Rob Wildman: Dusty Hare

Excuse the indulgence of a trip down memory lane. It seemed all roads led to Leicester that Tuesday night in early November 1983.

Our car was tightly packed as at it took a group of us from Newark Rugby Club to Welford Road to watch the Midlands against the All Blacks. It was a midweek treat for a young reporter working on the local newspaper in the town.

Looking back at the records, it was the All Blacks’ first match under floodlights in Britain and it ended in a very rare defeat, the Midlands winning 19-13. From memory, it was a clear evening and a full house provided the back drop for a night we would not forget. It was helped that Newark Rugby Club’s most famous son Dusty Hare produced a very special moment by despatching a dropped goal from near halfway to keep the Midlands ahead in the final stages. I remember watching the kick in awe as it zoomed out of the Leicester night and the stunned reaction of the celebrated All Blacks.

It was all part of a memorable night watching a team including not just Hare but other Leicester internationals in Peter Wheeler, Les Cusworth, Paul Dodge, Nick Youngs and Clive Woodward. There was also a cameo role as a replacement for a young police constable in Dean Richards.

Two weeks later, seven of that Midlands XV were in the first England team since 1936 to beat the All Blacks at Twickenham. It was another tight match, Dusty kicking 11 points in a 15-13 win.

Throughout all these heady moments, there was a young reporter on the Newark Advertiser tasked to keep in touch with Dusty.

It was a brilliant sporting career the newspaper had chronicled from school rugby at the Magnus Grammar School, through local tennis and cricket to a report on a Sunday morning football team he played in.

Our Dusty was a sporting all-rounder, good enough to consider cricket for Nottinghamshire over first-class rugby which eventually ended in him holding the world record for points scored.

For a young reporter the hardest task was keeping tabs on Dusty. In those seemingly untroubled days, players had careers and lives away from rugby. The variety of employment helped to make the sport so joyous to report.

In Dusty’s case, it was farming and the then editor of the Advertiser always challenged his reporters to find ways to label our local hero other than the South Clifton farmer where he lived just outside the town.

I quickly became familiar with his working life. The best time of day to catch him was after lunch when farming duties were in hand and he was thinking about the next training session. Legend had it, he had a set of posts in a nearby field to practise. But Dusty gained his rugby fitness from his farming and his natural eye for all sports.

Sometimes you were unlucky in trying to catch up with him and discovered that he had gone to buy sheep at auction and would not be back until late. There were no mobile phones, text or email. How did we manage?

Usually, though, Dusty was about and returned a call which started a friendship of near 40 years which continues in a regular meet up at Newark RUFC.

He remains modest about his own deeds and likes nothing better to talk about the young players coming through the professional system via his work for the academies in recent years at Northampton and Leicester.

For this reporter, that night at Welford Road will always be a cherished memory of rugby in a very different era.

Memory added on February 10, 2021

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