Hello Rugger fans,
You miss me? – It’s been a while since I wrote to you last. Don’t worry, the Rogues haven’t been slacking. We’ve been training hard twice a week at Connaught Park and we had our first contact game last Saturday! Super exciting, right? I’m here to tell you all about it.
Last weekend, the Rogues finally had our shot to play a complete contact game… with some modifications, of course. Let me paint the scene for you: it was a cloudless, bright, and hot September morning; the Rogues began assembling on the field around 1030; as I got ready, I asked my teammates how they were feeling:
"I’m so excited...butterflies in my stomach.”
“I just CAN’T WAIT to tackle someone!”
“We can do this; we’re going to take them down!”
I was extremely nervous myself: there was so much built-up anticipation. We’ve been training incredibly hard in practice. Our coaches have been splitting us up into forwards and backs, so we’re getting specialized practice now: starting to figure out our roles, learning some plays, making up calls. While I knew all of that was coming, and even in practice as I was learning it all, it didn’t quite feel real until we were putting our gear and jerseys on.
And that is when the excitement really built up. We were very fortunate to have the Meralomas provide us with some socks and shorts to keep, as well as some jerseys to wear for our first game. The Rogues, now ready, are looking and feeling fabulous.
Once we were dressed, it was time for a quick warm-up, and then we split into backs and forwards to rehearse just a few more things (we were ready, I promise you…).
All of sudden, it’s almost noon, the sun is right above us, and we’re assembling for a final huddle. We haven’t even started running yet, and I can feel sweat forming on my forehead. We lock our arms and our shoulders together, forming a ring. Coaches Pat, Deryck and Brennan give us one final pep talk:
“Guys, remember, it’s your first game. This is just the first step on our way to Bingham! Get out there, hit them hard, run even harder, and show them what we’ve been learning!”
I look over at Deryck, our club president, and you can feel the energy emanating off him. Where my energy stemmed from nervousness, his came from the sudden realisation that his dream was becoming a reality:
The Rogues are back. We’re here, playing games. And we’re ready to take it all the way to Bingham. All this effort, time, money, organisation; all of it was leading to this first step.
I wonder how much of the pep talk was for the team and how much was for Deryck.
The whistle blows. The Meralomas have first kick. Suddenly, I’m on the field, and before I see the ball, I hear it punted, hear calls from my teammates: “IT’S MINE, IT’S MINE”. And then we’re off. Running at the enemy team. Making space for our ball carrier. BAM. A hit. We’re rucking.
“BALL OUT BALL OUT”.
Another hit. The whistle blows. Time for our first scrum. Admittedly, it wasn’t a live scrum; the Meralomas were gracious enough to agree to some modified rules. One of those included uncontested scrums. We crouch, we bind, we set, but we don’t push once we’re set. Just apply a bit of pressure.
We’re playing in 20min quarters instead of 40min halves. Another modification to the rules to help the Rogues ease into it. I thought I was on the field for maybe 5min; I ask to sub out, and I find out that it was closer to 20min. Amazing how the time passes when you’re in the thick of it.
We played valiantly, my dear readers. We let some tries in early; I chalk it up to nerves, and a general sense that we still didn’t have the confidence to execute on what we’ve been practicing. The game goes on, and you can see us getting better, gaining confidence. Our coaches identify the enemy weaknesses, give us a mid-game strategy talk: “Push them, and they drop the ball. Get up in their face, hold your line, and we got this.” Suddenly, we’re pushing back harder and spending more time in their half. We get them to slip up, get some turnovers. The Rogues are starting to look better, more cohesive.
In the end, we fought hard, got them close to their try-line, but were just out of reach of scoring a try. It’s okay, the team is all in high spirits. We did our best. We tried to leave it all on the field. Everyone is just excited that we finally played a real game and pushed ourselves as much as we could. We may have lost the game, but there was a renewed vigor across the team. We want it now, more than before.
We were lucky to be joined by some Chilliwack ruggers, who filled out our team and provided us with some beef to get us through that first game. Thanks to them for the assistance!
As is tradition, there was a barbeque and some drinks had at the Meralomas’ club house after the game. So satisfying to eat a burger, have a beer, and just sit and chat after a game. During the festivities, the fantastic Scotts was awarded Rogue of the day! He truly deserves it for the effort he puts in and the attitude he brings to every practice. We love you Scotts! Make sure you give him your congratulations when you see him next.
The competition between the Rogues and the Lomas wasn’t done. There was one more challenge: a boat race. Truly the more important test of the day. The participants of the boat race were selected by each team choosing the MVPs of their opposing team. The Meralomas selected the following Rogues to participate:
Jersey no 4 – Scott
Jersey no 6 – Aaron
Jersey no 10 – Mike
Jersey no 13 – Bradley
Unfortunately, Aaron had left to spend time with family that was visiting, so the Rogues had Coach Brennan step in.
Readers, this may have been the closest boat race of the season so far. It was truly a photo finish. Even after reviewing videos of the event, it was barely possible to tell which team won.
The Rogues eventually trickled out of the clubhouse, only to reconvene later Saturday night at Pumpjack for a few celebratory first-game-of-the-new-Rogues drinks.
A few days later, we got back together for our Tuesday night practice, and you can tell the team has a new drive. We are working on our skills both as a complete team, but also as forwards and backs. There are a few minor injuries, mostly of aching shoulders. We are starting to learn what it means to be a rugby team full time. Some of us (myself included, dear reader) are looking to our new game with a different kind of energy. Ready to go a bit further, ready to run a bit faster, hit a bit harder. This is where the grind really begins, where we start to fight with the daily bodily aches that come with such a contact sport.
It’ll be hard work, but I know we have the spirit for it.
(p.s. special thanks to Aaron who has been reviewing and editing the posts before they go up. We love you, Aaron!)