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Friday, 7 December 2018

The ups and downs of being a rugby supporter. And how can you support more than one club???

The ups and downs of being a rugby supporter. And how can you support more than one club???

First of all, a bit of history of me, to give you my context.

I first watched rugby as a little girl, but started watching rugby league at Whitehaven. My dad would take me to the tryline stand, and grab me a Bovril and crunchie at half time, much like his dad had done with him some years earlier.

As a family, we moved to Rutland when I was 6 and at 14, I was taken, much against my better judgement, to Oakham RFC, where an England player was handing out end of season awards to the minis. This player turned out to be Rory Underwood, thus began my love of England rugby, Leicester Tigers and Rory himself!

Years later, after attending many games at Tigers on an adhoc basis, I bought my own season ticket. I also enjoyed going away to games most weekends, and building up banter with many of the players. Leicester Tigers ladies night became a staple on my calendar in the run up the Christmas and I would have described myself as a Tiger girl through and through.

But then things changed. Some of the old players, who I was recognised by, enjoyed chatting to after games and watching and cheering for each week as they scored tries and took in massive tackles, started to leave. Some, it was clear that their time had come, but others, well… there were rumours. I’m not one for rumours so I generally asked the players themselves. None were indiscrete or unprofessional I should add, but it was clear that all was not well. I always recall one saying that he had honestly seen his move to Leicester as one that would be his last, but that he was terribly saddened to have to go. Incidentally, he wasn’t one who’s rugby time was done!

I honestly began to feel fed up with the way that, people who I respected, spoke to regularly and had a relationship with (albeit I was just a fan!) were, in my eyes, not being treated well and I really stopped enjoying watching rugby at Tigers. So I sought to find my enjoyment elsewhere. I have been in O2’s RoseArmy since 2015 and met some fabulous people, who I now regard as friends and I ended up attending some rugby matches with them. I would either go and support their side, the opposition (particularly if it was Quins or Chiefs) or I would go as a firm neutral. However, I know that at some point, as any neutral watches a game, they will rise to their feet and cheer, hence no longer wearing the neutral hat completely.

So, after visiting many different grounds, I decided to take up a season ticket at Quins. I wouldn’t turn my back on Tigers completely so kept that season ticket too. Many people just can’t understand how I can ‘support two teams’ – for me, it’s more that the game. It’s about the fellow fans, where I enjoy watching rugby, how the management team treat their players and how the players interact with their fans. Not just about the results on the pitch. If that doesn’t make sense to you, dear reader, then I’ve got nothing else. Suffice to say, I enjoy my jaunts to the Stoop and Welford Road equally and when the two sides play each other, I am conflicted as heck, but will usually fall in behind the Tigers (they are my long standing side, afterall!)

And so, to this weekend. It seemed that, going into Friday night, Quins were not expected to win at home against Chiefs. And on Saturday, Tigers were expecting a good game but a comfortable win away at Bristol. On my weekly Superbru, I will always back my side to win and so did this without exception. Quins to win by 2, and Tigers to win by 7.

The Stoop was absolutely rocking! And, without giving away any spoilers, Quins ended up winning by 2 points. Final score 28-26 with 13-5 at half time. It was definitely not a walk over and Chiefs put up a good game. Interesting, John Kingston, ex head coach was part of the BT team there on Friday
evening and he met up with the current coach after the match. He was welcomed by the fans, who largely acknowledge, although it was his time to go, he did much good in his time at the club over many years. Since the match, it’s been great to see the good, uplifted, positive comments and moods of many Quins fans. Whilst none are underestimating how far it is to go in the season (Cockers always used to say that no trophies are won at Christmas!) there is a much more positive feel around the Quins fan camp. A very different feel to how it was after their defeat at the hands of Worcester the weekend before.

And onto Tigers, who were away at Bristol and I was at a baby shower, so keeping up to date with the scores on social media. One very old loyal Tiger was co-captain of Bristol, that being Jordan Crane, who I personally think is great, and he served Tigers very, very well in his time. Another ex Tiger on the Bristol team sheet was Harry Thacker. A player who brought much fun and flair when he got onto the pitch, who many argued was ‘too short to be a 2’ and so ultimately, he didn’t get game time at Tigers. And he left. And went to Bristol. And scored 3 tries for them the previous weekend against Wasps. So what would happen in this match? At half time, Bristol led 21-10. It was with a shock that I saw the score on my phone but not total surprise. In rugby, one should never underestimate the underdog. But all was not lost… was it? I mean, Tigers had played Saracens last weekend, Saracens who are in the top 2, and we ended up 22-27 in that game. We played well. So we could turn round an 11 point deficit at Bristol and win… couldn’t we? Well it turns out, it got a bit worse. Final score was 41-10 to Bristol and Harry Thacker scored 2 tries. Since then, the Tigers Social Media fan channels have been pretty much doom and gloom. Many fans are calling for a total overhaul of some of the board. There is a huge amount of dissatisfaction out there. Who knows how this one will play out.
At the end of the weekend, it appears that Quins are in 5th place on the Gallagher premiership table and Tigers are 8th. Saracens and Chiefs are way out at the top, well ahead of the next club, Gloucester, who sit 12 points behind Chiefs in 3rd place. But this for me is where it gets really interesting. 12 points, as I said are between 2 and 3. There are then only 13 points that separate Gloucester in 3rd, on 28 points and Newcastle in 12th place, who have 15 points. Quins have 24 points, Tigers have 18.

There is still a very long way to go until the premiership final on 1st June 2019. The play offs (which I love incidentally) mean that even if 2 sides seemingly run off with the top places at this point in the season, 2 other teams are still in with a chance of playing in that final.
Any team can, on it’s day, win. Similarly, any team can lose. We, as fans, can all have our theories about why they lose and many fans have no problems with sharing their anger and thoughts on who should go, what the club needs to do, and where things are wrong. It’s great when you’re winning, It’s not so great to see a side that you love going through a hard time. But, whatever happens, the game of rugby will continue to give a huge amount of entertainment to those who choose to continue watching it.

As for me, I’m off to find a top to wear on 22nd December, when Tigers play Quins! Come on, the game of RUGBY UNION!
By Andrea
Twitter @valeriebarlow6
Insta: @andreanotangela

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