Award for touch stalwart

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A huge devotion to touch rugby by a Cromwell local has been acknowledged by the Central Otago Sports Awards.

The John Fitzharris Services to Sport Award was awarded to Trevor Gaston, of Cromwell for his contribution to touch rugby over 35 years.

Mr Gaston was honoured to be recognised, but said all the effort he put in was simply because he enjoyed doing it.

“I do it for fun because I love doing it. I’m not out there for recognition of it.”

Mr Gaston played rugby for Cromwell’s premier side for many years, racking up more than 100 games.

He began refereeing rugby in 1990, beginning more than 23 years of keeping a sharp eye on premier games, he said.

In 1983 he began to get involved in touch rugby.

“It was after the rugby season finished in 1983, and some of the guys talked about trying to get something going,” he said.

Mr Gaston had heard about a Dunedin group playing “touch tens”, he said.

“So we started up a small competition here in Cromwell.”

The first year started with about four to six teams, and a few more were added the following year, he said.

“That was on our old rugby grounds down on Alpha St, and in ’85 we moved up to the new Andersons Park that was developed with the dam and all that – the new town in Cromwell.

“From there it just grew. The most teams we had was in the late ’80s, when the dam was in full swing. We had about 40-odd teams playing.”

When the dam was finished and many people moved on, the numbers dropped, and over the past 10 to 15 years there had been an average of about 16 teams playing each year, Mr Gaston said.

“This year has been an exception. We’ve had 24 teams, which is just the right amount for the fields we have got.

“It’s grown in the last two years, and the most teams we’ve had is this season.”

He said the game of touch rugby had changed since he began playing it.

“We used to play touch tens, ten a side. We played that for a couple of years, and then it went to touch sevens, so seven a side, and in the last 10 years it’s now six a side, which makes it a lot better game, more room on the field, because you play virtually half a field – crossways.” .

Now the teams in Cromwell were open mixed, including an open social mixed, Mr Gaston said.

“A lot more families are coming down. It’s fantastic on a Wednesday night, seeing families playing. Mum and dad and the kids are there.”

“We get quite a lot of school teams involved as well, which is very good.

“Touch is very strong here in Cromwell.”