RUGBY at Ardencaple is in the middle of a winter hiatus, with league action resuming with the visit of Waysider Drumpellier on Saturday, January 11.

Next week we’ll take a look back at the fortunes of Helensburgh Rugby Club so far this season which, while having been somewhat challenged, are perhaps not as bleak as some results have suggested.

However, this week features a tribute to two of the best proponents of forward play the club has had the fortune to enjoy - and for nearly 30 years to boot!

Seasoned second rows David Calderwood and Stewart Tacchi have been forced to retire completely from playing rugby this season having, ironically, both suffered serious arm injuries.

That both are 40-somethings is testament enough to their ability to withstand the rigours of playing in the engine room of the scrum.

That they will be remembered in their pomp as easily the best second-row pairing the club has ever produced is their enduring legend, and it can only be hoped that somewhere in the conveyor belt that is the club’s thriving youth section, another pair of behemoths will emerge in the future.

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David, known to most as Collie Dog, came through Helensburgh’s youth system and made his first team debut around season 1991-92.

Aside from a period where he lived and worked in South Africa, the firefighter from farmer stock has more or less been a first XV fixture ever since.

Stewart, whose surname morphed into his nickname of Taxi, was part of a once-in-a-generation brood of under-18s who romped to all kinds of glory in the early 1990s, and who then propelled the club from the relative wastelands of the old Glasgow District Leagues to the richer pastures of the National Leagues throughout that decade and into the noughties.

They were a fine combination at lock: Collie provided the grunt and the hard hits, but was by no means a one-trick pony, being adept at turnovers and scoring a fair share of tries.

Taxi, meanwhile, was a lineout specialist and show-pony, his lolloping, gangly breenges so effective in breaking the gain-line.

Both would go on to captain the first XV.

They had a fantastic work ethic and both were fitter than a butcher’s dog, attributes that meant they played first team rugby well into their 30s.

Taxi then had the sense to play down in the ‘twos’, and made huge contributions there; intermittent appearances ended in October when he suffered a complicated wrist dislocation playing in the team’s first social match of the season, against Bishopton.

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Collie…well, Collie is a bit of a Peter Pan. Apart from announcing more ‘final seasons’ than Elton John has in Vegas, he just kept playing. And playing. And playing.

For the past two seasons, he has combined the role of second-row stalwart with the job of coaching the club’s first team, but in the Grizzlies’ opening league match of this season, a 48-10 loss away to Strathaven in September, he broke his arm and knew, in himself, that it was time to call it quits – at least as far as the on-field action is concerned.

His legacy lives on in son Craig, now playing regular first team rugby for Helensburgh at the age of 18 but already showing huge potential, and in his ongoing commitment to coaching the Burgh’s first team at a particularly challenging time for the club.

A club spokesman said: “Helensburgh RFC salute the long service that Collie and Taxi gave to the club, both on and off the pitch.

“Special thanks go to David for his unstinting passion for all things Burgh as our current coach.

“It’s a pity we can’t see them wear green and gold again, but what fantastic memories they have given us over the years.”

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