It’ll be a short one this week, since final exams are upon us. Four exams in four days, then three days off to recover before a new set of courses start next Monday.
But somehow study got put aside briefly for the sake of chasing a ball around a field in Fort Worth and trying to knock over people twice my weight (and failing spectacularly in the process).
I can’t remember if I mentioned it in previous posts, but somehow the Cox Business School managed to sign me up to their rugby team. The logic seemed to be that since I was Australian, I naturally knew how to play rugby. Which is actually kind of true, come to think of it. Just not well.
To be fair, rugby is the dominant sport where I lived in Australia, and many a chilly evening was spent in the stands of Bruce Stadium in Canberra, chanting loudly and drinking Bundaberg rum. Sometimes we’d even pay attention to the game.
Anyways, suffice to say I’m a pretty big rugby fan, though it had been years since I had pulled on a jersey and actually played. In fact, with the exception of a few games of touch/flag rugby as an undergrad, I hadn’t played full contact rugby union since high school PE class. Nonetheless I was drafted into the Cox Rugby team, which competes every year in the world championship tournament for business schools at Duke University. This weekend was our first real run as a team for the year, playing in the Cowtown rugby tournament in Fort Worth.
The Texan summer had finally left us, and a fierce weather system from up north had given us some icy wind and rain in which to play. This is what we’d call ‘typical’ rugby weather back home.
Ahead of the game I had spent some time studying up on the position I was going to be playing in (wing), learning about some good strategies.
Boiled down, being a winger can be summed up in two points:
Pretty simple, as I could do the first reasonably well, and knew that failing on the second point would likely result in injury and/or death, so I was planning on using the instinct for self-preservation to get by there.
However, with a few minutes to spare before the game, I got shifted to fullback, a position that I’ve never played in before. A crash course in technique (stay back, kick well, and be the last line of defence) and it was time to play.
Our first game was against Fort Hood, a team of mostly military guys. We started well enough, but we then started to let in tries. The fullback for Fort Hood wasn’t doing much kicking (but with a fierce headwind, who could blame him), so I spent much of the first half doing very little but running support for the wingers.
The second half wasn’t much different, and we kept being scored against. I eventually was substituted off, and that was the end of my match. Not long after, the game ended, and we had suffered a reasonably heavy loss. We were already starting to take a toll physically too, with a fair few cuts and grazes showing.
Originally we had been told that there was a four hour gap between our two games (which meant a chance to get some study done), but not long after we had recovered and gotten rugged up against the wind, we had been told that we had a new game scheduled in an hour against a team from Katy. So it was back into the shorts and shirts and out to warm up.
The second match was a bit tougher, but we played better. The team from Katy had a solid set of forwards, and they pushed us back early on. I stayed in fullback, waiting for the chance to get the ball and clear a kick up field. When the opportunity finally arrived, I kicked the ball up the field, however, I forgot to chase after it (which you need to do in rugby), and I caused the entire team to be offside, meaning that we lost any gain of territory that my original kick would have given us. A real rookie mistake. I was substituted off soon after, and fair enough.
In the second half, we were still struggling against a solid opponent, and chewing through players pretty quickly. Eventually I was substituted back on, this time in the wing. I still got tackled and knocked over a few times, but there were no severe stuff-ups. I even managed to get a kick in and chase it like I should have done in the first half. Lesson learned.
Not long after, full time was blown, and the game was over. Another loss, but we felt a bit more confident in our progress. However, we were physically shattered. The artificial turf where we played had a tendency to cut up any exposed skin, and every one of the backs and wingers had grazes all over their legs from hitting the turf during tackles. Nothing a few beers and a warm bath couldn’t fix.
It’ll take a couple of days to fully physically recover though. Rugby is an intense sport, even for a fullback/winger who doesn’t get involved in the raw brutality of a scrum. You’re running a lot, and when you do get tackled, it hurts. There’s plenty of lessons to learn though, I’ll be working on my sprinting and kicking from here on out. The team even gave me a spare ball to practice with for a bit.
Overall, it was a good day. It was our first outing for the season, with new players and a long road ahead. For us, our target is the championships at Duke in April, and there’s plenty of time to practice between now and then. There’d be even more time if classes didn’t keep getting in the way. Speaking of which, it’s time for some more study.
Wish me luck.
Observations on music, coffee, and the occasional controversial thought.
Copyright © Gerard Atkinson 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the owner is strictly prohibited.