Andrea Crellin explains where her rugby and specifically Leicester Tigers passion started and then grew!  As well as being Tigers mad Andrea is also an original member of the Rose Army.

My rugby story has it’s roots in Rugby League. My dad was always taken to see Whitehaven Rugby League as a child by his dad. He would tell me how his dad left him on the terraces, behind the try line, with a crunchie and a Bovril and occasionally, he would take me and repeat this snack time ritual!

Moving down to Rutland as a 7 year old, my dad quickly got involved in the local rugby club in Oakham (in a non- playing capacity) and as a result, we used to go there as a family. We always had rugby club trips down to the Pilkington Cup finals – I have fond memories of watching Will Carling play at Twickenham, getting in a bundle of a tackle on the try line right in front of me, and then, along with my sister and brother, running onto the pitch after the match.

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This, of course, would never happen now  but, although I hate the new plastic pitches that seem to be appearing in our sport nowadays, I do so love the image of everyone playing on Saracens pitch after their match. Our Twickenham visits were ‘enhanced’ years on the trot when the bus broke down, once by the M25 and a year later, near a pub on the A1. Stopping here became a tradition for our club for many years and this just contributed to making each visit even more memorable.

As a family, we would always go to the Tigers traditional Boxing Day match v the Barbarians. It was always great to cheer on the Tigers and always absolutely freezing. But a happy occasion was always guaranteed, meeting friends before and after the match.

One of my brightest memories – I will always remember Rory Underwood coming down to Oakham RFC to do a mini-rugby presentation – he became my first rugby-teenage crush and still is to this day! (Don’t tell him!)

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Moving on a few years, I was always going to Tigers for occasional matches, sometimes into the hospitality suites with my family. The Tigers players who we met in there were always charming and very approachable. I was always starstruck, and pretty much, that remains to be the case now! I still recall how utterly proud I was as my nephews and nieces all ran onto the pitch as mascots.

My first European ‘tour’ was to Dublin, 5 years ago, when Tigers were well and truly beaten by Leinster. I can always remember the noise travelling around that stadium, and being amazed at seeing all these ‘Leicester people’ there too! The Tigers Family is always up for travelling. While we were beaten by a huge score, the Irish who we met in Dublin afterwards all said how much they’d enjoyed playing us – all genuinely meant it and none took any opportunity to gloat. Amazing. 

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Then, due to a change in my life,  I needed something more to do each weekend. So I got myself a season ticket. I went along to matches, on my own, and somehow, always managed to find someone to take a photo of me with a player (or 2!) on my phone.  Then came Twitter…what a wonderful tool that is for making friendships. An ‘agreed with’ comment or a photo where you appear in the background…whatever the circumstances, there were chats started. And through those 140 characters, have developed some of the most wonderful friendships. Friends for life and friends who I know I can always depend on. With these friends, I’ve travelled to matches near and far. Both premiership and European. 

A visit out to Toulon last December – a spur of the moment decision after we beat them at Welford Road. 10 hours of travelling there, 10 hours of travelling home but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sitting watching the match with the mountains in front of us, the sea behind us and the cry of the Pilou Pilou man…great memories that I will treasure forever. As for the toucan cocktail mugs…least said about them the better!

This season, we tripped out to Ireland for the Munster match, calling in at a certain Wood Café to say hi to Keith before the match. What a legend – nearly threw us out  as we were all in our Tigers tops but the steak sandwiches were to die for!

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Before this, we visited Treviso and a cheeky trip to Venice was pulled in too. The rugby came with the rain (so much rain!) on the Saturday but in spite of this, a great experience. Drinking prosecco by the magnum pitchside and a win for Tigers. Then Sunday Venice in the sunshine, in November – what a stunning, beautiful city. The bus ride back to the airport and subsequent flight was all the more exciting as we shared our travel with none other than Tigers’ Manu Tuilagi – more starstruck hours for me!

Last weekend, we all watched Manu come out of the changing room and then spend an age getting across the pitch and in to eat with the other players – he made sure everyone who had waited for him got a photo, autograph or a hello. What a great young man.

And that’s what I love about Tigers. The players and coaches always have time for their fans. When they win, they smile lots and thank us for supporting them. When they lose, they apologise and thank us for our support. But they always make time. Over and above their playing commitments. Ladies nights are always a hoot but what happens at Ladies night stays on Ladies night. (Apart from the YouTube videos that is!)

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Tigers is a team that I am always proud to cheer for. It’s not always easy being a part of the Tiger family. While other teams are allowed an off year, a rebuilding year, this is a luxury not ever afforded to Tigers. Top 4 is expected as a minimum. By everyone. We regularly lose and have lost players to Lions, 5 or 6 Nations squads, and International teams, (granted, as do other teams) and our injury list is ever present. While most teams are allowed to have a few off games during these times, this never seems to be the case for Tigers. However, in spite of this, somehow, the players and coaching staff get there…The Tigers magic is turned on and the season ends in success in some shape or form. As for this year, at the moment, we watch this space. It’s an ever changing top 6 and the ‘if this happens’ lists are endless with possibilities. As ever, in the Tigers Family, we Keep The Faith!

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If you enjoy games where you sit on the edge of your seat. If you have the capacity to cheer and roar until you have no voice. If you don’t mind your heart stopping at least a dozen times in 80 minutes.  If you don’t need nails…then Tigers is your team. It’s definitely mine!

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