Over 250 guests attended the 25th Anniversary Midlands Sportsmans Luncheon supporting the Wooden Spoon charity on Wednesday 17th December. Guest of honour was legendary rugby star Jason Leonard who lived up to his massive reputation when addressing the knowledgable festive rugby audience at the Macdonald Burlington Hotel in Birmingham City Centre.
The always high profile rugby-themed xmas event honouring late rugby host Greville Edwards also featured England internationals Tim Stimpson, master of ceremonies, and guest speaker (1 tour, 1 test, 1 try!) John Bentley – all with Leonard on the 1997 Lions tour of South Africa – along with celebrity impressionist and comedian Kevin Connelly.
Guests enjoyed a superb four-course lunch of Chicken & Chorizo Terrine; Roast 21 day aged finest Rib of Scottish beef served with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a red wine and horse radish jus; Traditional Christmas Pudding, Cheeseboard.
Naturally the speeches were all about violence, respect and laughter.
The man known as ‘The Fun Bus’ and ‘The Scourge of the Barking Barmaids’ becomes President of the Rugby Football Union in World Cup Year 2015, and clearly is trying to behave just a tiny bit better than the norm. But he has a particularly interesting take on the game because he spanned the amateur and professional era.
Leonard has won the highest international accolades possible – 114 England appearances, Grand Slams (1991, 1992, 1995 and 2003), the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and Lions tours in 1993, 1997 and 2001, asked who was the hardest front row forward he had come against, he chose the little known (today) Norman Hadley of Canada. Leonard, rather foolishly, had cause to smack Hadley, a delightful bruise started arising from around his opponent’s eye … but Hadley was disparaging – “Is that the best you have got, Princess?” he asked. Leonard spent the rest of the game one step ahead of Stormin Norm. “He was the only one on the pitch who was slower than I was,” quipped Leonard.
But then Leonard was in the toughest pack who probably have ever turned out for England – the likes of Winterbotham, Dooley, Ackford, Skinner, Moore and several other enforcers. “Dooley never wanted the ball – that wasn’t his game.” Wade was a policeman – as was his second row colleague Paul Ackford. Says it all really – safe to say the pair did not take prisoners. All good stuff.
Best line from Stimpson was off mic – “This guy comes up to me and says, ‘you were a great back row player in your day.” Stimpson was a full back!
Plenty of funny lines from ‘Bentos’, a Yorkshireman from Cleckheaton.
“Cleckheaton is twinned with Las Vegas – they’re the only two places in the world you can get sex for chips!”
“It used to be a world in which parents had lots of children; now children have lots of parents!”
And then we toasted Greville. Grumpy, curmudgeonly … but a lovely guy and much missed.
We can now look forward to the 26th Annual Midlands Sportsmans Luncheon, to be held on Thursday 17th December 2015, once again at the Macdonald Burlington Hotel. Absolutely the best pre-Christmas rugby luncheon in the country. We hope to see you there!