Life member showcases his Ipswich club spirit
PREPARING for a massive 50th anniversary, officials at the tradition-rich Ipswich Rangers Rugby Union Club have plenty to celebrate.
That includes former premierships, decades of development and the people who been the backbone of an important sporting organisation.
One of those dedicated club supporters is Ipswich born and bred Nicholas Pender, the 19th life member to be honoured at Rangers.
Although surprised at being recognised, Pender appreciated the award.
"A lot of the people that have actually been there previously and won it have been there for a long time,'' he said.
"It was a real honour, absolutely.''
Pender has been with Rangers since 2004.
"I suppose I started as a social aspect as much as anything else,'' he said, chatting outside the club's Woodend Park clubhouse.
"I knew a lot of guys that played down there and people I went to school with and it was just a very friendly administration.
"They had a lot of fun . . . so that drew me here.
"And the history of it as well. It's 50 years next year and there were people who played in the 70s and 80s still around and coaching.
"And just their passion for the club and their love for the club probably rubbed off on me a bit.''
Pender, 33, started his rugby career as a "novice'' lock in Third Grade, advancing to A Grade and sharing in premiership successes. That included grand final victories in 2005, 2006 and 2012.
"It was a sport I kind of picked up quickly,'' the former St Edmund's College student said.
"It certainly suited me.''
As his playing career progressed, the Ipswich accountant needed little persuasion to become a treasurer for four years until his latest role as secretary.
He conceded Rangers tackled some challenging times before a resurgence in club numbers, community support and sponsorship.
The club has 15 junior teams and senior teams in the Barber and Pegg Cup competitions based in Brisbane.
Rangers have also instigated a Friday night program for the tiny tots, starting at age three.
Growing up in Raceview, Pender now works in an accountancy practice in the Ipswich CBD.
He also coaches at St Edmund's. "I really, really enjoy that,'' he said.
"That's the next best thing to playing. You can't play forever unfortunately.''
Pender is also keen to see Rangers organise a women's team for next season, in line with growth plans for the game.
"As far as the grassroots is concerned, we rely heavily on the schools,'' he said.
"I think there needs to be more work put into grassroots.
"There are other sports out there that really put a lot of time and effort and money into the grassroots and it just pays dividends for them.''
But as administrators grapple with modern day sporting challenges, Pender is happy to be on Rangers turf.
"It's a game that everyone can play,'' he said. "It's for all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and nationalities. It doesn't discriminate, that's the bottom line I think.
"It's just the mateship really.
"You do put a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours in but at the end of the day, everyone has a drink and a chat. And even the opposition, you tend to get on well with them.''