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Obituary: Ronald Vernon Bridgeman

Ron Bridgeman, the third former Bristol winger to die within a very short space of time, made 85 first team appearances in a career cruelly blighted by a succession of injuries.

The fact that he scored 60 tries indicates what a fine player he was, and he also crossed for a staggering 124 tries in 108 Bristol United games.

Ronald Vernon Bridgeman was already a Somerset County athlete and had played football for Weston-super-Mare when he accompanied a friend to watch a Dings Crusaders game in 1956. The fourth XV was short of a player and he ended up playing; by the end of the season he was a Bristol United player, and he made his first team debut at Cheltenham in what was only his 30th game of rugby. In the 1957-58 season he scored 26 tries in 24 United games. He was awarded his United cap at the end of this season, and by the end of 1960-61 he had both his first team cap and his blazer.  

Time and again Ron’s rugby was interrupted by injury. During a Bristol career that stretched to the 1964-65 season he broke his nose three times, slipped a disc, badly broke his collarbone and injured both his knee and his fingers.  Yet time and again he battled back to fitness. His slipped disc put him out of action for virtually all of the 1961-62 season, but a year later he was playing again and was Bristol’s leading try scorer. He finally admitted defeat and retired from rugby in 1964-65 when he dislocated his knee against Exeter.

When he was fully fit, Ron was a very fast runner and adept at evading tackles. He made nine appearances for Somerset, and as his Bristol career gradually wound down he played for both Weston and Dings. During the 1959-60 season he made a single appearance for Birkenhead Park when they arrived one short to play Bristol at the Memorial Ground. After he finished playing Ron remained connected to Bristol, helping with coaching and physical fitness and acting as one of the club’s ‘sponge men’.

Ron enjoyed meeting up with his fellow former players, frequently travelling to reunions from his Malvern home. He also remained closely attached to Dings Crusaders. All at Bristol Bears extend their sincere sympathy to Ron’s family at this sad time.