Denton Hurdle’s legacy lives on
Three former team-mates of the late Denton Hurdle played a part in Teachers Rugby Club men’s team’s 41-15 win over the Rest at North Field, National Sports Centre, in a match played in his honour.
Alvin Harvey, Bill McNiven and David Cooke, all of them 62 years of age, had a run with much younger players in the full contact encounter. Earlier on, Teachers women floored the Rest 37-0 in a touch rugby game.
The tournament, which takes place annually close to Hurdle’s birthday, February 10, has been a regular feature in Bermuda’s rugby calender since 1986, the year after the talented sportsmen died at the age of 28 as a result of medical complications after surgery to correct his enlarged heart. He was a Teachers player from 1973 until his death in 1985.
Harvey, a former Bermuda rugby captain, credited Denton and his older brother, Derek, for getting him involved in the sport.
“We used to play field hockey on the same field that we used to play rugby on,’’ Harvey said.
“Every time I went to play field hockey, they’d say stop playing that game and come to play rugby.
“Between Derek and Denton, I came to play for Teachers, he was [Denton] a mentor to me. He was like a big brother as he was five years older than me. We had a great time playing, he mentored me through the game and it was sad when he passed away.
“We were supposed to be going on a tour to Hong Kong but he unfortunately got sick. He couldn’t make it and passed away not long after that. As Old Boys, we've said we’ll try to play this as long as we can.
“This match is a day of remembrance and we have embraced this day over the years. We try to get involved as much as possible with the young players and try to show them the importance of the club spirit.”
McNiven, a former front row, conceded that the departed Hurdle, a man he described as warm-hearted, was much better than him at the sport.
“I wasn't that good and he was very good,’’ McNiven told The Royal Gazette.
“I sat on the bench more than I played back in those days. It was sad and shocking when he died because he was such a terrific athlete.
“He was one of the kindest men I've ever met in my life and he always had a big smile on his face. He was always charming and such a gentle giant.
“He was also my Corporal in the Regiment and got everyone doing what they had to do. He spoke and you listened as he was a naturally great leader.
“Every time we line up in the centre for the minute of remembrance, I always remember the days he was the Teachers captain. It’s so sad that he had such a short life.”
Cooke spent more time on the field than his former team-mates and has featured in the match since the late 1980s.
“I only played with Denton for one year as I had just come back from university,’’ Cooke said.
“He was a big man of Bermuda rugby and very valuable to the Teachers rugby team. I played with Denton and just looked up to him, he was everything you could aspire to be.
“He was a great person, he was a great leader and a great rugby player. When you’re that age, you look at someone who is good at something and you just say that's amazing, and that’s all we thought of him.
“I was abroad when I heard he had died. It was unbelievable because he was so fit and so positive.
“There are certain people you can’t think of not being here and he was one of them. It’s really good when everyone comes out and remembers him, it keeps his spirit alive.
“I try to play every year because of Denton, and because of Teachers Rugby Club. It’s very important.”
Derek, 76, spoke of what it meant for the family, to have Denton continue to be remembered in a such a manner.
“It’s a great thing,’’ Derek said. “It’s also great for the rugby club because it means that the Teachers family get to put themselves on display as well.
“As much as it is a day to remember Denton, we also remember other members who have passed away.
“I played in this in this game until some five years ago. To memorialise him, the team goes to Bright Temple Church in the morning, goes for breakfast at Docksider and then comes to play rugby at the stadium.”
Aldo Campbell, the Teachers men’s captain on the day, shared his thoughts on the game.
“It was good to see some of the boys coming back on to the pitch,’’ he said.
“The boys fought hard, they supported well, even though things didn't always go in our favour. We just wore down the opposition and then things started going our way.
“For us to have the three guys who actually played with Denton, we enjoyed the moment for what it is.
“You never know, it might be your last game with your team-mates. It’s just about enjoying that moment when you have it, play like it’s you last game.”