It didn’t matter who won that very first Banks’ game for, according to one of the founders of the club, Ken Hewitt: ‘all sorts of people played.
Some of them had played rugby before, others just enjoyed the experience.
But afterwards it was suggested starting up a club.’That was 35 years ago, and although Hewitt retired when he was 40, he still looks fit enough to turn out for the vets this afternoon.However, his main rugby interests these days are as chairman of the JRFC’s 125th anniversary committee, golf, and walking.’I loved playing and played my last game in 1980,’ he said.
‘But I hated to watch.
Terry Bell and I had this idea, all those years ago, that there were enough bankers in the Island to get a team together.’Call it an ego trip for me, if you like, but at the time there were plenty of players.’My abiding memory was our first win against Guernsey.’That win was at Foote’s Lane, in Guernsey, on 4 December 1971.Bell, who had played for Jersey before becoming a co-founder of the Banks, was scrum-half that day; Hewitt was in the threes.In the match report that followed the JEP’s Max Hewitt said: ‘Then, with just 12 minutes left, Banks scored again.
Ken Hewitt broke from his own 25, chipped ahead as he got to, and was flattened by, his opposite number.’Idris Harding hacked on and was about to apply the final touch over the line when he was bundled off the ball.
Referee Bob Gee had no option but to award a penalty try and Hamilton converted to make the score 10-3.’Guernsey scored again, but the island side were finally beaten, 10-7.’Before we formed the club Idriss hadn’t played for ages,’ Hewitt said.
‘I don’t think he played again after that.’- According to Hewitt’s report, Harding had to be helped from the field with wrenched knee ligaments.It was a rugby coup for a ‘junior’ side at the time, but there were to be other triumphs over the years, including more wins against Guernsey; an occasional win over the Jersey Rugby Club’s 1st XV and more Sugden and Macmillan Cup wins than virtually any other Island side.At the time rugby was thriving in the Island.
The club had a 1st XV, an A-team, Extra and B-team, St Helier were strong and, by the 1980s, there was a Banks’ 2nd team as well.’But it’s increasingly difficult for junior clubs to survive,’ said Hewitt.’In the old days you could have a squad of 19 or 20 players, knowing that you could always field a team of 15.
Now, because of the way you use substitutes, you need a squad of 30.’Like Bell, whose main sport these days is bowls – although he still maintains an interest in rugby administration – Hewitt is able to reel off the names of so many of the players who joined the Banks, first when they met after the game at La Marquanderie; then at the Portlelet; then at their own clubhouse in Hilary Street; now at Grainville.There was also a time when they had their own pitch on the Five Mile Road, given to them, free, for the 1970-71 season, by Jack A’Court.’We weren’t all bankers, though,’ Kewitt explained.
‘We were bankers and “”allied professions””.’So, for example, Richard Farrow, an accountant played, as did a young trainee-accountant at the time, Jeff Wiseman, and over the years some of those players have been good enough not only to play for the Banks, but also for Jersey.Scrum-half Dave Miles and second-row forward Paul Woodcock are just two Banks’ players who, in recent years, have signed on for the JRFC.And Banks continue to enjoy success in the Emeraude Lines JRA league and in the Doug Tranter Cup, just as in the past they won the inter-insular Stewart-Cadec Bowl on more than one occasion, most famously in a mudbath in Guernsey when one of their players could have drowned.Their current captain is centre Julian de Gruchy, their president is Charles Gruchy, chairman Geoff Knott and although Hewitt won’t be playing today at Grainville (kick-off noon) he will be watching.’Fred Cottignies, “”Wilko””, Ronnie Garnier, who’d never played rugby before he came to the club, Mike Broughton, Mike Jury, Roger (Trower, who, with his sons, still plays for the club), Hedley, Colin Welsh, Alan Grant (who lost a tooth in that win against Guernsey) .
.’ Hewitt recalls players’ names with great pleasure.As for the future, can the Banks survive for another 35 years?’I’d like to think so,’ said Hewitt.
‘I certainly hope they make it to 50.’