Rugby rivals to honour UAE player who died after head injury

Saracens and Harlequins will play a friendly in Abu Dhabi to mark tragic death of Nick Young

RAK Rugby used to be known as RAK Goats and once played on a sand pitch. Courtesy Roger Harrison
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Two rugby clubs are putting their rivalries aside to honour a player who tragically died last month.

Nick Young, an expatriate who played with RAK Rugby, passed away on April 29.

He suffered a fatal injury after colliding with an opposition player during the Sharjah 10s tournament on April 27.

The game was played between a joint team from RAK Rugby and Arabian Knights and Dubai Hurricanes.

It’s not clear if the fatal injury happened during the collision or when he fell to the ground.

He was buried in Australia earlier this month and leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Young, 43, had come on as a substitute during the game to replace the scrum half. But he also played in other positions.

Now Abu Dhabi clubs Saracens and Harlequins will play a friendly in his honour on Thursday under flood lights at 7.30pm at the Saracens home ground, Al Ghazal. The game is free to attend and all are welcome.

“He was a father and a good family man,” said Simon Williams, chairman of RAK Rugby.

“Rugby was his life really. He was a Kiwi so was rugby mad. Even though he lived in Australia, he was a huge All Blacks fan.”

Young wasn’t a regular player with the team but, according to Mr Williams, was really looking forward to playing in April’s tournament. “He just loved his rugby.”

It’s believed that Young worked in the marine industry based out of RAK and was at sea for long periods.

The driving force behind Thursday’s game is Abu Dhabi Saracens player Richard Croft. Mr Croft has been involved with rugby here for about ten years and also has extensive contacts across the game.

“I was keen for the rugby community in the capital to put friendly rivalries aside to come together to honour Nick,” said Mr Croft, who is from the UK.

Mr Croft said people had been rattled by the death of Mr Young. “To lose a player whether we knew him or not personally was a devastating thing for the community. So from my perspective it was an opportunity to show the country and show UAE Rugby that yes we can. It’s a UAE rugby event for all.”

Chris Sloan is club captain of Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

It shows the length that clubs and individuals will go to help one another out within the sport, he said. "And when Richard approached me, I was more than happy to put things together," said Mr Sloan.

“This hopefully will be some ... sign of what’s to come with regards to the support we can give through clubs and having games like this and helping individuals out.”

RAK Rugby are sending the club’s president for Thursday’s event and are also planning to host another game on June 1 against Arabian Knights. The veterans team that Young was playing with was a combined RAK and Arabian Knights side so this game will particularly poignant.

“We thought it would be a fitting tribute to play against our friends who have been just as much affected by this as our other players,” said Mr Williams, adding that the interest in Thursday's game has been considerable.

It’s hoped both games will raise awareness for a more formal event in honour of Mr Young planned by RAK Rugby for September.


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