One more season. One more fucking season??? I meant for me, not for rugby as a global sport. It was all going so well too. I had won man of the match in the first game of the season, The Penguins had read my blog on the Fill Your Boots site and invited me to play my last game with them (It might have been abroad!) and it was all looking good right up until I got injured.
Now I don’t know if I’m some kind of Rugby god where everything shuts down if I’m not playing, but no sooner do I crack my ribs, limp home in pain and feint in front of my daughter, then suddenly world of rugby grinds to a halt. This was supposed to be one last glorious send off and instead, I’m sat at home having meetings on zoom, drinking more than some people in addiction services and watching more Netflix than a tv reviewer.
These are bad times indeed. Because I’ve had a few “one more season”s obviously when September rolled up I thought I’d be strapping my boots on and wandering off to the club for another last effort. This has not come to pass. I’ve never been a great fan of Rugby training but I’ve always particularly hated non contact sessions. That said, if there was contact, I still wouldn’t want to be there. Whatever people’s criticisms of the government’s handling of the pandemic, they’ve certainly driven into me the certainty that is would be a terrible idea to go to a rugby pitch and sprint around with 29 other “athletes” who are sweating, spitting, snotting and heavy breathing all over each other. Yes they have all ticked a form to say they are symptom free, but I wouldn’t trust some of my teammates to sit the right way round on a toilet, let alone investigate themselves for covid.
It feels like real grass roots rugby is a while away with the collapse of a range of clubs looming on the horizon. I’ve read a few suggestions to change the game a bit to minimise some of the contact areas but whatever is suggested in terms of eliminating rucks, mauls, scrums and wrap tackles, the result is a game of rugby in name only. Even when we get the go ahead to return to play I suspect I will still be wary. I’m 43, I’m not at massive risk but I still don’t want a virus in me. My parents in law are in their 70s and I certainly don’t want to give it to them just because I couldn’t resist the urge to get stamped on on a Saturday.
We are definitely a long way from the government allowing 30 sweaty men to wrestle each other and so the chant of One More Season slowly becomes a whisper of No More Seasons. Rather than finish with a bang, I finished with a whimper. It wasn’t just the end for me, but the end for everyone. It’s like I flounced off and took my ball with me.
With my region in lockdown and training cancelled, it seems that contact sport is getting less likely all the time. My club would have been promoted last year had the season not slammed shut on us so we went into this year with a certain amount of bitterness. We have a very professional coaching set up but I suspect it feels very artificial with the restrictions in place and a physio doing work over zoom. As everything that bound our club together slowly comes apart, as the players stop mixing and the pitch stops being used, I hope that we do find a way to come back. I hope that my worries are limited to me and that others carry the enthusiasm to get back together. I hope that through herd immunity or vaccine it becomes safe to be with my friends again. Rugby in my country isn’t just a sport, it’s part of our identity. If we lose rugby, we will lose much of who we are. It’s not so important for me any more but for all those amateur players, for all those grass roots clubs and for all the professionals who play and entertain us for a living I hope we get one more season to build on. One more season to get things back to normal and one more season to play the game we love.
Fingers crossed, and stay safe