Players from clubs across Durham, Northumberland and beyond have combined to form a North-East Select XV to play against Newcastle Falcons’ Legends in Tankie’s Battle at Kingston Park Stadium on Friday April 22.
The 7.45pm kick-off is to raise money for Newcastle Falcons’ Premiership title-winning prop Paul ‘Tank’ Van-Zandvliet, who has recently been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Funds raised will go towards a trust fund set up for Tank’s eight-year-old daughter, Hope-Elle, as well as good causes including the RVI and Freeman Hospitals, and the official charity of the Rugby Players’ Association, Restart Rugby.
The Legends side is already packed out with Falcons greats from yesteryear, the Newcastle old boys set to face a squad drawn from all corners of the region.
RFU rugby development officer Dave Reed has been instrumental in putting together the group, saying: “When the news broke that Tanky was ill the rugby community very quickly got behind him, and people were immediately asking what they could do.
“His old Newcastle Gosforth and Newcastle Falcons team-mates clubbed together to help put on this game for him, and when the idea was floated about putting out a North-East Select XV the clubs in the area responded magnificently.
“As well as lads volunteering to play I have got a list of water boys as long as my arm, because guys who can no longer play through age or injury just want to have some part on the night. Tanky’s first club, Whitley Bay Rockliff, are supplying the ball boys through their under-11s, and it should be a great event.”
Reed added: “Everybody in North East rugby either knows Tanky or knows of his achievements. He is a local lad who pushed to the very top of the club game, it is incredibly to sad to hear what is happening with his cancer but it is fantastic the way everyone is chipping in for him, his family and the associated charities.
“The make-up of both squads for the game has united the professional and the amateur sides of rugby, which is very much what Tanky has always stood for. He is proud of his roots, he made it at the top and both ends of the sport are coming together to recognise that. Tanky must be pretty chuffed at the response he has received from everyone and it will be a great night for everyone who is involved in any way.”
Suggesting that speed of thought rather than limbs might be the chief asset of his own squad, Reed said: “The best thing I could say is that it’s a blend of experience and experience. There is not a huge amount of youth in there but we do have blistering pace over a yard. That’s a yard, not a metre mind!
“All joking aside, we’re grateful to all the lads who have put their hands up to play. A lot of them have said they can give us 10 minutes due to various injuries and ailments, so we will be rotating a big squad throughout the night and really just embracing the spirit of the occasion.
“It has been fun being involved in organising the team, it has been a right laugh with plenty of typical rugby banter. That will very much continue on the night and I know for a fact that a lot of people can’t wait for this game.”
Tickets for Tankie’s Battle on Friday April 22 at Kingston Park Stadium are available priced £10 and £20 for adults, £5 for juniors and £50 for hospitality. To book call 0871 226 6060, visit Kingston Park in person during office hours or CLICK HERE
NORTH-EAST SELECT SQUAD
Richard Lydiatt (Houghton), Ian Chandler, Graeme Clarkson, Fergus Mitchell, Steve Douglas, Matt Long (all ex-Gosforth), Noel Mather, Craig Tomlinson, Leon Smart, Neil Mather, Ross Bailey (all Whitley Bay Rockliff), Peter Carter (Sunderland), Shaun Cassidy (Middlesbrough), Lyndon Tweddle, Garry Hodgson, Greg Hayes (all Medicals), David Whitehead, Deano Laws (all Northern), Glen Teeley (Combined Police), Graeme Turnbull, Paul Richardson (all Ponteland), Paul Spowart, Mark Jackson, Greg Dixon (all Percy Park), David Carson (Hartlepool), Jo Coffey, Alan Rogers, Graham Crozier (all Gosforth), Paul Jackson, Paul Mooney, Dave Reed (all Morpeth), Andrew Wilkinson (Army), Craig Wrightson (Wallsend), Andrew Tucker (Guisborough), Mickey Wright (Newcastle Ravens), Neil Young (Redcar), Gareth Kerr (ex-Falcons academy), David Mackenzie, Dan McKay (all South Shields), Jack Liddle (Prudhoe and Stocksfield), Duncan Henderson (Ashington), Richard Elliot (Alnwick), Mike Hay.