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
Every man, woman and child in New Zealand (NZ) lives and breathes rugby. It’s a religion. Even Kiwi dogs are crazy about the game. Did you hear about the time when a little old lady saw former Irish and Lions hooker in the street and gave him some advice about his scrummaging technique? Or the time the Canterbury crowd at the New Zealand Cup race day in Christchurch spat on a horse owned by former All Black coach John Hart in disgust at the All Blacks performance at the 1999 Rugby World Cup? Or what about the time the Prime Minister used a police escort to travel at 140km in order to catch a plane to get to the All Blacks test match in Wellington that evening? Ok, the third one is true (no offence Keith, but your story sound spurious at best. And maybe one or two drunken idiots spat in the direction of Hart’s horse, the strangely aptly named ‘Courage under fire’. It’s hard to legislate against stupidity).
It makes a great and easy story, but the truth is a lot of people in NZ really don’t care much for rugby at all. And many more only ever tune in when the All Blacks play. Very few people in NZ watch the Six Nations and virtually no one watches the Heineken Cup (European Rugby Champions Cup if you must) or Aviva Premiership or Pro12. Certainly not a fraction of the numbers in the UK who watch Super Rugby on Sky TV. 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