Meet David ‘Southey’ Bell, the 82-year-old still playing rugby union


April 01, 2019 06:04:07

At 82 years old, David ‘Southey’ Bell might not be the most intimidating figure on the rugby field, but that does not stop him from pulling on his boots every week.

Key points:

  • David ‘Southey’ Bell has been playing rugby for 76 years
  • During his career he played for English club Twickenham, and the West Australian team
  • An exercise physiologist says it’s “exceptional” to be playing the sport at the age of 82 and it isn’t recommended for everyone

He mostly plays touch rugby these days, but he occasionally takes to the field for a Golden Oldies competition that sees players over 35 compete in a less physical rugby union game.

“The fun of the game is more, not knocking someone over but just having the fun of the game,” Mr Bell said.

His rugby career spans 76 years and started at the age of six in South Africa, with his first coach, Miss Mullins.

“We had a woman coach because there were no men about because they had all gone off to the Second World War.

“I remember standing there with a big fat leather football and thinking this was going to be good and from then I’ve always played rugby,” Mr Bell said.

Just ‘lucky’ to play for his state

Mr Bell has played rugby union in several different countries including a stint playing for the English club Twickenham.

In the 1960s, after moving to Perth, Western Australia, Mr Bell joined the Cottesloe Rugby Union Football Club. He is now a life member.

“I joined them in ’62 and I was lucky enough to play with them in first grade,” he said.

In his words, his ‘luck continued’, and in 1963 and 1964 he played for the WA team.

“That was something I never expected because I’m not the greatest rugby player in the world,” Mr Bell said.

After 76 years in the sport, Mr Bell is still modest about his skills, but his love for the game has never diminished.

“It’s the people — I love putting the ball through their hands.

“It’s just lovely to be surrounded by rugby people, people who love the game as much as I do,” he said.

Legend status

20 years ago Mr Bell moved from Perth to the south-west WA town of Dunsborough and took up with a new rugby team, the Dunsborough Dungbeetles.

He is a famous figure at their games, and his warm-up run before an Golden Oldies tournament is constantly interrupted by someone yelling out, ‘Hey, Southey’.

Dungbeetles club captain Wayne Flood said at 82 years old, Mr Bell encouraged his ‘young’ 50-year-old teammates to keep playing.

“He’s a legend of the club and he loves playing touch rugby with the boys.

“It inspires them to turn up and play touch when Southey’s there,” he said.

Playing rugby at 82 ‘exceptional’

Exercise physiologist Dr Kay Cox said while keeping fit in your older age was recommended, rugby union was not quite what she had in mind.

“Well I wouldn’t suggest that all 82-year-olds go and take up rugby,” she said.

The University of WA associate professor said sports with body contact and sharp movements could do a lot of damage, so players who continued to play their chosen sport would need to adapt their playing style in their older years.

“If they are playing in a group of other 80-year-olds, the game can be modified to fit the fitness,” Dr Cox said.

Dr Cox said exercise at any age was essential, but even more so for older people.

“Some of the body’s systems start to deteriorate and they decline and we’re not as strong as we used to be.

“But with exercise you can actually stave off some of that decline,” she said.

Dr Cox said playing rugby at 82 was “exceptional” and suggested older Australians start with walking first and then move on to an easier sport, such as swimming.

Mr Bell is believed to be the oldest rugby union player in WA, but on the international scene, players as old as 85 have been known to compete for Japan in the Golden Oldies World Rugby Festival.

So when will Mr Bell finally hang up the boots?

“I will keep playing touch rugby until I can’t,” he said.













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Publish date : 2019-03-31 19:04:07

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