You couldn’t get much further apart in style than Les Cusworth and Martin Corry, but the two Tigers favourites share an anniversary this week.
Back in time, Cusworth made his 300th Tigers appearance and Corry his last of his 290 on the same date, March 27.
In their own way, they offer perfect models for young players trying to reach the same levels of achievement in their wake.
‘Cus’ was naturally gifted, instinctive and a key figure in a successful team, but he also had to survive the brickbats of inconsistent international selection and the critics who pointed at the things he didn’t do rather than celebrate the glorious ones he did, though his legions of fans back at Tigers were ready to take on anyone who doubted him.
Corry found himself competing for international honours with some of the best-ever players in his position, but force of performance made him impossible to ignore – the late call-up and then starring role with the Lions in 2001 illustrate the point perfectly – and he became captain of club and country with an irresistible ‘lead by example’ style and a lasting influence on those around him.
He was tough, hard-working and versatile in the forward pack, and it always felt like the bigger the challenge, the bigger the response from within Cozza. Stepping backwards was never a character trait and we loved him for it.
There was another anniversary this week, celebrating another favourite.
Three years ago we cheered ‘That Tackle' against Wasps.
It is ironic that Mathew Tait, who had the world at his feet as a schoolboy star with blazing pace and lightning footwork should be remembered so warmly for his defensive commitment, but it says everything about his own attitude and effort in the game.
Coming out of the classroom to play top-class rugby, the media thought England’s team would be built around him for a generation. He played in a World Cup Final still in the very early years of his career and, although injuries intervened to stall his progress, he was able to re-focus and had the mental strength and determination to overcome those issues while also being brave enough to step into the Tigers lair when he didn’t have to, taking on another fresh challenge.
He adjusted to playing at full-back rather than centre or wing, he took on the captaincy, he shared his knowledge and experience with others, and he became a firm favourite of colleagues and fans alike.
From a similar early pathway, George Ford returned to Tigers this week after the Six Nations and is just two games away from hitting 100 for the club in two spells.
Ford was another Boy Wonder, he broke records all the way through age group rugby, but he ignored the fanfare to make his own way and is now the proud owner nearly 80 England caps in the key position of fly-half. Over the last couple of seasons since his Tigers return, he has also taken more on his own shoulders as performances faltered around him, and he’s still only 28.
Anyone making their way in the game now would do well to match the character and attitude of any of the quartet, let alone their achievements.