Lovedale rugby club, the Hunter Valley Harlequins have been named the host club of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Golden Oldies Rugby Festival, to be held at Tatler Winery in June 2016.
The Harlequins formed 10 years ago when a group of local rugby veterans decided to get together and hold a weekend for other enthusiasts and fans of the game.
The weekend included coaching clinics by Wallabies Glen and Mark Ella as well as games and a gala dinner.
Since then the Lovedale group have got together for cricket matches, rugby games and family fun days several times per year, with funds raised from these events going to charities such as the T21 Ryder’s Foundation, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the McGrath Foundation.
In 2009, the idea came about to organise an event to promote the Lovedale area. Harlequins president Alex Stuart said the Golden Oldies were the right demographic.
The Harlequins established a good relationship with the Australian Golden Oldies and in 2010 hosted a breakout day for international golden oldies who had descended upon Sydney for a tournament.
The breakout day was a chance for the players to enjoy some relaxation and hospitality in the Hunter Valley while in the midst of the tournament.
Mr. Stuart said the success of the day contributed to the Harlequins being named the hosts of the upcoming Trans-Tasman festival.
The idea of golden oldies is for “old rugby players to relive their past glories,” Mr. Stuart said.
Games are not scored, and players above 65 are not allowed to be tackled or to tackle other players.
While it is ultimately a rugby union event, golden oldies is based on the promotion of ‘fun, friendship and fraternity’ and Mr. Stuart said the players don’t mind a drink either.
He believes the international event will create a massive boost to the Cessnock visitor economy, as it is expected to attract around 700 people to the area over the five days.
“It will be a significant contributor to overnight visitation and to supporting the [local] infrastructure,” he said.
Interstate players, and potentially New Zealand competitors by then, will be encouraged to disembark at Newcastle Airport. Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley will be the accommodation hub and Rover Coaches will be used for the transfers.
“It has a big ripple effect,” Mr. Stuart said.
Tatler will also be the hospitality hub for the five days, with local beer and wine on offer to the players.
The Hunter Valley Harlequins will host every second Trans-Tasman Golden Oldies Rugby Festival, which is set to be a biennial event.