They’re a bit like West Virginia, front rowers in rugby. Like the “Mountain State” is the state the inhabitants of all other states make fun of, front rowers always seem to be the butt of the joke in rugby. They don’t always look like a classic athlete, they generally don’t run very fast and aren’t known for their ball skills or smarts. And the thing they are usually good at, scrummaging, most people, including those who’ve spent a lifetime playing the sport, don’t really understand. But in the 2017-18 Aviva Premiership season front rowers had their greatest moment in the sun since Sean Maloney’s “Top Five Fatmen Tries” from Fox Sports Rugby HQ TV show and former Wallaby hooker Phil Kearns numerous humorous quips at his and his front row brethren’s expense in the commentary box [my all-time favourite: Greg Martin: “Jeez Kearnsy, these lineouts are turning into a dockyard brawl”. Kearnsy: “Yeah, isn’t it great”.] Despite an array of attacking talent in the premiership last season, it was the Saracens front row that was the highest points scorer in all of Fantasy Rugby Draft (FRD). That’s like the captain of the debate team taking the head cheerleader to prom! (Quick aside, I fear I’ve just given someone an idea for a crappy Drew Barrymore movie). Read more
I remember one of my first ever games of competitive cricket. I had played at home on the lawn against my brother and cousin, at school against my friends and even older kids and usually handled myself ok. I had even saved up my shekels and bought myself a Gunn & Moore (GM) ‘Skipper’ cricket bat. Truth be told a Skipper was the bottom of the GM line, but Richard Hadlee used a GM, so I thought it was pretty cool. But then in one of my first games, a kid in the opposition had a Duncan Fearnley ‘Magnum’. Martin Crowe not only used a Duncan Fearnley, he used a Duncan Fearnley Magnum. This dude had Martin Crowe’s cricket bat! Read more
I remember as a young lad thinking that the fairer sex were about the most complex creatures on earth. And I was right. However, as I got a bit older, at various points I thought I had finally figured them out. But it didn’t take long to realise once more that I had no idea; in fact knew precious little more as I approached 30 than I did as a 15 year old. Along the way as you talk to older blokes you realise they don’t have a freaking clue either, despite the fact that a few will tell you things like: “the secret to women is…”, or, “see, so long as you do X, you’ll be right as rain.” Bollocks. At least now when I’m copping it from the missus I never tell myself that one of these days I will have her sussed out and never be on the end of such a tongue-lashing again. It’s like life in Fiji. Many days it’s idyllic with sun shining and waves gently lapping white sand beaches. But every now and then a tropical cyclone hits and all you can do is baton down the hatches and try to ride it out. Read more
Remember that scene at the end of Dirty Dancing, when Jonny has defied the orders of the Kellerman’s Resort hierarchy and he and Baby have danced the last dance of the summer to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “The time of my life”, and Baby’s father, Dr Houseman (the late Jerry Orbach) realises that it wasn’t Jonny (the late, great Patrick Swayze) who had slipped one past the goalie and got Penny pregnant? In fact, Jonny was taking responsibility when he really didn’t need to. So in an admirable show of humility, Dr Houseman approaches the 20-something year old guy that has been banging his 16 year old daughter most of the summer and explains that he realises that it “wasn’t you (ie Jonny/Swayze) that got Penny in trouble”. Given that Jonny wasn’t overly moved by the admission, he follows up with: “when I’m wrong I say I’m wrong”. Baby gushes that her Dad now approves of her summer romance with the guy who has been not-so-quietly shagging his way around the resort’s moneyed MILFs for years on end. You know, because as a father, you generally tend to look past the fact that a much older guy with no real prospects in life has taken advantage of your young, naïve daughter when you see that said guy can cut some mean shapes. It’s just the way life works. Read more
A man of my vintage should probably never admit this, but I think about what I would do if I was a professional rugby player every now and then. Kind of sadly, I’m beyond imagining what it must be like to have young ladies gagging to make your acquaintance on a night out. But I sometimes imagine different scenarios and think of how I might react. One such situation is where a player from New Zealand (NZ) has decided to throw his lot in with NZ rugby and try his luck overseas, thereby ruling himself out of ever playing for the All Blacks, or ever playing for them again. Invariably players in this situation go on about it being all about a new challenge and trying new things and living in a different culture and experiencing a different style of play and so on and so forth. Bollocks to that. It’s bullshit. I would come right and say: “I’m going there for the money.” Read more
In many respects, it’s the best day of the year for players of fantasy sports: Draft day. Not to be confused with the mediocre movie starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner as his improbable love interest (the absolute train wreck of a situation in the Cleveland Browns front office that is portrayed in the movie seems very true to life however). You see, on your fantasy league’s draft day, anything is possible. You can potentially have a blinder of a draft and run away with your league, or you could order the meatloaf and be screwed right from word go. Or you might absolutely crush the draft, but then all your players end up getting injured and you end up sucking anyway. The point is, anything is possible, and that’s exciting. It’s like the one good shot in an otherwise appalling round of golf; it keeps you coming back for more. Read more
Fantasy sports can be a cruel mistress indeed. About a week ago, I was the reigning Fantasy Rugby Draft champion in my league, and the number one and two seed respectively heading into the playoffs in the two NFL fantasy leagues I play in. There was an outside chance I could be a three-time, two-sport fantasy champion. The Deion Sanders or Sonny Bill Williams of fantasy sports, if you will. Has that ever even been done before?
Well, probably. But still, it would have been a crowning achievement in a life thus far sadly devoid of them. Now, after a dismal weekend of performances from my two NFL fantasy teams, I’ve been knocked out of one league and survived by the skin of my teeth in the other. That’s the thing with fantasy, it’s kind of like Michael Corleone in The Godfather series: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”. Just when you think you have fantasy sports sorted, Green Bay Packers’ superstar quarterback and prohibitive NFL MVP favourite Aaron Rodgers lays an egg against the Buffalo Bills of all teams, and you realise you really know very little indeed. Or at least, you can plan and make all the most rational and reasoned decisions, but it doesn’t necessarily mean victory.
“In America we have laws”, says Jonathan Moxon at the beginning of “Varsity Blues”. Better known as “Mox”, he continues: “Laws against killing. Laws against stealing.
“In West Canaan, Texas, there is another society, with its own laws.”
Football, he informs us, “is a way of life.”
It’s kind of the same with rugby. The sport itself has its own law book – not that anyone understands it – and there is everything that goes along with the sport itself; certain etiquette that most people abide by and governs any thoughts, feelings or interactions you have regarding players, coaches, referees and fellow or opposition supporters.