Sports

Mercurial home on the hardwood

The mercurial one, Neil Worboys. - James Clarke photo
The mercurial one, Neil Worboys.
— image credit: James Clarke photo

Talk about your ambitious ‘how I spent my summer’ stories.

For the mercurial one Neil Worboys, beyond the usual family get-togethers and relaxing moments, part of the summer was spent running up and down the hardwood, pulling down rebounds and checking opposing shooters in the sweltering heat of an Italian gym at the World Masters Games, then returning home to the Island to help Zone 2 win a silver medal in soccer at the B.C. Seniors Games.

Played out in Torino, Italy, Aug. 2-11, there were some 28 sports featuring over 25,000 athletes from all over the world.

This was Worboys’ third time competing in the World’s, all three with the Silver Bullets basketball team, a collection of good friends and new recruits.

Worboys, 69, is a retired teacher from Kitimat, and it was there that a reporter dubbed him ‘the mercurial Neil Worboys’ in the local paper. The nickname, as in mercury, as in quicksilver and after his slick moves and quick feet, stuck.

“Most of his pals just call him Merc,” chuckled his best friend and wife of 42 years, Jacqueline.

He joined the Silver Bullets when their paths crossed at the 2005 World Masters Games in Edmonton. The ‘Bullets teamed up again at the 2009 WMG’s.

The nucleus of the team he said “is basically three guys. We’ve been playing for years. We had two guys from Alberta sign up and then they backed out on the last minute so we picked up three guys from St. Petersburg, Russia. They were a lot of fun, they fit right into our squad.”

“The one guy could speak excellent English and the other one enough, so it was good.”

Not surprisingly, the older set have gone viral to keep up with the times and masters athletes from all different sports from all over the world can connect.

“They were over 65 and they wanted to play but didn’t have a team so they said come on.”

Neil plays forward and leads the teams he plays for in rebounding while checking the oppositions top scorers

Raised in Victoria, Worboys started playing basketball as part of church league when he was nine, and went on to help lead his Vic High Totems high school team to a B.C. championship in 1962.

In 1963 he was part of a U21 club team that won the Canadian’s.

Fast forward to Italy, and Worboys and company were competing in the Over 65 division which featured four teams — Australia, Estonia and a team from Moscow. Moscow beat the Silver Bullets 43-29 in a hard-fought final.

“It was very hard fought. And it was very hot. It was over 35 and the gym wasn’t air conditioned so it was over 40 for sure, it was so hot.”

The Silver Bullets played six games over eight days at the World Masters Games, and still managed to get some sight seeing in.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “Great fun. Just to be still playing basketball at 69 is an experience in itself, and to play in a world masters tournament and meet, that’s the great benefit of participating in these games. The camaraderie is great.”

Held every four years, the next World Masters is in 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand.

“Oh yeah before we left we were talking about it,” chuckled Merc, adding “we’d be in the over 70s category by then, but if everybody’s healthy, the guys are already talking about giving it a shot.”

These days he channels his energy into soccer with Shady Rest Eagles FC O60 side, which opened its season last Sunday with a win over Comox.

A father of three with four grandkids and a former president of the B.C. Teachers Federation, Worboys got back from Italy on the 12th of August, and eight days later headed to Kamloops for the B.C. Seniors Games where he was part of the Zone 2 soccer team that garnered a silver medal in the O65 division.

The Zone 2 team featured five Eagles FC players and played four games in four days.

“We lost 2-zip to a team from Aldergrove in the gold medal game. We started with 15 players we were down to 11 and a half by the final, but we gave them a game they didn’t score their first goal until well into he second half and they added the other late, we were pressing to tie it up ...”

“Oh yeah, for sure,” he chuckled when we commented on the competitive ring to his recap.

Asked his take on Worboys the player, longtime Shady Jim Cameron said “he’s not a rah-rah type of guy but brings a quiet determination to every match. He is happy to play anywhere we ask him to, often playing ‘stopper’ at the the back, but also getting forward to chip the odd goal ...a terrific guy and teammate.”

PITCH BITS

Oceanside’s Terry ‘Boomer’ Brown, also a member of Eagles FC, was also in Tornio for the WMG’s competing in soccer. The team he was on went undefeated in round robin but lost their opening game of the playoffs 1-nil to be eliminated.

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