Emotions are set to be running high at Thurston Rangers Rugby Club tomorrow as the community comes together to honour one of their brothers, in tragic prop Josh Gilbert.
The club postponed matches last weekend following the 25-year-old collapsing and dying during the second team’s match at Hadleigh the previous Saturday.
But after Rangers sought special dispensation from league chiefs to have the second team’s game at Sudbury III switched to Robinson Field, where the first team host Haverhill & District, a bumper crowd will pack in tomorrow (3pm) before raising a glass to someone known affectionately around the club as ‘bear’.
Thurston chairman Matt Answell said: “Last weekend we took a step to one side because several players were not ready to play rugby again.
“A lot of other clubs in the region gave a minute’s applause and named Josh on their team sheets as a substitute, which was a really nice thing to do.
“This weekend is our opportunity to mark it. We will do the same and the family are coming down as well as a lot of Josh’s friends, members of Walsham Sports Club and Walsham Cricket Club, where he also played, and members of the Bury St Edmunds Young Farmers Club are coming down as well.
“We will have a minute’s applause and say a few words on the day and we are going to be retiring his shirt (no3).”
Thurston’s first team go into the match in Greene King IPA Eastern Counties One West against bottom side Haverhill with two wins from two so far this season.
And Ansell said all the players will be hoping to do their former team-mate proud both on, as well as off, the pitch.
“In some ways it shows how unimportant sport is, but in some ways it shows how important it is,” he said.
“I know from speaking to Josh’s dad how much winning the league with the seconds meant to him last season and the impact that had on him.
“Maybe the outcomes will feel unimportant but it will also feel very important to put on a good show this weekend and do him proud. It would be great if both teams could win.”
He added: “We are opening the doors on Saturday, really. Everyone is welcome, even if they are not into rugby, to come down and raise a glass to someone who touched people across the community.”