Some sports in Cayman have only just fully recovered from the horrific effects of Hurricane Ivan hitting three years ago. Not rugby though. It resumed within a few weeks of that devastating period in September 2004. Not bad considering the pitch was totally immersed in sea water for a long period.
The quick revival is thanks partly to rugby veteran Ron Arscott who was determined to see his favourite sport up and running and showed the commitment to do so.
On Saturday at the rugby club in South Sound, the third annual Arscott tournament was held and it was another roaring success. Ten-a-side teams played each other in what amounted to trials for January’s season when teams will compete in league format for the Alexander Cup.
Arscott is happy to do his bit to see rugby flourish. ‘The whole concept of this was to get it up and going after Ivan and one of our gloating neighbours kindly told us that we’d never play rugby on our field again. We wanted to prove him wrong and we knew it would come back because we’d often had problems with the pitch with flooding. People used to say, ‘jeez, this pitch is no good’, but it always came back very quickly. I started sponsoring this day because I wanted to see rugby start quickly so that the interest didn’t wane because there wasn’t too much to do either. There were a lot of people wanting to do something.’
So Arscott, who turned 59 on Friday and still playing the odd game, decided to get things moving by sponsoring a 10s competition. Only two months after Ivan hit he arranged the competition. ‘Tens was a lot more sociable than a seven-a-side tournament. Sevens are too quick and tiring and there weren’t really enough people to do a full 15-a-side so we managed to scrape three 10s together.’
Arscott owns his own small construction company and felt compelled to support rugby at its time of need. ‘This is a fun day, with some serious rugby – and all the beer is free!’
Originally, the rugby season was just a bunch of guys getting together in an ad hoc fashion. Last year the rugby federation decided that it would be better that the Alexander Cup teams were properly organised so that everyone knew it was properly structured. One player sure to be one of the first picks is the lightning fast Keswick Wright who scored one try that stretched almost the length of the pitch.
Arscott started rugby in England as a child in boarding school in 1959. He played to a high standard in the Royal Navy and for the Combined Services. After naval duty, he moved to Norfolk and was good enough for the county. He started out as a forward in the second row then moved to wing forward, became a centre ‘and as I slowed down a little bit became a wing forward. I’m a prop now. The only way I can go further forward is to go into the other side!’.
Technical director Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams assessed the players’ abilities at Arscott’s tournament. Over the next three weeks they’ll play a Northern Hemisphere against a Southern Hemisphere 15-a-side series before the draft is made to get everybody ready for the season.
Adams was impressed with the overall standard. He is also delighted that Cayman’s Shaun Gerard has been selected for trials in Trinidad for the West Indies sevens side. Wing forward Gerard, 26, is a native South African who has lived in Grand Cayman for a number of years and works in construction. He plays hooker in sevens. What impressed the selectors at last weekend’s Caribbean sevens tournament in Bahamas was his ability to get around the park quickly and exceptional stamina in a notoriously lung-busting sport.
Adams said: ‘This is a fantastic effort by Shaun. His work rate was phenomenal in the Bahamas, noticed by the West Indies selectors. There will be 21 players in total all working for a place in the final 14 who will go to San Diego and play in the World Sevens Series. He has the ability to beat the opponents to the ball and win it. That’s a rare quality in sevens. There are a lot of fast guys in sevens who can run the length of the pitch but there are not many who can work that hard with the skills he has. We wish him all the best. I’m sure with his work rate and his great skill level he’ll have a very good chance of making the final squad.’