Appreciation for Rugby

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had an appreciation for rugby. It probably came from my older brother Keith, who often took me to watch him play with the Saracens After years of eagerly watching from the sidelines when I was about fifteen Keith and his team mates offered me a chance to participate in an exhibition game. Being as I was so young and skinny back then I didn’t pose any real threat. But I do remember the opposing team racing down the field and finding myself the lone man back to stop them from scoring a try. Coming right at me with nostrils flared and teeth clenched was a brute twice my age and practically twice my size. I dove and snagged ‘em by the ankle with a shoestring tackle and sent him crashing to the ground.

It was my first real taste of rugby.

I’ll never forget Keith and the rest of the Saracens smiling and slapping me on the back after we won the game. Since then I’ve been sort of a serious casual rugby fan. I think anyone who loves hockey would love rugby and while I was in New Zealand a few months ago I wasn’t surprised to find that there were numerous rugby fans that love hockey. They follow it closely on the internet.

The Dynamite Kid was considered a highly touted prospect in rugby long before he achieved stardom as a wrestler. I’ve always felt that he sometimes wished he’d stuck with rugby instead. Knowing Dynamite he would have ended up in a wheel chair either way. When we were wrestling in England in the 80’s he took me to a rugby game in Wigan not far from his home to cheer on the local team against their long time arch rivals from Leigh. Dynamite jerked and twisted in his seat and only then did I realize how much he wished he was in there. He reminded me of how an excited wrestling fan acts when watching a great match. I could not get over how physical it got . I’ll never forget one injured player writhing face down at the far end of the field and an opposing Wigan player jogged over to help him, or so I thought, but instead he kicked him as hard as he could in the face. It’s no wonder Dynamite loved it!

Another wrestler that had a passion for rugby was Crazy Nick Carter of the Kiwis - later known as Butch of the Bushwhackers. Butch was a standout player with the New Zealand Junior All Blacks once upon a time. I remember being in the WWF dressing room staring at him while he taped up his ankles. It was obvious they’d both been injured and I asked him how it happened. He want on to tell me that while in a rugby scrum the weight of the opposing team collapsed on top of him snapping both his ankles. They almost had to amputate both his feet and it had taken him years to recover. Luckily, like a lot of injured athletes from other sports, Butch ended up in wrestling where he became a star. Butch suffered without complaint but I think what really hurt him the most was that he couldn’t play rugby any more. Bushwhacker Bush is one of the toughest wrestlers I ever knew.

While I was in New Zealand I caught a championship rugby game and found it to be one of the most exciting sports events I’ve watched all year. That’s why I’m excited about going to the Canada/New Zealand match tomorrow at Calgary Rugby Park (9025 Shepard Rd. SE). According to my brother Keith, who oughtta know, the game to watch is the Rugby Canada Super League Final, a fierce rivalry that starts at 1 p.m.

If you love hockey you might really want to consider checking this out. See you there!