A frustrated soccer player has a moment of lucid revelation. Instead of moving up the field with ineffectual dribbling and short passes, he decides to scoop up the soccer ball into his hands and run towards the opposing team’s net. The bewilderment of his fellow players quickly mutates into anger. Rules have been broken. Their vindictiveness lets loose the primal instincts of the hunt. They give chase. Fingers claw for purchase on the runaway player’s jersey. Faces contort into grimacing masks of rage. Ominous, bellicose bellows resound across the muddy playing field. The offender is dragged to ground amidst tympanic collisions of flesh with flesh, amidst cymbal splashes of limbs into puddles.
So it goes, the apocryphal birth of the sport of rugby.
Rugby grew from a private school phenomenon in Britain to make men out of boys. The demanding physicality of the game was thought to be galvanizing, essential to the formation of proper citizens of the Empire. Its popularity exploded in three of the major colonies – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Professional leagues have emerged in these countries as well as France and England. What’s more, in North America, it was actually rugby that evolved into the sensationally popular sport of American Football. The crowning achievement in the CFL, the Grey Cup, originally crowned the top rugby team in the Canadian Nation.
From my experience, rugby has found a unique niche in the Canadian sporting world. Rugby here tends to be a sport taken on later in life, after the adolescent careers of Ice Hockey or American Football end and the dreams of a professional life in sports fizzles out. It is one of the few contact sports in Canada that continues on an amateur level into adulthood.
Spurred by my South African heritage and inspired by a visceral need of mine to hurl myself with reckless abandon into bruising contact situations, I have spent the last few years playing Men’s rugby in Montreal.
Here is an excerpt from my last game. My club, the Montreal Wanderers, defeated the 1st place St. Anne’s de Bellevue club by a score of 19-12. These two teams have faced each other in the last two provincial finals. My team was ecstatic to come out on top in this latest installment of a growing rivalry. Thanks to Craig Beemer for the video.
Oh, and please note the soul-crushing, turn-over inducing ‘dump tackle’ at 2:30 and the deft bouncing ‘grubber’ kick at 2:38 to score the game’s winning try. Small contributions by yours truly.