Monday, 14 October 2019

Dentist risked own teeth playing rugby for England

Dentist risked own teeth playing rugby for England

WITH the rugby world cup in Japan now under way, Bill Treadwell, from Wargrave, is hoping that England can repeat their victory of 2003. He is a former England international and was the official dental surgeon to the Rugby Football Union, based at Twickenham, when the last tournament took place here four years ago and the hosts were knocked out in the group stage. His career was, you might say, painful at times as he told LUKE ADAMS...

WHILE 1966 is remembered for England’s football World Cup glory, for rugby fans that year was a very different story.

England’s Five Nations campaign ended in disaster — bottom of the table with only one point achieved in four matches.

It was, however, a significant time in the life of Bill Treadwell, from Wargrave, who made his only three international appearances in the series.

In fact, walking on to the pitch at Twickenham for his debut against Ireland was the proudest moment of his career for the former London Wasps hooker.

Mr Treadwell recalls: “I broke my foot the year before and had to drop out of trials.

“I found out I had made the team from a news reporter. I was going to a christening on the day the team was going to be announced. I was on edge when I found a phone box and he said ‘you’re in’ and it was a huge relief.

“I think I was lucky to get in. I was delighted but I had also just had a child and wanted to concentrate on my career as a dentist because rugby was not going to support me. It was just a hobby back then.”

The match ended in a 6-6 draw and was followed by a heavy defeat against France at the end of February when an injury-hit England side were beaten 13-0 at the Stade Olympique in Paris.

Mr Treadwell explains: “In those days there were no replacements and one of our players damaged the ligaments in his knee early on.

“He tried to come back on but he couldn’t run. Then another player damaged his hamstring, so we went down to 13 men against a full-strength French side.”

In this third and final game, England were beaten 6-3 by Scotland at Murrayfield.

Mr Treadwell gave up playing when he was 29 as rugby was not then a professional sport and he had to focus his energy on dentistry to pay the bills.

He says: “When I started my dental practice in Twyford, I was only doing two evenings a week but I would get a lot of businessmen who would commute and said it was very convenient.

“In the early days my rugby training would clash with work. Sometimes if I had a late finish at work it would get to the point where I would miss a big part of my training for Wasps.

“I would end up running up and down the pitch in the dark after everyone had gone home thinking ‘what the hell am I doing this for?’

“I couldn’t stop the dentistry because that was paying the mortgage. My career took priority.

“I don’t have any regrets about that, though. I would have hated to have had to pay the mortgage with the proceeds from playing rugby because your career is always on a knife-edge.You have to perform every time you play and there is a lot of pressure. You have to retain your fitness levels.

“I look at the players today and wonder if I ever played this sport. I was nowhere near as fit as these guys.”

Mr Treadwell, now 80, played for London Wasps for 10 years and was picked for the first team when he was just 19.

His association with rugby might not have happened were it not for the Second World War and the assistance of an all-girls catholic school.

He explains: “I was born just before war broke out. I can remember the air raid sirens. There was a cleaners near us and people used to go into the shelter they had.

“There was rationing in those days and I can also remember the doodlebugs flying over.

“My grandparents were bombed out, so they had to move out of their house and towards Brentford. Their house was wrecked, but they were not harmed.”

Born in Ealing, Mr Treadwell was three years old when he was sent to St Anne’s Convent School.

He did not always enjoy this but his first memories of picking up a rugby ball are at this school.

He recalls: “The local convent accepted me. The nuns visited the newsagents where my parents worked.

“As a gesture to help with the war effort, they agreed to take boys and I was only one of six boys.

“Our family was not Catholic and it was purely because the convent and the nuns accepted me. I stayed there until I was seven at the end of the war.

“I have memories of serving at the altar. It didn’t make me a Catholic. It was just what we had to do.

“I did object to the religious instructions we had rammed down our throats but I have to thank them because at the age of seven they taught me to play rugby and that has been a huge part of my life. I really enjoyed the rough and tumble of the sport.”

He continued to play rugby during the rest of his school years before he went to Guy’s Hospital in London to study dentistry for five years.

When he started there, he was already in the Wasps 1st XV but also turned out for the hopsital team occasionally and, in a twist of fate, his first match was against his club side — and he was injured.

Mr Treadwell recalls: “The ball came in and I was hit right in the middle of the face with blood pouring out. This was a mate whom I played with the week before! He was desperate to stop me from getting the ball.

“In the early days of my playing career, all we had was someone on the sidelines with a bucket of ice water and a sponge.

“He would run on and shove the sponge wherever you said it hurt. I was the only person in the team with any medical knowledge, so I often ended up putting people’s fingers back in place.”

It was around this time that he met his future wife Dorothy, now 82. She was born in Wales and so was brought up watching rugby.

He was still a student and can remember taking her to see him play for Guy’s.

Mr Treadwell says: “I asked her if she wanted to see a rugby match and I asked my father if I could borrow his car.

“I turned up and there were five girls instead of one. I drove like a lunatic to get to the match and I jumped out of the car with five women. When I got to the dressing room there were one or two remarks!”

He and Dorothy were married in 1962 and went on to have two daughters. Elizabeth, 51, who also lives in Wargrave, and Sally, 54, who has been in Australia for the last 30 years.

Sadly, Mrs Treadwell developed dementia eight years ago and now lives at the Abbeycrest Care Home in Sonning Common.

Mr Treadwell goes to see her every day, but her condition means she does not know who he is.

In 1961, Mr Treadwell qualified as a dentist and quickly realised he wanted to start his own business.

He moved to Twyford four years later and changed the design of his home to convert it into a practice.

He was not allowed to advertise so he was thankful to be in the public eye for his rugby talents to spread awareness.

In 1987, he was appointed official dental surgeon to the Rugby Football Union, based at Twickenham, when it was mandatory for England players to have dental inspections for insurance purposes.

His growing success meant he outgrew the practice so the family moved to the former Oxlade Stores site on London Road in 1989.

The official opening of the
practice was attended by Sir John Redwood, who was then only two years into his tenure as Wokingham’s MP.

He sold the business in 1998 but Mr Treadwell was still doing his duties for England and until May this year he was still helping at Wasps.

Ahead of his first world cup as the England team dentist in 1987, he was called in at short notice to help prepare the team for their trip to Australia and New Zealand. He says: “They needed medicals before they could go out and dental inspections were a new requirement. If they suffered damage, then the insurance would cover them. I worked at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and I was allowed to help the team.

“It was then arranged for me to go to every match at Twickenham and I did that for 31 years.”

He has been secretary of the England Rugby Internationals Club since 1984 and played a key role in establishing the ERIC suite in the West Stand at Twickenham.

He asked for a giant oak panel to be put on the wall to allow international players from the last 30 years to sign it.

In 1994 he became president of Wasps, a role he held for three years, and he has been inducted into their hall of fame.

Mr Treadwell did not fly out to Australia when England last won the World Cup in 2003 but can remember helping the players with their dental checks before they left.

He says Clive Woodward always took a keen interest in this side of the pre-match checks and wanted to know the state of everyone’s teeth in case there were any emergencies on the tour. Mr Treadwell says: “Even though I didn’t go out, I still have fond memories of that year. Jason Robinson was great. If you tried to grab hold of him in a phone box, you couldn’t because he was so fast.

“But it was Jonny Wilkinson’s drop kick to win the final with his weaker foot that provided the magic moment.”

He still watches a lot of games and will be following England’s progress in Japan.

Mr Treadwell says: “England should win their group but they will have to play a difficult team at some point if they want to win it.”

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