On Tuesday evening amidst the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus a number of London Wasps greatest names were inducted into the London Wasps Hall of Fame. This year, five former players received the honour and joined eight other inductees on teh London Wasps role of honour in the second event of its kind.
Held at the Café Royal, the black tie dinner featured the current London Wasps Squad as well as some illustrious figures from London Wasps past. Presided over by former Wasps and England centre Damien Hopley; the evening started with a welcome from Bob Collier, Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee.
The five former players inducted into the 2008 Hall of Fame were; Don Willis, Bill Treadwell, Rob Smith, Will Green and Paul Rendall “the Judge”.
Don Willis, the evening's first inductee was still a schoolboy when he first arrived at Wasps, turning up at Sudbury to play for the club's Schools' XV. In the sixty three years and exactly nineteen days that have passed, there are not many positions within the club that Don has not held; No 8, open-side flanker, second row, a solitary game at prop way after he retired, president, fixture secretary, 1st XV touch judge, Quinquennial Dinner Chairman, tour manager, selector, skipper, vice skipper, Don has been the ultimate servant to the club.
Joining the club during the Christmas Holidays in 1956, Bill turned up at Sudbury, went into the clubhouse and asked, "Any chance of a game?" Back then, there was always a chance! With 13 sides and180 players due a game, there would surely be at least one no-show. Over 50 years later, Bill is still running out for the club and country, armed with needle and thread, stitching-up faces, heads, bodies, gaping wounds of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps Bill's greatest contribution to Wasps came thirty years later, when the amateur game turned professional. He was the club president at that difficult time of transition and saw us become champions in that first professional season.
Within the miles and miles of column inches written in national newspapers over the years about Wasps, our successes, trophies, players and coaches, one sentence summed up Rob Smith’s contribution to the club "Rob Smith, a modest character with precious little to be modest about." After his playing days Rob joined the coaching staff in 1985 and has since had a direct influence on some of the greatest players to have played in the modern game. During 11 seasons of amateur rugby, the early days of the professional era and his current post as Academy Manager, he has help develop the likes of Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Tom Rees, Dominic Waldouck, Hugo Ellis and before that Will Green, Joe Worsley, Lawrence Dallaglio, Andy Gomarsall, Alex King, Rob Andrew, Dean Ryan, Huw Davies, Mark Rigby, the list is almost endless.
In Will's own words "I arrived in the amateur days and you were not only playing with Wasps, you were playing with your mates. First and foremost there is an honesty among friends and you don't necessarily get that at other clubs. And we carried that camaraderie, that spirit, on into the professional ranks. I am sure it's the same with the boys in today’s squad and that's what makes Wasps so different, so special." That sentiment was certainly felt on Tuesday evening as player's old and new reminisced about past victories and looked forward to another challenging season in Wasps illustrious history.
The final inductee of the evening, Paul Rendall, was a stalwart of the 1980's side and picked up his Monica "The Judge"from Bill Beaumont, then England Captain on a tour of Australia. This was "bonding" 1980's style, presiding over Kangaroo Courts involving players, coaches, the management and the rugby Press. Paul made the position his own when he passed sentence on manager Geoff Cook and ordered him to eat a daffodil sandwich, all this before he received his first cap.
A fantastic night was had by all and thank you to those supporters who joined us and celebrated some of Wasps true greats. Details of the 2009 event will be availble shortly via www.wasps.co.uk.