to play rugby for Mill Hill RFC, aged 75
- He has battled a series of illnesses and operations
John Goldman isn't your typical prop forward. He's beaten cancer twice, had heart bypass surgery, a major operation on his back and tackles trees to prepare for matches, all at the age of 75.
It's been an unlikely journey from the very beginning. In 1991, his wife encouraged him to stop shouting at rugby matches on the TV and go watch their local team play. John went along to Hendon RFC and was asked by the club chairman if he had ever played before.
“I'd played a bit when I was at school and have always loved the game,” says Goldman. “They asked me if I was free the following week to play at second row against Teddington for the 3rd XV and I couldn't think of a reason not to.”
Having not stepped onto a rugby pitch in over 30 years, John spent the week leading up to the match in the library, reading about the technicalities of playing in the forwards. "From the moment the final whistle went after playing a full 80 minutes I never wanted to be off a rugby pitch again," he adds.
Now that he'd found his calling, Goldman was keen to play more regularly and so made the mile journey to Mill Hill Rugby club where he made the decision to move to prop. "I soon realised at Mill Hill that if I was designed for anything then it was to be a prop so I switched to the front row and I absolutely love it."
Just three years into his new found love of the sport Goldman was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. He was forced to have part of one of his kidney’s removed which kept him out the game for a few months. It was the start of a series of major illnesses and operations that he has battled for several years.
“After I came back from cancer I was cycling up a mountain in California with my son when I realised my heart was playing up. I came home and saw a doctor and it turned out I needed immediate bypass surgery to give me two nice new arteries."
The misfortune didn't end there. He had several more operations including the removal of a disc in his back. Through it all, Goldman says he couldn't wait to return to rugby. "I don't just love training for it, I love playing it and I never let the operations keep me away for too long."
He was able to make a full recovery and since that period has played an average of 22 games a season for Mill Hill 2nd XV, with the majority of them being the full 80 minutes. Not bad going considering the average age of the rest of the team is 25.
“Rugby is special because it's based on respect and integrity. No matter how hard a match is, I try and find something to enjoy that puts a smile on my face,” says Goldman, who remembers one game in particular that sums up his love for the sport.
“We were playing Thurrock away and it was a miserably wet and cold day. When we arrived I saw a giant of a man go into their changing rooms and remember hoping he wasn’t their prop. Of course it turned out he was."
"It was probably my toughest game but at the end we had a beer in the clubhouse. That’s why I love it. Win, lose or draw I just love the camaraderie. The sport has helped me get through so much and has given me a group of friends that are like family."
Perhaps the secret to Goldman's success has been some slightly unorthodox training methods. "Sometimes when I'm walking the dog and no one is around I tackle some of the trees in the park. I feel like it prepares my body for the matches every week."
While Goldman might have perfected his tackling technique, his try-scoring may still need a little work. "I've never scored," he reveals. "I suppose as a prop I disagree with the idea of it in principle. I do my job and let the others get on with the fancy stuff."
A remarkable journey and proof that it's never too late to pick up the game.
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