In 2019, Springbok forward Pieter-Steph du Toit was deservedly elected (men’s) World Rugby Player of the Year only 24 hours after he had played a major role in dismantling England’s World Cup dreams in Yokohama.
I wrote an article on this site a few years ago entitled ‘The anatomy of the tribe‘, and while I thought it was one of my best pieces – and I still do – it attracted only four comments, and one of them was mine.
I’m not sure why that was, but it’s probably because it didn’t give the armchair experts a forum. But who knows?
Anyway, in that article I postulated that I probably wouldn’t get involved in a Brisbane club after I finally moved up here after four and a half years of commuting Monday to Thursday.
I sort of got involved in one club because my boy played a couple of seasons there with his school mates, but I couldn’t really get into it. But after a couple of years in the wilderness and a season of running around with my son all over south-eath Queensland while he played gridiron – talk about watching paint dry – I now have the passion back.
So I’ve joined Brothers, given they are my local club. I got an email from the club looking for an assistant fifth-grade coach because the regular coaches have challenges with work commitments et cetera, so I put my hand up. Who could refuse?
They suggested I might like to turn up to the final trial on the Saturday before the competition was set to start – even though we had the bye in Week 1 – and meet the lads, which I duly did. It was a trial against Uni. I met some of the boys, watched the game, shook a few hands, got to know the coach, Nathan, and the manager, JD.
Then I went home to hear the news that the bloody elephant in the room, COVID-19, had postponed the season until 2 May. Crikey, that could be the shortest comeback in rugby history!
It immediately reminded me of another short interlude. In 1998, coaching fifth-grade at Norths (Sydney), the club got hit by a few injuries one particular week and I was forced to select myself as tighthead. It was a crunch game against Manly Marlins, which we won, and I had a lot of fun bludging around the edges.
At the bar later on someone suggested that, at age 45 and not having played by rugby at Norths, I might have set a record as the oldest player to make his debut for the club. This was very quickly communicated by osmosis – in other words, he was standing next to me – to sixth-grade coach Larry Ward.
Once he realised, he practically begged me to pick him next week. It turned out he was a year older than me, so if I did have a record, it lasted a week, because I wasn’t about to back up, and the late Larry (rest his soul) ran on, had a good day out and never did shout me the beer that he promised me.
Anyway, the point of the story is not me – I was looking forward to being involved at club level this year after being out of it for a while – but the players.
I really feel for the players, who put in a preseason and got so close to a start. As a young bloke you work hard all week, train hard two nights a week and really look forward to Saturday, when you can run, pass, ruck, maul, scrum and generally smash into other blokes before getting out to your favourite post-match venue and tell lies about your prowess. I feel for the guys who are missing out on it this season.
We can all spare a thought for us old tragics who have no rugby to watch, but I feel for those guys who have no rugby to play.
That is what our beautiful game is about at the end of the day.