80 year old 'Wellsy' stars in charity rugby match

Published on LEUT Emily Kennedy (author), POIS Ollie Garside (photographer)

Location(s): RMC Duntroon, Canberra

Mr Ian 'Wellsy' Wells on the playing field during his first game of Vets as an 80 year old. (photo: POIS Ollie Garside)
Mr Ian 'Wellsy' Wells on the playing field during his first game of Vets as an 80 year old.

ACT Rugby Veteran Mr Ian 'Wellsy' Wells played his first rugby union game as an 80 year old after celebrating the milestone birthday two days before the ACT Vets took on NUSHIP Canberra in their annual charity rugby match.

Mr Wells was firmly amongst the action in a hard fought encounter played in great weather at the Royal Military College Duntroon Rugby Field.

Mr Wells said that it felt good to get out on the field.

“I can’t run as fast as I used but it feels good! Two weeks ago I played a game in Perth and in one game over there I scored five tries,” Mr Wells said.

Mr Wells’ effort of two tries against Canberra was an awesome sight, with Canberra players tripping over themselves trying to catch him.

“It’s a bit hard because when you get the yellow shorts, they can only tag you not tackle you. Now I’m 80, I’m entitled to purple shorts and that means they can’t even touch me – but I plan to stick with the yellow shorts,” Mr Wells said.

Canberra’s Amphibious Operations Officer, Captain Dave Hosie, said that the Vets put up a great fight.

“Our side was a lot younger, fitter and faster than the Vets which proved very advantageous. However, the vets held their own, if not dominated us at the breakdown with their size, experience and wiliness.

“I think Wellsy’s effort was incredible. For him to get out on the ground, let alone score two tries from his team's own half of the field was great to watch,” said Captain Hosie.

Mr Ian 'Wellsy' Wells was clapped off the ground after playing his first game of Vets as an 80 year old. Mr Wells celebrated his 80th birthday two days before the match was played.

Mr Ian 'Wellsy' Wells was clapped off the ground after playing his first game of Vets as an 80 year old. Mr Wells celebrated his 80th birthday two days before the match was played.

Among the spectators was Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Michael van Balen, representing Chief of Navy; Mr Dom Mammoliti, from iCognition; Mr John Gregan representing the George Gregan Foundation; and Dr Jeffrey Fletcher, the Clinical Director of PatCH.

Local Canberra based company iCognition donated $2000 in celebration of the rugby match while Canberra’s ship’s company chipped in a further $500. The donations were shared equally between the PatCH Foundation and the George Gregan Foundation.

Mr Dom Mammoliti from iCognition said that his company was proud to support the event.

“I’ve had a long association with the Vets for the past ten years and I really admire the work they do to raise money for charity, so we are very pleased to be involved,” he said.

“It’s really important that we give back to the community and this is a great way to do it,” Mr Mammoliti said.

This charity event between the ACT Veterans and Canberra has been held annually since 2005 – the year that Canberra (II) decommissioned. HMAS Darwin carried on the tradition between the time of decommissioning Canberra (II) and the forming of Canberra (III).

Founder and President of the ACT Veteran’s Rugby Club, Mr John Hillier, said the Vets thoroughly enjoyed the match.

“The Vets are very pleased to be able to renew our acquaintance with Canberra (III), though, like a lot of our games against Defence Force teams, the crew seems to be getter younger each year. We plan to play the ship, and support the Hospital and George Gregan Foundation, a long time into the future,” Mr Hillier said.

Played in good fun, there are three halves of 20 minutes each and final scores are always leveled at nine all.

The George Gregan Foundation works to raise money to build playgrounds in children's hospitals across Australia; and to train doctors who specialise in the treatment of children with epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20141610.