Today marks the 65th anniversary of the death of Adrian Stoop, one our greatest ancestors
Sixty-five years ago on November 27th 1957, Adrian Stoop died. So passed away one of the greatest ever English rugby players. He changed not only the way Harlequin FC played but also English rugby. He took both out of the doldrums and raised them to the highest levels of the game. He brought a professional approach to an amateur sport and his influence is still seen in the manner in which the Quin’s team plays today.
Today the roles of Director of Rugby, Head Coach, Club Captain and talent spotter are separate, Adrian combined all of them for eight seasons up to the outbreak of the First World War. A brilliant footballer able to kick off either foot accurately and long, great speed, had perfect control with his passes and a quick brain that played what was in front of him. He developed the fly-half role into that which is seen in every rugby team worldwide. In spite of all these, it is as a captain and innovator that he is best remembered.
Adrian could communicate his ideas and methods to others. He introduced the idea that players should train themselves to be physically fit and use team training not to get themselves fit but to ensure the side was a cohesive unit in which each player understood their role and that of their colleagues. His ability to pick out players from unlikely sources and put them where they really belonged was uncanny. An example of this occurred in a club trial when a second-team forward tackled from behind Adrian who was at full speed. Adrian immediately put him on the wing for the 1st XV. That player was Dan Lambert who holds the record of 253 tries for the Club.
Other notable players he spotted were Herbert Sibree, Harry Brougham, John Birkett and Ronnie Poulton; all internationals.
An example of Adrian’s unconventional approach happened in the first international at Twickenham. England’s opponents were Wales, Grand Slam winners for the previous two seasons and there were 7 new caps in the England team. An England win was not expected. Wales kicked off straight into Adrian’s hands. Conventionally, a fly-half was expected to kick the ball into touch. Instead, Adrian feinted one way then headed towards the opposite wing. A couple of quick passes via Birkett to Chapman saw the England winger score. Less than two minutes had passed, Wales had not touched the ball, Wales did not recover resulting in a famous English victory.
Adrian played 15 times for England. This total would have been greater but for two broken collarbones and the vagaries of the selectors. He played 182 times for Quins from his debut in 1901 to his last appearance in 1939 at the age of 56. During that time, he had been the Club’s Secretary for 28 years, Club’s President for 9 years (eventually 20) and President of the RFU.
What is less known is the care he took and the compassion he had for Quins' players. Adrian taught Douglas Bader to play golf after he had lost his legs in a flying accident to take Douglas’ mind off his lost opportunity of rugby greatness. Adrian nursed ‘Horsey’ Browne, the Irish international, at his home as Horsey was dying from an incurable illness. There are many examples.
Adrian is buried with his family in St Mary’s Church, Hartley Wintney. In 2019, Quinssa restored the headstone. Every year on Whit Monday, a cricket match is played between a Harlequin XI and Hartley Wintney.
Twickenham Stoop’s original name was the Stoop Memorial Ground, known affectionately as ‘The Stoop’. No better memorial to a great Harlequin.