Club rugby: It has a real community feel to it.

 

Another Saturday rolls around and this time we find ourselves at Rugby Union SA’s ANZAC Memorial Match between Old Collegians and Brighton.  The grand finalists of the previous season will play off for the ANZAC Memorial Match trophy and the player voted best on ground will be awarded the Michael von Berg MC OAM – RSL ANZAC Day Medal*.

 

Being the ANZAC Memorial Match we have the traditional pre-game ceremony prior to the premier grade match.  I am heartened when, during the preamble, the MC makes specific mention of the 500 veterans we have lost to suicide in the past 20 years.  We are starting to make progress.

 

(Photo courtesy Spacequake Sports live feed)

 

It is a great day for watching rugby, sunny with a hint of breeze.  Jackets are kept in reserve for most of the day.  More comfortable for the spectators than the players.

 

They have an impressive sporting complex at Brighton, and it is a busy day.  As well as the rugby, there is Brighton versus Payneham Norwood Union A1 amateur footy on the adjacent oval, and Brighton Lacrosse Club are also at home on the next ground.  Each club has their own impressive facilities so there is no real ‘crossover’, but you get the vibe of plenty being on.  The beach is only a couple of blocks away.  I don’t get out to this side of town very often these days.  It is a pretty good location.

 

(Photo courtesy Spacequake Sports live feed)

 

We have been enjoying the atmosphere that comes with club rugby at Old Collegians.  The wife remembers it from her time following club rugby in Canberra/Queanbeyan in the early 90’s.  It reminds me of my younger days playing country football over on Yorke Peninsula in the 80’s.  It has a real community feel to it.  We have been looking for something like this.

 

Most of the club has been in action here today, from the U12’s at 8am through to the women under lights from 5pm.  Juniors are running around here and there during the day.  They don’t watch much of the seniors and prefer their own knock-up games and ‘shenanigans’ instead.  Women spectators disappear during the senior grades and reappear in their playing kit with hair braided.  Some of these girls have been here since the third grade game.  They are keen.  Everyone here is keen.

 

There is a lot of double duty.  Third graders run out with the reserve grade, second graders get a run in the premier grade, the senior coach plays in the thirds and goes on for a late run at fly half in premier grade.  Coaches carry toddlers as they deliver instructions.  A couple of third graders provide commentary for the premier grade live stream coverage.  Another guy became a father in the early hours of the morning and still comes out to run water for his mates in reserve grade.  The training staff work tirelessly all day.  It all adds to the community feel.

 

We arrive in time to catch a fair bit of the third grade and hang around into the first half of the women’s game.  No disrespect to the women, but it did get cold quickly once the sun went down.  One of the more pleasing aspects of the day was watching the premier sides from both clubs lining up for the women’s teams to run on.  They had belted hell out of each other for 80 minutes (95 on the ref’s watch) and were the main event of the day, but they all lined up to clap the girls on.  Nobody had to be told to do this.  They just did it.  It all adds to the community feel.

 

All day long, the crowds enjoy the game.  They want to see their players do well.  They applaud good play and lament missed opportunities or errors.  Encouragement is offered.  It helps that the on-field action is played in good spirit.  They play hard, no quarter is asked nor given, but there is respect between opponents.  Players and fans mingle all day, it is very communal.  The bar does a good trade, but the effects are not overly obvious throughout the day.  There is a good canteen.  We enjoy the hot chips, you can’t beat good hot chips at a sporting event.  The meat pies look and smell good.  We hold out for a while, but finally crack and decide to take a couple for dinner.  (Unfortunately my pie seemed to have been sitting in the back of the warmer since the U12’s kicked off and the filling had fossilised.  A chicken sandwich it is then.)

 

As expected, the standard of play increases markedly as the day goes on.  The premier grade matchup does not disappoint.  Old Collegians jump out to an early lead but give up two tries in injury time to go in behind at the half.  The ten minutes of injury time is a killer.  Brighton loses their captain to a red card mid-way through the half (a high shot in the ruck, more careless than malicious, but we must protect the head) yet they play the more dynamic game.  They are finding the gaps and making more breaks even while a man down.  Playing with 14 seems to snap them into action.

 

This trend continues in the second half.  The under-manned Brighton seem to find more gaps.  Old Collegians are more predictable, and unable to capitalise on their advantage.  The pivotal moment occurs when the Brighton outside centre steps his way along the Old Collegians defensive line, looking for the hole that eventually appears – it is a superb individual try.  He is smiling all the while.

 

Brighton put on a superb defensive display to defend their lead.  Old Collegians are unable to breach them.  It is only in the final play of the game that Old Collegians can exploit their numerical advantage.  The loosehead prop finds himself loose out in the centres on the far side, he draws a defender before passing to the hooker outside him (?!).  The winger is open but not required.  It is poetry in slow motion as he ploughs through the five metres to the line that cannot come soon enough.  The ball is grounded, and cramp takes hold.  The winger is on hand to help his prone hooker stretch it out.

 

The game is lost, but it ends on a good note.  You can’t be disappointed when your hooker stumble-runs over for a late try.  Your hooker is an important part of the community.

 

He’s over! (Photo courtesy Spacequake Sports live stream)

 

We have a good day.  Even the disappointment of biting into a rock-hard pie at home can’t spoil it.  We look forward to our next home game, hopefully the BBQ will be on again.

 

 

Endnote:  The final score in Premier Grade is Brighton 26 def Old Collegians 16.  The medal is won by Brighton flanker Nathan Satala (6).  Brighton takes the honours in premier and reserve grade.  Old Collegians bookend the seniors by taking out the third grade and women’s matches.

 

 

* Michael von Berg MC OAM was awarded the Military Cross in Vietnam in 1966 for his leadership and courage under fire when driving back an attack after his platoon was ambushed.

 

 

 

 

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Dour opener and close-checking fullback. Peaked early.

Comments

  1. An interesting conversation at the gym this morning:

    PT: Got much planned this weekend?
    GA: Going to watch the rugby this arvo.
    PT: Is the guy you know with the BBQ playing?
    GA: Nah, not this week.
    PT: Do you know anyone else that is playing?
    GA: Not really.
    PT: So you are going to watch a bunch of random people play?
    GA: Yeah.

    But isn’t that what community (and country) sport is about? Whether it be rugby, footy, league, netball, cricket or whatever else.
    It begins with you watching a bunch of random people, but over time you all become a part of a community. You are bound together by a common interest.
    The value of the community/club is greater than the sum of its parts.

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