Eighty years after scoring Hendon’s first ever try, Geoff returns for anniversary bash

Hendon celebrated their 80th anniversary in style on Saturday night, with the club’s 100-year-old founder Geoffrey Cooper joining in the festivities at the Crown Moran Hotel, Cricklewood.

Cooper co-founded the club in 1932 and scored their first ever try, breaking the deadlock in the team’s first match.

He celebrated reaching his century on October 6, and had another night to remember at Hendon’s 80th anniversary dinner dance at the weekend.

The opening address was delivered by the president of the Rugby Football Union, Paul Murphy, and Cooper then captivated the guests with his memories of the club’s origins, his playing days and his current position on the fundrasing sub-commitee, before receiving a standing ovation.

Hendon president David Gershlick then read out Cooper’s ‘telegram’ from the Queen, and announced three new honorary life presidents – the highest honour the club can bestow – with John Ryan, Micky Harber and Tom Brownsell joining Cooper, Richard Best and Mike Brandler.

The president of the Middlesex County Rugby Football Union, Michael Barnes, also spoke and presented Cooper with a silver salver from the county to mark his service to Hendon and rugby.

Finally, the 100-year-old cut the cake, which was decorated as a rugby pitch and emblazoned with the Hendon crest, before the guests were entertained by the Paul Murphy Showband.

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Gershlick told Ham&High Sport: “There were three generations of club members there – players from the 1960s and 70s, another batch from the 80s and 90s and the guys from the noughties onwards.

“It was a great evening and what impressed me most were the younger players who don’t really know Geoff Cooper but were standing up and giving him an ovation.

“Geoff had prepared a speech but he put it down and said it all from the heart, talking about the beginning of Hendon Rugby Club and what it means to him.

“It all just underlined how proud I am to be the club’s president – and I’m sure it will be the only time that I will read out a message from the Queen!

“They don’t call them telegrams any more but Geoff received a letter for his 100th birthday, and it was just signed ‘Elizabeth’. It was a very fitting occasion for a quite wonderrful gentleman.

“I’ve received a letter from the president of the Rugby Football Union, Paul Murphy, which said ‘although your results are not at the top end at the moment, certainly the spirit and hospitality of Hendon Rugby Club was of the highest level’. I think that sums up the evening, and everything that is great about this club.”

On the pitch, it was a familiar story for Hendon at the weekend as passing errors and sloppy play condemned them to a 40-28 defeat away at Uxbridge, allowing the hosts to progress into the next round of the National Junior Vase.

Hendon made a bright start, with John McCarthy slotting over an early penalty, and they soon led by eight points as Buzz Nunez set up Michael Blake for a try.

Hendon’s forwards dominated but could not convert the points, and their careless play was punished as a delayed pass was intercepted and cost them a score.

Jamie Connolly touched down for the visitors, but Uxbridge responded quickly with an unconverted try to go into half-time just one point in arrears at 13-12 – and Hendon were dealt a blow when Connolly was yellow-carded, giving Uxbridge the chance to score again and edge into the lead.

Nunez ran 70 metres to touch down in the corner, but Hendon then imploded and conceded three tries in quick succession as Uxbridge established a 40-18 lead.

Hendon finally replied with a try from captain Brian O’Regan following a rolling maul. Three minutes later Connolly collected McCarthy’s kick and touched down, but it was too little, too late as Uxbridge advanced to the next round of the cup.