A few seasons ago, a slight, young blonde lad joined his father as being a member of our hockey club. Pre season training had started and young Rhys Rubery (or Rubes’ boy as us senior members tended to refer to him!) had joined in with senior training.
As expected, he was a raw youngster training with players far older and bigger than him. Some in their 20’s, some in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s. Shy, nervous or just young, it was clear he had the hockey playing genes as displayed by his dad with such distinction since we welcomed him to Bridgend Hockey many years ago.
One minute he was trying the spectacular. Another minute he was doing the basics very well. You could clearly see that there was a good player in there somewhere! He would have become a very good player in a season or two. He was small in stature, but he punched well above his weight on the hockey pitch. Always playing with his broad smile on his face, Rhys soon graduated into the 3rd XI. Mixing with fellow youngsters and some of the members of the club who were a bit long in the tooth, he soon made an impact. Scoring the odd goal, taking the odd bump along the way, but none that would wipe the smile off his face.
As his first season came to an end, his second season was to be his break through season. From the 3rd XI he would graduate to the 2nd XI, making numerous appearances as one of the youngest members of the squad. Again, a few bumps and bruises would follow, but he just brushed them off and got on with things such was his appetite for the game. Rhys had grown up. He’d gone from the raw youngster to very promising player who had started to give a few of the senior members a run for their money, both in matches and in training (myself included!).
Dressed in his trademark Rabobank Holland hockey jersey (with Jon having a matching one!) he was capable of mixing it with the best the club had to offer. Always encouraged by his ever supportive dad, I remember fondly commenting to other members of training ‘Christ, Rhys is coming on nicely isn’t he?’. The replies to the question was a unanimous ‘Yes’. As last season ended, mixed hockey had begun in earnest. A new pitch for the club, but the same old Rhys. Always there. Always keen to learn. Always smiling.
My lasting memory of Rhys you ask? I have two. One that involved myself, another one that didn’t. Firstly, he’s currently the player to give me the WORST injury I’ve ever had playing hockey since 1994. Quite an achievement given that I’ve been in a few scrapes on the hockey pitch shall we say. A slight little tap on my shins during a mixed hockey get together on Thursday 2nd June turned into a bruise that completely covered my lower leg, front and back. Would young Rhys have been able to do that? Doubtful. It was evidence that Rhys Rubery had arrived on the hockey pitch.
The second memory that will stick with me (excuse the pun) is a photograph that was sent via a Bridgend Hockey What’s App group. It was Thursday 7th July. It was mixed hockey, and something that Rhys ‘hated missing more than training’ according to Jon. An inconspicuous incident led to Rhys getting hit on the head by a fellow club member. As the photo arrived, my reaction was one of shock. A rather nasty looking lump on the side of his head. That wasn’t the one thing that stood out to me though. It was that smile on Rhys’ face again. As I said previously, nothing would wipe the smile of his face, and that infectious enthusiasm he had for the game and having fun. There are videos of Rhys getting stuck in the mud on walks with Jon and their dog Griff. There are other memories of Rhys… including being dressed up (again!) very similar to his father at end of season presentation nights in trademark shiny waistcoats, the list can go on.
To close this tribute to a fine, fine young man, I can honestly say he was one of the best ‘kids’ we’ve had come through the Bridgend Hockey system in my 22 years playing at the club. Polite, caring, funny, cheeky, intelligent, and a talented player who had a very promising career on and off the pitch ahead of him. He is a real testament to his parents Joanne and John, younger sister Catrin and the rest of the his family who my prayers and thoughts are very much with at this extremely tough time. The outpouring of grief and kind words spoken, written and sent about Rhys only goes to highlight how much our Bridgend Hockey family, and myself included thought of him.
From this moment on, I will think of Rhys every time I pull on my beloved blue and white Bridgend jersey. My motivation now isn’t about beating the opposition. It is about playing for Rhys. If we played with the same spirit as Rhys did, we as individuals and as a club won’t go at all wrong. Rhys was a real shining light that will never go out in the eyes of myself or the people who had the great pleasure of knowing him.
Rhys Rubery. Never forgotten.