Rams prepare for 125-year ball

Walcha Rugby Union Club is gearing up for a milestone event this Saturday.

This year marks 125 years in the club's history and the Rams will suit up off-the-field this Saturday for a ball to mark the occasion.

There is plenty to celebrate and commiserate with ups and downs throughout the club's history.

The Rams currently lead the Central North competition and are hoping to celebrate a premiership in their milestone year, a feat which they haven't achieved since 1997.

The ball has sold out with people travelling from near and far to celebrate and reminisce.

Phil Jones, who played second row in the 1988 and 1989 Rams' team will make his way down from Tenterfield from the event.

Phil Jones now coaches the Tenterfield Bumblebees in the Far North Coast President's Cup competition.

Phil Jones now coaches the Tenterfield Bumblebees in the Far North Coast President's Cup competition.

Jones began his impressive rugby union career at Walcha which proved to be a long and illustrious one in the sport.

"I was there in '88, '89, my first teaching position, I taught at St Pat's. I played a fair bit of league up until that stage, played a little bit of rugby, not first grade rugby," he said.

"Jeff Makeham, he was coach at the time and asked me if I want to go to Port Macquarie, they had a trial game down there, so I ended up going to Port Macquarie and stayed with the Rams.

"It was a fantastic team, some great players; the Crawfords, George Spring, Barry Hoy was there, Ian Chester, Murray Fenwicke, Miles Archdale, Forto [John Fortescue].

"Best two years of my life, straight out of uni and played with a really good club."

Jones went on to represent Central North during his stint with the Rams as well as embarking on international tours with the side.

"We toured, we did a Canada and America tour, in my second year, about that time which was a great experience," he said.

While he only spent two seasons with the Rams, Jones made an impression.

"I went to a reunion, they wrote a book and Jeff Makeham named a team and I was in the team.

"It was in the Walcha 100 year book.

"Named in the side in the second row."

He also remembers waking up early on freezing Walcha mornings and getting our own Andrew Cross OAM out of bed.

"I was an avid swimmer and I used to go down there and swim and it wasn't heated in those days," Jones said.

"Coog wouldn't even get out of bed, I would get the key out of his house at the back of the pool and hook in.

"It was absolutely freezing and everybody thought I was mad."

From Walcha, Jones made his way to Glen Innes.

"Walcha won the premiership the year I left in 1990 and I lost the premiership in Glen Innes in 1990," he said.

"It was devastating because the Walcha side was much the same side, there was a few new ones, Barnaby Joyce was the in side that year but it was much the same side we had the last two years.

"I left and they all came and watched me lose the grand final in Glen Innes and I went to Walcha and watched them win so they gave me a fair bit of stick about that."

He also earned representative honours there, and clashed some of his former teammates.

"I left Walcha and started playing for New England so I was the opposition when all my mates were playing for Central North," he said.

"George Spring and I used to clash all the time and he was my best man for my wedding.

"We used to take a lot of pleasure in trying to beat the shit out of each other."

Jones' career continued, representing NSW Country, Northern Province, captaining the University of New England to inter-varisty championship as well as captaining the Australian universities side to an undefeated tour of America.

He also played in the Greylands Invitational team for two semi-final berths in the Hong Kong 10s.

Nowadays, Jones can still be found at rugby union matches, on the sidelines though as the coach of the Tenterfield Bumblebees.

After decades of not having a rugby union team in his hometown, the Bees were resurrected in 2018 and Jones was appointed the coach.

Following on in his footsteps in the sporting arena, Jones' son Isaac has quickly made a name for himself as well with representative honours in the pool, on the rugby league field, touch football, basketball, athletics and any other sport he can try.