Last Saturday 25th November at Basingstoke RFC Paul Manley played his 200th game for the Teddington RFC 1st XV. The emphatic 56-0 victory was the perfect way to mark this milestone for one of the clubs longest serving stalwarts.
It all started back on Saturday 15th October 2005 when Paul was a fresh faced St Marys University student who had been persuaded to play for us as a one off favour. At the time Paul and his side kick Timmy HOLDSWORTH were studying hard (?) and in their spare time coaching our successful Colts XV. The club management saw an opportunity to inject some much needed youth into the clubs ageing 1st XV and eventually got them to play. These two together with fellow St Mary's student Martin DONNELLY started to play for us and stayed for the remainder of the season. The die was cast and so was their Antlers based social life. The initial trickle turned to a steady flow of rugby talent from our local University.
Paul and this golden generation of players from St Marys formed the cornerstone of the team which dug the club out of the bottom tier of RFU league rugby and gained 5 promotions in 6 seasons, pushing us up from Surrey 4 to the rarefied atmosphere of London 2. In those years Paul was part of the team which also won two National Cup finals at Twickenham Stadium, A County Cup and Middlesex 7's titles, an appearance on Sky Sports TV and being awarded the Rugby World magazine British and European Team of the Year 2010. Not to mention an unblemished winning streak of 62 straight games.
Throughout this time Paul has been the week in week out 1st XV flyhalf, in fact he's never played for the clubs 2nd or 3rd XV's. Paul would have got to 200 a while back, but in the last few seasons mainly because his body is starting to fall apart, but also because of his duties as Head coach taking up his time Pauls opportunities to play have been a bit restricted. But his passion to coach, to play, to win and to encourage those around him certainly hasn't changed from game No1.
In his 200 games Paul has scored a total of 479 points, most of which were tries, as he has never been a place kicker. However one kick of Pauls will be forever remembered and that was his soaring drop goal from 40 metres on the hallowed turf at Twickenham stadium in the National Cup final back in 2010.
Well done Paul, thankyou for your service to the club and may you continue to play for as long as the body will allow.
Updated 15:16 - 28 Nov 2017 by Gareth Cross