Sheffield Tigers’Play Off triumph marked the end of an era for one of the legendary figures of South Yorkshire rugby ... Simon Bunting.
It was all the more fitting that the final countdown should be a successful one for the genuine, hard-as-nails prop who has added his considerable experience to the Dore Moor club’s cause over the last three years.
The 16-14 victory over Chester continued the rise and rise of Tigers - their fourth promotion in seven years and signalled the retirement of the man affectionately known as ‘Bunny’ after three decades of service to the game.
He led the team out with two of his three sons, Morgan and Maine - his third, Mason remained behind closed doors - and ended the history-making day with the Man of the Match award ‘for doing what he has done for all his illustrious career, dominating the scrum and the unseen grunt and groan work.’
“I enjoyed it and I was pleased to have lasted the 80 minutes,” said Bunny.
“It’s made all the hard work worthwhile and I’m delighted for the club, the players and the spectators. It’s a great way to end my playing career.
“I told the lads that I’d been involved in this type of situation lots of time and to keep calm and stay focused. I think it helped and we came through.
“The future looks bright for Tigers, they’ve got some good, talented players but I feel they’ll need to recruit for the new challenge ahead as National 2 is a big step up.”
So how does it feel to have finally ended his playing days?
“It’s not really sunk in yet and I don’t think it will until September. I’ll keep myself fit and if Tigers are desperate then I’ll help them out but I’m looking forward to spending time with the family on Saturdays and I’ve also got a business to run.”
In his prime Bunny was a match for anyone. Reputations counted for nothing as England’s World Cup winning skipper Martin Johnson discovered when his Leicester side faced a Premiership showdown against Rotherham Titans. Johnson received a ‘welcome’ from Bunny that he admitted afterwards shook him more than any other!
The highlight of his career was the season when Rotherham defied the odds and took on the might of the Premiership after all-conquering campaigns that had resulted in a string of promotions.
“It was great to be part of it,” added Bunny. “There were a lot of local lads involved and to gain promotion to the top tier was a fantastic achievement.”
He then spent a few seasons with Doncaster Knights before his switch to Tigers.
As Bunny pointedly said, ‘memories are better than dreams,’ and he certainly has plenty of them to look back on.
But don’t be too surprised if come the start of next season, a certain No3 is back out where the action is ...