Rugby Brethren…

From That Other Bayshore, Across the Train Line

By Lorraine Waldropt

In Marabella, just off the main road, there is a small village called Bayshore known by most as the notorious “Train Line”.
Famous for its bad boys and fair share of newspaper headlines, this is not the Bayshore of the well-heeled north west. There are no luxury towers and condos here, but shanty shacks not mansions. Not your ideal hangout spot if you can’t lime with the fellas on the block and keep a cool head when crowds scatter with the sound of a siren. But while  Train Line may not be your Westwood Park, there is a silver lining in the stormy village- the Rainbow rugby team.
And again, the stereotype of middle class men playing a tough tackling ‘hooligan’ sport, does not fit.
The dreadlocked Marabella men are breaking boundaries and lifting hearts through a sport that …
In the 2008 local rugby season, Rainbow made a clean steal of the National Seven’s title and secured silver medals in the Men’s Championship Division. They are not the ones to knock glasses in classy clubhouses and sing the All Black’s Hacker tune (the popular rugby chant introduced by the New Zealand Rugby Team). God forbid! Their clubhouse, if you could call it that, is the centre street in their village! But their success story of rising out of poverty and social ills through the vehicle of one of T&T’s minority sport is worthy of several toasts. Nobody can attest to this more than Rainbow founder and coach, Rudolph Jack.
As he recounted the journey from the club’s humble beginnings, through its reformative powers on the village and to the raving rewards it reaps today, Jack’s face softened with a smile, even as  his eyes told a tale of hardship and pain that, perhaps, only time and more medals might heal:
“The Train Line today is a rugby village. Everybody plays with the team now. It wasn’t always so, things change now thanks to rugby. In the early days the village had a bad rep, we still do because you can’t change everything and everybody. You see, life still hard, we still on the bread line but sport has transformed our thinking into a more positive one, it gives us new hope.”
In 1985, Jack pulled together his team of ruggermen, tired of having to make the long trip into Port of Spain to play with Harvards Rugby Team.
“I left Harvards and started my own club so that I could train closer to home. I called it Rainbow because in the Bible God promised his children of Israel a rainbow after the floods as a sign that all was well,” he explained.
Rugby was Jack’s rainbow, a sign of better things to come as he quit the worldly life with the birth of his first son and began to pursue his rugby dream. “Rainbow started off real small, we didn’t have many resources. As you know people on the train line don’t have riches, our lives are simple. We used to play barefooted and wear different colour jerseys because we couldn’t even afford a uniform. But God sent help to us through good Samaritans,” he said.
These Samaritans included English teams- Rugby Club Birkenhead who sponsored uniforms and boots in 1995, and, at home, the Liat Sevens and Esculpians Rugby Club who donated jerseys that team members still wear. “They (Esculpians) offered me a trip to England but I invested the money into Rainbow instead,” said Jack.
As the years progressed, Rainbow grew in strength and in numbers, still a modest bunch plagued by adversities of poverty and crime stigmas. Still, the Rainbow ruggermen stuck it out, gradually emerging as “the team to watch” on the rugby pitch, not only because they stood out in the fraternity with their Rastafarian dreadlocks, barefooted tactics and colourful uniform but because of the bold statement of their playing style, infused as it was by the Rastafarian spirit of brethren and camaraderie. Their reputation drew visiting rugby players by the numbers. While locals dared not trespass the gates of the Marabella train line, many a team from the UK and the US valiantly ventured down to Rainbow’s “living room” – the living room being nothing more than a cleared spot on the main street of the village.
With a rising cadre of  players ranging from ages five to fifty, the Rainbow camp became a feeding ground for both Senior and Junior National Teams, while grooming, nurturing and sending forth a mixture of skill and experience to the various national rugby teams. Rugby greats such Ronald Silverton (who now plays for Caribs Rugby Team), David Straker who played with both National and West Indies Rugby Teams, Matthew Marine, the late Kern Charles, Anton Celestine and Mark Hamilton were among those.
“Mark Hamilton was in YTC (Youth Training Centre) and he used Rainbow rugby as a means of reformation. My nephew Ronald Silverton and my son, Kidane Silverton (who plays for the National and West Indies Rugby Teams) and my younger son, Themba Jack are all very strong players,” Jack declared with pride.
“Good things come those who wait and have hope,” he observed. “And we certainly have paid our dues in life; many rewards lie at the end of our Rainbow.” Many rewards indeed as just last year, the Rainbow found its pot of gold in an invitation to Touraid, a charitable World Rugby Tour for underprivileged youths. Players from as far as India, Ivory Coast and Madagascar converged in England to play against each other.  For the 2008 leg, Rainbow’s Under 13 team stepped up to the challenge, facilitated by Olympic Committee Secretary and National Rugby Federation Secretary, Brain Lewis.
“Brian Lewis was the wheel that started the tour idea in motion. This opportunity was the best for our boys. It was the first time some of them had ever travelled and they had so much fun,” said Jack. In the tournament which was staged in Surrey, England, the Rainbow Youth Team was privileged enough  to rub shoulders with International Rugby icons, Danny Cipriani, a Trinidad-born player in England, the Armitage brothers, also of Trinidadian descent and South African Rugby champion, Chester Williams.  The boys left an indelible mark on the tournament, playing at a high standard and representing Trinidad and Tobago and the Train Line to the fullest. Rainbow’s impact was so great that the team was featured on International News Network, BBC.
“I used to fight and beat up people in school but rugby changed me. When I started playing I didn’t have time to do bad things. Going to England was like a dream come true. I still can’t believe I went so far! My whole life is rugby now- I watch it on TV, I train, I play, I am happy I joined the sport,” confessed 12 year-old Kelson Williams who had travelled as part of the Touraid contingent.
“I saw where the Queen lives and that was the biggest thing for me- after the rubgy, that is,” professed Themba Jack who played the position of fly half for the tour. Another youth player, Jeron Pantor has found new inspiration since the tour. “I want to become an engineer, one day,” said the young full back, whose sister, brother and father play rugby as well.
Currently, Rainbow has more developmental initiatives on the agenda which are well on the way. A Youth Development/Rugby Community Road show with the University of Trinidad and Tobago travelling to rural communities, mentoring youths; a church sponsored personally by the Mayor of San Fernando; a youth educational centre supported by the counselor for the area; a ladies rugby team and a pending trip to Mexico for 2010.
“Rugby is a second chance for everybody on the Train Line. It was for me; I wasn’t no saint but I made a change. I see this same change happening with the youths we now have on the team. Some of them have no food, no clothes but we try to provide these things to them in rugby. But as our membership extend we need finances to cover our costs,” said Jack.
“Sport can be a substitute for crime. You see, what we have to understand is that some people resort to crime as a livelihood when things get hard. But if this need can be met with sport and other positive options, then and only then T&T crime rates will decrease,” he concluded.

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