Often in life we become enamoured with one thing or another. It might be a person, a band or a particular author, a TV show, ideology or yes, even a sport.
I’ve had more dalliances with different sports than I care to mention. I once had a joyous, rollicking good fling with the NBA – long before Dellymania gripped the country – and indeed, by the time Matthew Dellavedova began serving the world cold Curry, the NBA had little to entice me. It possessed all the allure of an ex-lover you would rather never see again, not because of any residual hard feelings or fears of awkwardness, but purely because you can’t be bothered.
Rugby League has achieved more longevity in commanding my attention than most, but I remain unsure if I truly love it. I mean, how could you? It is like that self-destructive paramour who can make you climax like no other, but afterwards you immediately feel shame and guilt. As if, somehow, despite the fact it is you who is hog-tied with their underpants jammed down your throat, it is you who has taken advantage of them.
But Rugby Union, with all its beautiful intricacies and hands in the ruck, Rugby Union I truly get … And I feel like Rugby Union gets me.
With the early stages of the World Cup gently humming away I am beginning to understand why the Buddhists hit gongs. The Rugby World Cup is my gong and David Pocock may very well be the mallet. There is a gentle vibration inside me, brought on by the excitement of the event, that brings a little more lustre to my every day life. My morning coffee tastes that little bit better, people on the street seem a little friendlier and even rain brings with it a calming, nostalgic air, as it gently pitter-patters upon my crown.
I love Rugby Union and all its obscure rules. I love that Japan beat South Africa. I love the fact that France are playing terribly, but you just know at any stage they could explode like an incandescent firework and light up the tournament. Heck, I’m even starting to love the scrums!
League fans criticise Union because the players kick it too much, that there are too many stoppages for set-pieces, that the rules are too complicated; but that is like criticising Test cricket for not being Twenty20, yes the fundamentals are the same, yet they are very different games.
In Rugby Union you have a perfect marriage of brain and brawn. Big hits and subtle strategy. In League, when a player executes a strong tackle on an opponent, they immediately get up and begin lording over them. There is no time for that in Union. One must pop immediately to their feet and try force a turnover. Ego and pomp have no place in the last true sporting refuge for gentlemen.
I have a special feeling about this bunch of Wallabies too. There is an air of destiny about them, like there was with the All Black four years ago. All the chaos that made little sense, as it seemingly unravelled the very lives of those it involved, has come together perfectly to create this one, wonderful occurrence.
If I knew how a star is born, I may liken it to that, but I don’t. I am but a simple man, who loves a complicated game.
By Alasdair McClintock