Sandown and Shanklin Hurricanes Rugby Club president Graham Thomas has died at the age of 67.
Graham has been described as a legend of the club, serving as a player, coach, secretary, chairman, president and committee man.
Both the 1st and 2nd XVs held a minute’s silence before their games on Saturday to remember Graham and his number 12 shirt was ‘retired’ by the club.
After being brought up in the Coventry area, he moved to the Isle of Wight in the 1980s after meeting and marrying Isle of Wight woman Angela.
When he moved here he worked as a manager for BT and retired as senior field manager for BT Openreach.
After starting his rugby career in the Midlands with the Keresley club, his position on the pitch was inside centre, and made the number 12 shirt his own throughout the 1980s.
A series of knee injuries brought his playing career to a premature end.
Dennis Hoyle, club stalwart, said: “When not involved with the club Graham and Ange could always be found surrounded by family, particularly the grand kids at their beach hut at Littlestairs.
“There have been numerous unfinished crosswords and sudoku puzzles put down by Graham whilst he took time to chat with countless friends who never passed without a chat.”
He was father to Daniel and Gareth, grandfather to Iris and Beatrice, brother and brother-in-law to Jack and Lynne and father-in-law to Kate and Katie.
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“If we look around at our club’s fantastic facilities, it’s worth remembering that Graham was instrumental in unearthing a contact who knew how to apply for lottery money and like a terrier, he never let go until the money was raised.
The rest is history.
He was the driving force behind youth rugby and instigated the inaugural junior teams on the Island who donned the Hurricanes colours.
One only needs to look at our current club’s playing position to see his legacy.
Many memories flood back about Graham, who fondly inherited the name, ‘Slapper,’ a nickname which originated on one of our tours when someone noticed that in times of crisis, Graham thought things out, by placing an open palm to his forehead.
We all know that rugby tours and crises go hand-in-hand, so it was just as well for us that Graham was one of only two people to never miss a trip.
To reiterate the point about his love for our club, it’s worth mentioning an actual incident days before his untimely death.
Graham had watched a recent home second team fixture where our lads had played out of their skins to gain a well deserved, yet unexpected victory against Aldershot and Fleet RFC, one of the league’s best teams.
He left the club in high spirits to go and watch England host the All Blacks and accompanied by his two sons, they watched the game unfold.
As the match reached a climactic finish, the boys had to stop his persistent praising about our second team performance so that they could enjoy the international.
That was Graham, though one wonders how his elder brother, Jack, who also shared Graham’s love of the game, would have handled his comments?
Many words can be used when describing Graham, the man and his achievements, but as already mentioned, he was simply, a great bloke, who will be sorely missed by everyone connected to Sandown Shanklin RFC. We have lost a gem.”
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