Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
14 March 2017
A Poem for old rugby players...........
When the battle scars have faded
And the truth becomes a lie
And the weekend smell of liniment
Could almost make you cry.
When the last rucks well behind you
And the man that ran now walks
It doesn’t matter who you are
The mirror sometimes talks
Have a good hard look old son!
The melons not that great
The snoz that takes a sharp turn sideways
Used to be dead straight
You’re an advert for arthritis
You’re a thoroughbred gone lame
Then you ask yourself the question
Why the hell you played the game?
Was there logic in the head knocks?
In the corks and in the cuts?
Did common sense get pushed aside?
By manliness and guts?
Do you sometimes sit and wonder
Why your time would often pass
In a tangled mess of bodies
With your head up someone’s......?
With a thumb hooked up your nostril
Scratching gently on your brain
And an overgrown Neanderthal
Rejoicing in your pain!
Mate – you must recall the jersey
That was shredded into rags
Then the soothing sting of Dettol
On a back engraved with tags!
It’s almost worth admitting
Though with some degree of shame
That your wife was right in asking
Why the hell you played the game?
Why you’d always rock home legless
Like a cow on roller skates
After drinking at the clubhouse
With your low down drunken mates
Then you’d wake up – check your wallet
Not a solitary coin
Drink Berocca by the bucket
Throw an ice pack on your groin
Copping Sunday morning sermons
About boozers being losers
While you limped like Quasimodo
With a half a thousand bruises!
Yes – an urge to hug the porcelain
And curse Sambuca’s name
Would always pose the question
Why the hell you played the game!
And yet with every wound re-opened
As you grimly reminisce it
Comes the most compelling feeling yet
God, you bloody miss it!
From the first time that you laced a boot
And tightened every stud
That virus known as rugby
Has been living in your blood
When you dreamt it when you played it
All the rest took second fiddle
Now you’re standing on the sideline
But your hearts still in the middle
And no matter where you travel
You can take it as expected
There will always be a breed of people
If there’s a teammate, then you’ll find him
Like a gravitating force
With a common understanding
And a beer or three, of course
And as you stand there telling lies
Like it was yesterday old friend
You’ll know that if you had the chance
You’d do it all again
You see – that’s the thing with rugby
It will always be the same
And that, I guarantee
Is why the hell you played the game!
Anonymous (or until someone tells me who wrote it!)
40,000 fans welcome popular Manu Samoa onto Eden Park but NZ wins 35-13.
Otago and New Zealand
51 internationals for New Zealand 1997-2002
The talented New Zealand utility loose forward, who sadly, might be remembered more as the man who had the unenviable job of returning home after being the captain of the beaten All Blacks at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Such a summary is totally unfair as Randell’s team left for the Cup with excessive expectations from the New Zealand public, and it belies the fact that Randell was a top international forward right through his playing career. It is just that by various All Black selectors he was shunted though three loose forward positions and not ever being allowed to settle in one.
Randell came into the All Blacks on the 1995 tour of France, and within 12 months on the 1996 tour of South Africa he had become a 21 year old captain of the midweek New Zealand team. By 1997 he made his test debut against Fiji at Albany Stadium at North Shore, Auckland. That year, in a gruelling sequence at the time, he played in all 12 tests on the All Blacks programme. One of those was as a number eight forward, the others as a blindside flanker. In the next year the All Black coach John Hart elevated him to the test captaincy. At 23 years old he was the fourth youngest leader in All Black history. He played the first five of those tests as a number eight but was then shuffled back to the flanker’s role.
Initially the captaincy sat kindly on Randell’s shoulders. But as a sequence of defeats crept in, rather than blame the older players, it was the young captain who took the rap from the public. He seemed to lose confidence and, at times, composure.
In 1999, World Cup year, the New Zealand public believed that the spirit of the All Blacks would come through again and young Randell was again charged with leading the team, with the massive trust again on his shoulders.
The All Blacks reached the semi-finals against France at Twickenham but there the New Zealanders world came crashing down. France won 43-31. In Britain (and France no doubt!) the game is remembered as one of the greatest ever seen at Twickenham; in New Zealand it was seen as a national disaster. And heads had to roll. Coach John Hart resigned as soon as the Cup series was over. Randell had to wait till new coach Wayne Smith decided if he wanted to retain him or not. Smith did, but not with the captaincy. Todd Blackadder was preferred instead. The leadership was wrenched away from Randell who had to publicly face the wrath and scorn of the public.
He played most of the season in the team however and after the departure of Smith as coach, (replaced by John Mitchell), and injuries to two further All Black leaders (Anton Oliver and Rueben Thorne) Randell was restored as captain for the late season tour to Europe in 2002. By then, at 28 years old, Randell was a much more mature person and to most people’s delight he handled things well. In the game against France at Paris he became one of the small band of All Blacks who in those times had passed 50 test match appearances.
When did an international rugby team play a full game and then travel to another country to play a second full game on the same day?