You may well have seen this sign, reminding family and friends that mini and junior rugby is a place to encourage fun, teamwork and development. It’s the place where our core values are taught and demanded. It’s where the players of tomorrow learn to win and lose with grace, learn to accept a bad or missed call and take an unfair dressing down from the ref with nothing more than a ‘Thank you” and we have to do all we can to ensure young players absorb these values. It’s spot on, let kids enjoy the game, learn the skills and let us all, parents, guardians, friends and supporters reflect and embrace the values that Rugby is built upon.
Having said that, don’t be thinking that all local club players just turn up for a pint, a run out and of course a chance to share those values. While it’s obvious that Mini and Junior rugby is in no way comparable to the international game, be in no doubt. Senior grass roots rugby, is.
It’s true, no matter what any player tells you, how much they might disguise it, deny it or dismiss it. Every match matters, playing hard matters and yes winning matters. From internationals to clubs…even those awkward looking touring players dressed as wombles for whom the ability to stand up seems a more useful short-term aspiration, No-one has ever willingly crossed the whitewash thinking winning or losing doesn’t matter.
League, non-league, grass roots, premiership, university, 1sts, 2nds, 3rds, Vets or occasionals, whatever level, whatever the standard, it makes no difference, every member of every team has taken to the pitch wanting a win with every part of their being, they want to smash the opposition in the loose, destroy their set-piece, dominate, crush and stand victorious over them like 10ft tall conquering rugby warriors.
….then after 5 minutes and finding themselves 28 points adrift to a spritely, suspicious assorted colour sock wearing 4th team, only then does the game become about the deeper enjoyment of rugby where the result is irrelevant. Yet players still refuse to give up and captains will demand a strong finish.
In defeat, wins are still claimed “We had them up-front”, “They got scared and started kicking it” Victories to be had all over the park if you know where to look, no mater how bleak. All of us have had to take the field like a condemned prisoner in full knowledge that we are about to get beat harder than a cymbal in a 1970’s drum solo but we still demand our all from each other, heads up, keep working, don’t give it to them, don’t make it easy.
From running out at HQ for England to turning up for the occasional run out with the local vets. Every player feels that exact same feeling… hearts pound, breath quickens, minds focus on the first hit, the pep talks, self doubts to be dismissed, the exhilaration, the passion, the desire, the pain, the ‘if only’ and the ‘what if’s’ and finally the joy or the heartbreak.
Every game is the 6N…. maybe not to everyone but to the 30 players on the pitch it is, always has, always will be.