You Always Need an Ass-Man
It was with huge sadness that I learnt of Dave (Edgy) Egerton’s passing yesterday. Aged just 59 years young, Edgy represented a bygone era the likes of which we are unlikely to see again. As with most people who knew him, I first met Edgy at the rugby club. At 6ft 5" and high on life (and a few pints of cider to help him along) Edgy was a formidable character. He was (at least by the time I met him) a gentle giant, who loved people. I suspect there are a few opposition players who found themselves sharing a ruck with Edgy that may dispute this. Despite his impressive curriculum vitae, boasting 163 games for Bath, 7 England caps and a game against france for the British and Irish lions, Edgy found his home coaching the 2nd and 3rd grade sides. How privileged we were.
I was too young to have seen Dave in his playing days. This made his bar room tales all the more endearing. Never one for self promotion when it came to playing prowess. The tales Dave loved the most were those of the after match antics. As the great John Bentley once remarked, “I know what goes on tour stays on tour, but if that were true, we’d have f**k all to talk about”. And I count myself lucky to have benefited from Edgys lack of adherence to Kai Tak protocols. Where many a past hero falls victim to embellishment and grandiosity, there was a pureness to Edgy’s tour stories, he didn’t feel the need to name drop or embellish, the truth made for a far better story.
To those of us who played for Edgy, it would be impossible to forget his team talks. Huddled round, bodies prepped and minds ready, Edgy would enter his arena at full tilt. Caught up in the moment Edgy could often reduce the team to a fit of laughter having dropped his latest clanger or new phraseology. The mood completely lost. That was what endeared people to Edgy, you got what you saw imperfections and all.
One such example that springs to mind is Edgy haranguing his hooker as yet another line out ball flew miles wide of straight. Having finished his less than complimentary assessment of the young mans throwing capabilities, Edgy received a tap on the shoulder. Said hooker felt it may be helpful to inform Edgy that he had in fact been subbed off 10 minutes previously, by Edgy.
While football may be described as the beautiful game, the beauty of Rugby is far less obvious. The nuances of forward play often lost on the men that hang around with rugby players. Whilst forwards oft bemoan said men's inability to keep hold of their spoils of war, sometimes endlessly spilling it forward, enforcing the men of the pack to don armour once more.
This simplistic overview is somewhat outdated these days as players like society converge towards center. In our quest for progress it should not be forgotten what made this great game of ours so great. There is a place for everyone. Dave Egerton embodied this, often backing young players and giving them the time to impart wisdom he had grafted for along the way. After remarking to Dave that one such player was “clueless” Edgy informed me that it was my job to teach him. I can’t say that I took Edgy up on his kind offer. However, following that season the young man went on to represent Hong Kong and gain a full time contract with the union. In no small part down to Edgy giving the lad game time at a senior level. And the gift of his own time.
It was hard not to feel that the world moved past Edgy like so many of his generation, as professionalism within the sport and society outside of it changed their values. No longer do kids want to hear the stories of tours of old. Where gentlemen with university degrees and real jobs used to get given time off to travel the world, play some rugby and get on the piss with their mates. In many ways it is unrelatable. Kids don’t drink, the sport is professional and with the invention of social media the window for tour antics is almost non-existent. I fear we have bred a generation of former players who will earn their crust clocking motorway mileage to speak in faceless boardrooms on such topics as ‘teamwork’ and ‘leadership’. The irony of course being that they are not qualified to talk on such matters. Two pints of cider on the ZZ card and Edgy would tell you, much of this wisdom is earned long after the final whistle has blown. It was therefore with delight I read the Bath ‘Tales from the legends’ entry on Dave Egerton, I could picture him giving the interview, the excitement in reliving the stories, and, most of all the delight he must have taken from being asked.
Even at the (sham)amateur level of Hong Kong rugby, Dave was often overlooked as a coach on account of his simplification of the game. Edgy wasn’t one for over-thinking. The game was the game and people were people the rest of it was just guff. Despite this changing of the guard as the modern era took hold, Edgy never seemed to fall into self pity. Instead empathising with the youth of today and the new pressures they must be under. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.
It is in some ways fitting that Dave lost his life to a pandemic that is fueling intolerance. I’m not sure he would have liked the outcome. It must have been hard for Edgy in lockdown, not able to enjoy the game he loved in the company of others must have removed much meaning from his world. His passion for people firmly under pinned by a belief that you can’t do it alone. In all my time knowing Edgy he remained certain of one simple fact, whether in rugby or in life, you always need an ass-man.
R.I.P Edgy, you are at least in this small corner of the world sorely missed.