Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Live from the Pigpen
The referee blew the whistle. Line-out to Castaway Wanderers.
Quickly, the Castaway Wanderers lined up against the Cowichan Piggies (yes, that is their name - you'll find out why below), waiting for the throw-in, over on the right side of the field. I stood a few metres behind Chris, the scrum-half, wearing a Castaway Wanderers jersey like the rest of my brand new teammates, having just run on to the pitch to play in my first rugby game ever.
A lot of things could happen now, I thought. One thing that could happen is that the Piggies could steal the line-out throw, charge past the players in front of me, and then en masse trample me. The hulking Cowichan forwards made that seem like an awfully painful prospect. Another, more likely, thing, would be for Chris to get the ball and pass it left, away from me.
Just then, the line-out throw came in, and play started. Holy cow...this is it. Chris got the ball and began running forwards and to the right. I ran about eight feet to his right, and two steps behind...and as there was no play to his left, and I was the only person to his right, I knew in a split-second that I was going to get a pass - three seconds after I'd stepped into a game for the very first time.
Chris glanced as he was running and tossed it over. It was behind me, as it happened, but I was able to reach back with my left hand as I was running and grab it, reeling it in. Thank God. Two steps later, I was at full-speed, determined to break as many tackles as I could before being crushed by the brutes in black and green jerseys now closing in on me (the Castaway Wanderers jerseys are black, blue, and red).
I pushed off the first would-be tackler and kept running. Another guy was running full speed at me from a diagonal angle (from my 10:30 on the clock). I stopped on a dime and he flew past me. And in that split-second, I sensed the possibility of glory...while the horde was closing in fast, there was only guy directly ahead of me. Other than him, there were fifty metres of open space (actually, open mud, hence the pitch's name: "The Pigpen", and the name of the Cowichan team, the Piggies) to the try line. The second tackler now flying past two feet in front of me unable to stop, I took an accelerating step, determined to beat the last guy - when some guy I never saw coming flattened me from behind (from about 5 o'clock). And as he did so, he punched the ball out of my right arm. ARG. Knock-on (the ball went forward). The ref blew the whistle and the ball was turned over to Cowichan.
That all happened in my first ten seconds of my first rugby game last Sunday (I was at right-wing, the number fourteen position). We ended up losing the game, but it was great to finally be able to play in a game, and I really appreciated the support from the other guys on the team.
I became very keenly aware of just how much more muscle mass I need after my eighty minutes on the pitch...I'm fit enough, but lithe, and my focus now is getting muscular bulk as quickly as possible, so that next time I step on to a pitch, I don't get killed. Surviving would be really cool (and for some reason I can't explain, not playing again is not an option).
Sunday night, my brother and I popped into a local pub where a bunch of the guys from one of the more elite Castaway Wanderers teams were hanging out. I got to talking to one guy, and he said, "it's exciting, isn't it? It's kill or be killed".
And I guess this would be the time to ramble into some deep insight about the primal thrill of risk for some sense of personal achievement, or some glory...but I'm not really sure the sheer joy of getting your head kicked in running around in a mudpit can translate into words. So...I think I'll just end it here. Looks my amateur rugby career has officially begun :)