OF ALL the players on the Pennypit where Preston Lodge beat Pigbarians 48-27 in a match marking Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen’s retiral from pro rugby and raising funds for Dreamz4u children’s charity, the one most expected to be in attendance was, of course, the man himself.
The least likely ever to be turning out was Geoff Caldwell, 36, a former Edinburgh winger whose Scotland A hopes were dashed by a cruel hamstring injury.
Soon enough, though, hamstrings were to be the least of Caldwell’s medical issues.
“Three years ago I had a problem with my groin and thought it was a hernia,” recalled Caldwell.
“I got home from hospital and received a phone call telling me they had found what turned out to be a tumour the size of a melon.
“I ended up having a 14-hour operation, 10 blood transfusions, a week in intensive care and having gone weighing 14 stone, I came out 10st.
“Surgeons had to pull a kidney to one side and shove my internal organs in the other direction before they could fish the tumour out.
“Actually, it was the operation which scared me most.
“I told myself I was young and fit and so long as I stayed positive, the better my chances of dealing with the cancer.
“When people were saying I looked terrible, I used to laugh and joke, but never did I think I’d be playing rugby again.
“What really changed things for me, too, was when a relationship broke up.
“That’s when I became particularly aware of the friends I had through rugby and in encouraging me to get back playing – I’ve been turning out for Livingston after earlier spells with Currie and Melrose before I was ill – I developed a friendship with Mark Dainter, who organises the Crusaders team comprising ex-cancer patients.
“The aim is to highlight the importance of rough, tough rugby players still having to get any medical issues checked out and as well as that, I revel in the chance to help charities like Dreamz4U fulfilling wishes of terminally ill children.
“Tying in a charity fund-raiser with honouring someone like Chunk has just made for an ideal occasion.”
While Caldwell travelled from West Lothian to pay tribute some, like Aaron Satchwell, came from further afield.
Now based in Germany where he coaches the Frankfurt club, kiwi Satchwell has more in common with Jacobsen than being PL colleagues in the late 1990s.
Said Satchwell: “I’ve kept in touch with Chunk through Facebook and when I heard this game was taking place, I just had to come over. After all we are ex-international rivals . . .”
What has virtually slipped under the radar is the fact that Satchwell became eligible for the US Eagles and turned out against Scotland on the occasion of Chunk’s second cap.
That was at Balboa Stadium, San Francisco, in 2002 when Satchwell also played in inadvertent part in a less seemly piece of Scottish history.
That was the fixture where Nathan Hines became the first Scottish player to be sent off in a Test.
Satchwell recalled: “Jason White got me one across the nose and I was off temporarily as a blood injury.
“The guy Nathan punched was my replacement and he never played again for the Eagles.
“As he went down from Nathan’s punch he suffered a spiral fracture of his leg. As he was being stretchered off, I was coming back on feeling a bit bad for putting him in harm’s way!”
As players were emerging changed and showered on Saturday, Jacobsen was still the subject of attention, signing autographs, out on the pitch and genuinely touched by all the accolades. “I’ve been so busy setting up my business, I didn’t fully get my head around what was being planned,” said Jacobsen.
“It was when my former colts colleague Euan Thayne stood up at a lunch beforehand and said so many nice things, that it really hit home.
“Walking into my former club changing room, then out on to the pitch was a great moment and while a few things might have turned out differently in my pro career, I have absolutely no regrets.
“If, when I started, anybody had offered me what I finished with (65 Scotland caps) I would have ripped their arm off.
“I have been so lucky and today’s occasion has really brought that home”