Garner now devotes most of his week to helping the club, and is responsible for everything from pitch maintenance to fixtures and coaching – all as a volunteer. He was 20 when his brother, short of players for the second fifteen, dragged Stan along to play for the first time.
“I didn’t have any experience of rugby apart from in high school when I was 11,” says Garner. “It was a miserable afternoon. It was freezing and the rain was lashing down. I barely touched the ball and made about two half-hearted tackle attempts. So when people ask why I kept coming back after that I don’t really know what to say, for some reason I loved it.”
For the next eight years Garner was a regular at Helsby, working his way up to the first team at full back. He stepped away from the club in his late twenties, got married and had two children with 10 years before he returned after his family were rocked by a tragedy.
“I was 37 when my wife passed away,” says Garner. “My kids were only four and five and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It got pretty bad and I was really struggling. One day I was sitting around the house alone and thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and I made myself go back down to the club.
“When I got there it was like I’d never left. I felt welcomed. I hadn’t seen people there in so long but you don’t lose your friends in rugby, they are always there for you and I needed them then.”
Garner got his boots back on and continues to play for the first team every week having moved from full back to second row. Both his children also took up the sport, and Garner devoted as much free time as he could to giving back to the club which had been there when he needed it most.
“Rugby saved me twice. I wasn’t doing anything with my life when my brother dragged me along at the age of 20 and 17 years later it gave me and my family a purpose.”
As a volunteer Garner has taken on nearly every possible role including secretary, treasurer, fixtures secretary, groundsman, coach, kit washer and even barman. He was rewarded by the Mitsubishi Motors VolunteerRecognition Programme
“I do it all because this club is my family. The volunteers are amazing and they keep clubs like ours ticking along. I don’t do it for recognition, I do it because I couldn’t not do it,” he said.