How do I love thee, rugby? Let me count the ways….
Men in shorts (had to be #1)
Bodies warming up in front of me – a sight to behold; physiques for every woman (and man) to appreciate whatever their taste; and real men unafraid to show their softer side (Who would not be moved by Sebastian Chabal holding his new born child in those soft, safe, strong hands)
Between fans of opposing teams (men in kilts telling the English where to stick that chariot); between players on (and off) the field; between team staff and officials from whatever governing body is overseeing the game I’m watching; between stewards and spectators. For some reason it works!
Where else do you hear players calling the ref “Sir”? where else could you bring your kids to a sporting event knowing that fans around you won’t subject your offspring to words they shouldn’t hear? And on the rare occasions when they do, apologise sincerely? Values matter in this game of odd-shaped balls
Fat or thin, short or tall, deaf or blind, man or woman, gay or straight. - rugby doesn’t care! If you’re willing, there’s a home for you. If you’re not very good but keep on trying, there’s a home for you. And if you’re one of our own, we look after you when things are tough. Just ask Matt Hampson or Henry Fraser
On the field - controlled, focused, well directed – it’s necessary for success. For the amateurs, an opportunity to release the aggression that builds up in your daily world And off the field – in the stands and in the streets after being beaten by your local rivals - it’s rarely seen. No need for a police presence after our games
The connection between players is palpable and overcomes so many playing barriers typical in other sports – whether for different teams, in different countries, for the place of your own or your grandparents’ birth. If you grew up playing together in the rugby world, you’re still buddies when the game between two opposing teams ends
Only a team that works together will win consistently on the rugby pitch. And when each player recognizes and values their team mates’ contributions (banter aside) the sky is the limit. Because we all know how hard it is to win when there is dissent, mistrust and doubt between players on the same side
There are many opportunities for players to lead and make a difference – on the field, in the changing room, in the bar, on the bus – and in so many ways. Picking people up when they’ve made mistakes, recognizing when some need a kick and others need a hug. In rugby, age doesn’t matter but humanity makes you a leader
Family (had to come last)
Being part of the bigger rugby family has given our family so much joy over the years with fun, shared memories, freedom, laughter and a few tears too. Long may it last!