FOR THOSE ABOUT TO RUCK, WE SALUTE YOU – A Life in Rugby

I love this quote.

Football Players

It is a generalisation of course (and probably an unfair one) but it bears testimony to the diving you see in soccer where a player barely gets touched, but if he’s anywhere near to the penalty box, there is a good chance he will convulse and roll around at least 37 times (i’m always fascinated why they roll and roll like they were pushed by invisible forces as if the rolling would heal them).

And when they roll to a stop 17 minutes later, they will always convulse violently again and clutch one part of their body with blood curdling screams like they have been shot and are bleeding incessantly.

And I’ve always wondered, if its that bad, how is it in the history of mankind no dying footballer has ever been substituted by the coach after sustaining such a serious injury lol.

And minutes later after this excruciating near death injury where his whole family had to be called to say their final goodbyes, he is prancing round again like an exuberant baby deer until he is touched again, and the wailing, rolling and near death experience  starts once more

Rugby Players

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Rugby players on the other hand, is in mortal fear that if they act hurt, their coach will pull them out of the game.

So they run round, cheerful and carefree, giving high fives and pretending not to be hurt until they can’t see because they are flooded by the blood pouring into their eye sockets and they are practically drowning in their own blood.

And all their teammates will help them not to look hurt.

“Quick quick everyone surround Jona – pretend like we’re starting a maul. Stop grimacing Jona! Smile and wave! Everyone, smile and wave at coach !”

“Dude, quick help me push my eyeball back into my socket.   Coach Rhys is looking at me”

The Rugby player’s motto is “if it is still dangling, it’s just a little scratch .”

This is a true story:

This is a story of one of the toughest men in sport. Meet Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford, a New Zealand rugby legend.

Buck was a notable victim of the infamous “Battle of Nantes”, one of the most aggressive games of rugby ever witnessed. During the game a French boot found its way into Shelford’s groin, somehow ripping his scrotum and leaving him with one testicle hanging free.

Shelford was caught at the bottom of a ruck 20 minutes into the game, losing four teeth, and sustained a large tear to his scrotum courtesy of a stray French boot.

Incredibly, Shelford had his injury stitched on the sideline and played on until deep into the second half, when a knock to the head left him concussed and unable to continue.

The Daily Telegraph

Four teeth and a torn scrotum and he still wanted to play. And he needed to be concussed to get him out lol.

Their respect for the Referee

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I have always been tickled by the sight of a petite rugby referee aggressively dressing down a group of burly, gigantic, violent looking and cannibalistic murderers masquerading as rugby players.

The 2 metre homicidal looking rugby players will be in kawaii sun dresses and pigtails looking forlorn and contrite, nodding and looking like they were going to burst into tears any minute.

” Referee: Now look here punks, if I see one more offside I am going to rip off your stupid head and pull out your intestines one by one ….

Jones: Sir Yes Sir. But can I ask ……..

Referee: What’s that Jones – wait are you eyeballing me boy ? Oh suddenly you are growing balls ? Stop drooling and don’t make me have to go there and slap that stupid look off your face ………………”

Football referees on the other hand, are screamed at and dissed by every diminutive Ferrari driving Football millionaire wearing a massive blink blink when the decision doesn’t go their way.

How it all started

I’ve always admired the beautiful game from afar. Although it fitted my inner demons to a tee, I’ve managed to stay away.

In fact, I’ve always been quite co-ordinated and graceful and played many racquet games on a competitive basis. Full of grace, nothing too violent.

Then in the army, tournament time came and they went around the camp looking for anyone who looked ugly, had a psychotic twitch and anger management issues. I was picked because I was burly (ok fat but for purposes of this esteemed article burly means fat) and looked slightly unhinged.

And I played tennis for the formation and had a booming serve so they figured I would have some violence in me.

It was weeks to the competition and they managed to round up a motley crew of 8 of us, many who have dabbled but not played the game before competitively, to be forwards.

The guy who trained us was this huge guy – apparently playing for the state team and well known to be a homicidal dirty player.

Once on the field, he will have a death wish and always ended up in altercations.

His instructions to us were simple

” Ok stupid f**#%^s, listen up. We are going to keep it simple so you brainless f**^%s can understand.

I’ve told the kicker that at every start of the game he will kick it as high as possible. All of you will charge and when they catch the ball I want to see at least 2 of you charging into his chest. Aim at the stomach so that you don’t get red carded but when you land, drive your shoulder hard into his solar plexus.

I don’t care if you get sent out. You hurt as many as you can before being sent out. That’s the plan.

I want to see these fu**^^s being carried out one by one. At least 4 or 5 every game. I want to hear bones breaking. I want to see blood everywhere. Otherwise you are just pussies and not doing your job.

“Ok everybody in.

123, Engineers kill !”

Wait. What?

We followed his instructions to a tee.

Every game one or two of us would be stretchered out bloodied but not before 4 or 5 of the opposing team were stretchered out first, some with serious injuries. There was blood everywhere.

We beat the infantry.

We blew the navy out of the water.

We beat the commandos (now that was a very bloody game). During half time when our ball boy ran in with our water, theirs ran in (and I kid you not) with crates and crates of Guinness stout. Each of the commando players picked up a huge bottle and started chugging. It was to intimidate us.

We beat them and made it to the finals and met the guardsmen who had many good players and the reigning record holding national sprinter as winger.

We lost gloriously.

My life long relationship with the All Blacks

In New Zealand, if you came back telling your parents that you have become the prime minister or the first internet billionaire, your father will sniff and say “well that’s alright then ain’t it ?” never taking his eyes off the telly.

But if you told them you’ve become All Black no 2188 (every All Black has a number) your mother will let out a blood curdling shriek and faint, while your father will scream and fall to the ground sobbing, rolling round and round for 17 minutes and clutching his chest like he couldn’t breathe.

Relatives will be summoned and there will be 49 days of celebrations with animal sacrifices, Haka every hour on the hour, deflowering of virgins and lots of crying.

Such is the religious fervour with which every New Zealander regard an All Black.

How do you fight against a team that has thousands of years of tribal warriors behind them, the entire country behind them and where every school boy is forced to get into a school only because then you get to join a team to play.

Ok maybe study a little but only if it helps you to become an All Black.

MSC Newswire

The Sun

Twitter

Think about it, what are New Zealand and it’s people known for ?

What is New Zealand’s food ? Nobody has a clue. For all you know it could be chicken rice. Or taro balls. Or fruits.

What is it’s population – no idea. Biggish?

Name one famous company it produced like an Apple, Nokia or Samsung ? Never heard of any. All Blacks Inc?

What is their national dress? Is there one ? A black jersey with a fern ?

What is their language ? Ermm is it kiwi or is that a fruit ?

They are known only for the All Blacks.

And maybe bungee jumping.

Coaching young kids

Primary 1 and 2

When my Son started primary 1 (6- 7 years old), I decided to be a parent volunteer coach at my son’s school.

I was grateful he was accepted into rugby and I wanted to contribute.

I did this for the next 6 years every Saturday morning, sacrificing a lazy Saturday morning snooze.

I said coach but at that age(I started with primary 1 and 2s), we were more surrogate fathers for two hours rather than serious coaching.

But it was a nightmare two hours because suddenly you have 25 sons who were fidgety and prancing like bunnies.

We tried to make it fun for them. So we had drills called Dog and Bone, Octopus, Snakes and Ladders and other kiddie names although some of the drills can be quite tiring.

I said surrogate fathers because in that two hour session you had to hug crying kids, answer 200 questions and attend to 17 “coach can you tie my shoelaces “.

In 3 months, the parent coaches were all ripped with six packs because of the incessant bending to tie shoe laces.

And they all desperately wanted to know the time – I don’t know why. We used to entertain all such requests until one day, we decided to be flippant with our answers and they gradually stopped:

(First 6 months)

Coach what’s the time ?

845am. We just started.

(6 minutes later)

Coach what’s the time ?

8.51 am

Multiply this 25 times.

—————————————-

One father coach to another

“Man they’re really killing me this morning

How many so far ?

6 what’s the time and 7 laces

——————————————–

(After 6 months)

Coach what’s the time ?

It’s party time!

Whattttttt?

Coach what’s the time?

Why? Do you have a Management Budget meeting to attend?

Whattttttt ?

Ok can you tie my shoelaces?

And there were many other life threatening important questions they would ask in the middle of serious coaching

“Coach why are you wearing a earring? Are you a girl (giggling)?

Oh one day I accidentally poked a big hole in my ear and there was a lot of blood. If I don’t wear the earring all the blood will gush out. Wait…. its coming out, give me your finger. Help me to block the blood from coming out….

Nooooooooo (running away)”

——————————————————-

Coach why are you always wearing All Blacks?

Hmm……………….(I am the only parent coach who declined to wear the ACS coach jersey I was given as I was from a rival rugby school. It was a standing joke amongst the parents and one year we had a rugby fundraising and thousand of dollars was offered to make me wear the jersey for a day – I declined)

My friend (meaning one of the 24 others) said you used to play for the All Blacks ? Really? Can?

Yes. Because I have Kiwi blood . My grandmother was from New Zealand.

Really ?

Yes. She played for the All Blacks too.

Really ? 

Really coach ?

No I’m just kidding.

OK

But can you tie my shoelaces?

Primary 3 and 4

After a few years, I decided to coach the Primary 3 and 4s. At this age, we started to introduce more skills, drills and gently exposing them to some contact and preparing them for match play.

And the quality of the conversations got a little better.

One of the parent coaches Coach L (carefully disguised to protect the innocent) used to make me chuckle. He loved the army and would speak like a sergeant major.

(While the boys were in a push up position)

“Gentlemen or should I say Ladies, are you all from MGS?

Whatttttt ?

I said are you all from MGS?

Nooooooo (a great deal of chattering and giggling)

Then why are you doing push ups like MGS girls? My grandmother can do better push ups. Ok all of you go back today and ask your mothers to buy for you the MGS pinafore for next saturday’s training .

Nooooooo (more giggling)

Ok ladies, you see that big nice tree over there. I want all of you to sprint there and touch the tree and the last 5 will have to buy the MGS uniform for next week ? Go!”

Now you know why so many ACS rugby boys date MGS girls.

It’s the intrigue that has been planted since young.

And they all want to see what the MGS pinafore looks like.

My Son the rugby player

When my Son was born he started life wearing all black rompers. Why would he wear anything else ?

A few years later, he wore an all blacks polo T-shirt. Why would he wear anything else ?

A bit later on, he wore an All Blacks jersey. Why would he wear anything else ?

As a teenager he wore an All Blacks jersey. Why would he wear anything else ?

My Son’s name

I just knew that he had to be named after a rugby player.

It had to be someone I admire.

Zim Zam Brooke

My ex thought that Zim Zam Brooke was cute 🙄. That’s woman and sports for you.

I liked Zim Zam Brooke too because he was a great All Blacks No 8. He is regarded as one of the greatest All Blacks of all time (All Blacks no 883).

In 2007, former England centre and captain Will Carling published his list of the ’50 Greatest Rugby players’ in The Daily Telegraph, and ranked Brooke the ninth greatest player of all time.

Zim Zam was an inspirational forward but he will best be remembered as a No 8 who dropkicks.

He once kicked a 48-metre drop goal (that’s almost at the half way line) during a 1995 semi finals Rugby World Cup match against England , one of three he scored in test matches.

Brooke scored his third drop goal during the All Blacks’ impressive 42–7 win against Wales at Wembley Stadium on 29 November 1997, giving him the rare distinction of being the only rugby player to have “scored a goal at Wembley”.

Stuff.co.nz

Stuff

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nzherald.co.nz

The other fun fact about Zim Zam Brooke is that today, Jason Momoa (Aquaman) who is a rabid All Blacks fan, wears Zim Zam Brooke’s No 8 jersey:

“It was a gift from my stuntman Glenn Ennis about 15 years ago when I was on Stargate Atlantis. He was captain for Canada and played against the All Blacks at the 1991 Rugby World Cup where he traded jerseys with the legendary Zinzan Brooke,” Momoa said.

“It is one of the greatest presents I have ever been given. I never leave home without it. It always travels with me.”

 nzherald

So why didn’t I name my Son Zim Zam Ong ?

Because he will never forgive me.

He will get beaten up and they will call him Tim Tam.

Christian Cullen

collegesport.org

This is another All Blacks great (All Blacks 952)

He was nicknamed the Paekakariki Express and was considered to be one of the most potent running fullbacks rugby has ever seen.

With 46 tries scored in 58 tests, Cullen is the 9th highest try-scorer in international rugby.

Cullen is the All Blacks’ second-highest try-scorer in the Tri Nations Series with 16, second only to Ritchie McCaw.

 He is New Zealand’s second most-capped test fullback in his time.

Whenever Cullen plays, his fans will lift up placards saying “Cullen walks on water “.

This is some of his legendary runs.

Gavin Hastings

Twitter.com

He is the player I admired most outside of the All Blacks.

Gavin Hastings was the best player Scotland has ever produced and was an amazing full back and was captain of the team for many years.

He was big but mobile, fearless but was a perfect gentleman in and out of the field.

His nickname is Big Gav.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Full name Andrew Gavin Hastings

Place of birth Edinburgh, Scotland

Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)[1]

Weight 14 st 3 lb (91 kg)[1]

University Cambridge University

Andrew Gavin Hastings, OBE (born 3 January 1962) is a former Scotland rugby union player. He is frequently considered to be one of the best rugby players to come out of Scotland.. His nickname is “Big Gav”.

Hastings was born in Edinburgh. He has played for Watsonians, London Scottish, Cambridge University, Scotland and the British and Irish Lions and was one of the outstanding rugby union players of his generation, winning 61 caps for Scotland, 20 of which as captain. He played fullback, and captained the Lions on the tour to New Zealand in 1993 (after playing in all three tests in the 1989 tour to Australia).

Former national coach Ian McGeechan said of him:

“Gavin is a big man in every sense of the word… his greatest asset was to engender confidence in those around him and to lead by example when the opposition had to be taken on. In New Zealand, they considered him simply the best full-back in the world.”.

So it was down to Gavin or Christian.

Gavin Alexander Ong

In the end, it was down to not just rugby attributes but the whole package.

Gavin Hastings was a leader amongst men, Primus Inter Pares (first amongst equals), and a ferocious but righteous warrior on the field. A perfect gentlemen with poise, grace and manners.

Feared by some and respected by all.

And the fact that Andrew appears in his name was not lost on me

So I introduced the world to Gavin Alexander Ong.

Alexander meaning “Defender of Men”

His Rugby

He played both first team rugby and tennis for his school.

It was hard for him handling two sports and we had to get special permission from the principal for him to be in both teams. He would go to school for lessons, then change up to train in tennis for 2 hours and immediately after, get into his rugby kit and train another 2 hours.

His potential for rugby was not as apparent as his tennis in the earlier stages but there were glimpses.

Big Gav sucking them in:

He has come a long way.

We had many tense Father and Son moments when he was growing up over rugby.

I was trying to unleash the monster in him. But he didn’t always appreciate it.

He would glare at me when I told him just before the game started ” .. see that biggest Monster on the field? He is yours. Go and take him down”.

No Son wants to listen to his Father.

I bought tackling pads and brought him to the field in our spare time and made him tackle me over and over again.

And suffered bruises from my little boy.

But the Monster was coming out of him.

Today he tackles hard and knows no fear.

A few months ago, during the school tournament period, he was hacking away the whole week with a bad cough and flu. On the day of the match, I was driving him to school and told him maybe he shouldn’t play as he was still sick.

He didn’t respond.

I told him maybe I better tell the coach about his condition and ask the coach to consider letting him play only one half.

He just stared at me incredulously in icy silence.

I said ok if you don’t want me to do that, then promise me you will stop the moment you don’t feel good, and ask the coach to take you out.

I asked “ok?” as he was getting out of the car and before he slammed the door he said three words

“Play until Drop ”

And then walked away.

I stopped the car by the side of the road, ripped off my shirt and did a Haka there and then.

The police had to be called and they were not amused.

He has done well . He now dons the No 7 jersey as flanker and is now the vice captain of his school team.

And was voted best forward of his team in 2019.

j

But he has not fully peaked in my view.

The best is yet to come for him.

I’m just glad he’s loving the game as much as I have loved the game my whole life.

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