Tony Abbott turned back the clock to make a long awaited but short-lived comeback on Saturday afternoon.
The former prime minister, 60, tackled a completely different ball game to politics when he took to the field against players 40 years his junior in the NSW suburban second division rugby union competition.
As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull travelled the country for the Super Saturday federal by-elections, the federal Warringah MP played third grade for his local Forestville-based club Forest against University of NSW at Melwood Oval on Sydney’s northern beaches.
He played in the front row but limped off the field after just 10 minutes with a calf injury and didn’t return.
Former former prime minister, Tony Abbott, 60, (pictured) took to the field with and against men 40 years his junior on Sydney’s northern beaches on Saturday
‘The blokes are a lot bigger [these days] — that makes a difference,’ Mr Abbott toldThe Daily Telegraph afterwards.
‘But the basics are the same. You’ve got to win your ball and use it.’
While Mr Turnbull spent the day being heckled by voters, it was different story for Abbott, who had plenty of support on the sidelines as he posed for multiple selfies with fans following his short-lived on-field appearance.
Mr Abbott later posted on social media: ‘A big thank you to Forest Rugby Club in their 60th year for the chance to run on in third grade today. It was eight minutes of pure pleasure before age caught up with me.’
Playing in the front row, the former PM (right) is more used to the backbench in parliament these days
Tony Abbott (pictured) is a long time supporter for his local Forest Rugby Club
Mr Abbott played second grade for Sydney University in his student days, where he played alongside former Test player Peter FitzSimons and and former federal colleague Joe Hockey.
He was flooded with more support on social media.
‘Age? What age, Tony? Just a number, your spirit is forever young,’ one person commented.
Another added: ‘Good on you Mr Abbott. Great that you gave it a go! What a champ you are. Oh and you will always be my Prime Minister.’
Tony Abbott (pictured) had many fans on and off the field on Saturday afternoon
A rugby union player in his university student day, Tony Abbott (second right) made his comeback to the code at age 60
Others saw the funny side.
‘Got a fiver that says you were picturing Malcolm’s face when rucking for the ball,’ one man joked on Facebook.
Mr Abbott ruled out a request by teammates to do a ‘nudie lap’, which is a tradition for players don’t score in a season.
The club revealed in its weekly newsletter on Friday that the former prime minister would be taking to the field in front of ‘what promises to be our largest crowd of the season’.
Forest president David Dickerson described the afternoon as a wonderful thrill for the club.
‘Watching him (Abbott) today was pretty inspiring for everybody,’ he said.
It’s unlikely avid cyclist Tony Abbott (pictured) will be going for a ride on Sunday after he injured his calf in a rugby union match