Abu Dhabi rivals Saracens and Harlequins unite to honour RAK Rugby player Nick Young memory

Abu Dhabi rivals come together for friendly game to honour tragic Australian

Matt Jones 2018/05/14

Capital city rivalry will be put aside when Abu Dhabi neighbours Saracens and Harlequins come together later this month to honour the memory of RAK Rugby player Nick Young by playing a memorial game.

Young died in the aftermath of suffering a head injury while playing at the Sharjah 10s last month. The Australian passed away in hospital on Sunday, April 29, two days after being hurt while playing for RAK’s vets side at the famous tournament.

The club announced his death on its Facebook page on the Sunday evening.

And, to demonstrate the close bond within the UAE rugby community, both Abu Dhabi clubs will play a friendly game next Thursday, May 24, under the lights at Sarries’ Al Ghazal ground, in the shadow of Abu Dhabi Airport.

The game between an Abu Dhabi Saracens Social XV and Abu Dhabi Harlequins Social XV kicks off at 19:30 and is free for all to attend.

The idea to organise the friendly derby game came fittingly from a man who has a foot in both camps, Richard Croft.

The Etihad employee moved over to play for Sarries in January, having previously played for, managed the men’s team and coached the juniors at Quins.

And Croft feels putting aside trophies and rivalries shows the depth of community felt between the two sides, as well as UAE rugby as a whole.

“We wanted to arrange it to show the depth of the game in the capital, honour Nick on behalf of UAE rugby and in general,” said Croft, 41.

“We wanted to put aside club rivalry and show support for Nick’s family from two of RAK’s friendly Community League rivals.”

Sarries were West Asia champions in 2014/15 but have since fallen on hard times. The club was only established in 2011 but could have folded on the eve of last season when they lost their Ghazal home and barely had a team, with incessant pillaging of their players as they struggled on the field threatening their very future.

But despite a tumultuous 2017/18 on the field, they survived and things are looking brighter.

And Croft said that the club know that underneath all the hostility and competition, a strong familial bond between the region’s clubs bubbles beneath the surface of Emirates rugby.

“As Sarries we have felt the brunt of hard times this season and experienced firsthand how clubs like Quins, Bahrain, (Jebel Ali) Dragons and (Dubai) Hurricanes helped and supported us,” added Derbyshire native Croft, who has lived in the UAE for a decade.

“We know what it’s like to receive support and will always give back to the game 10-fold in return. Never more so than at a time like this.

“For us as a rugby community to lose a fellow player, whether we knew him or not, is devastating.

“Besides being a competitive and friendly rivalry Sarries and Quins stand together for this fun and social game in honour of Nick and the RAK Rugby club.

“We hope to honour that and invite all rugby supporters in the region to experience Sarries v Quins’ combined hospitality at Al Ghazal for the game.”

His words were echoed by Sarries coach Pete Henderson, who said: “The initiative came from Richard so the credit really belongs to him for organising this.

“Richard is a passionate supporter, player and new member of the Sarries family. He’s been around the UAE rugby scene for many years. Many of our players were at the 10’s tournament when this tragedy happened so we’re fully behind the initiative.”

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Abu Dhabi Harlequins Abu Dhabi Saracens Al Ghazal Nick Young Pete Henderson Richard Croft