‘Toko’ short for Tokoua, is a word I have become accustomed to hearing over the past few weeks. In Tongan it means ‘brother’ and it forms an integral part of the vocabulary for a lot of the boys in our team and to date is the only word I’ve managed to learn the meaning of. For me its frequent use sums up the Pacific Islanders perfectly, rather than first names or nicknames they refer to their teammates as brothers. They are all part of the same rugby family and everyone is welcomed into it. When a couple of new players arrived last weekI heard one of our boys say something in Tongan to another, when I asked what it meant he said “I told him to greet the person before passing the ball”. Whilst the rugby is important, knowing the guys you share the field with comes first.
As you may have guessed there are a large contingent of Tongan players in our squad, in fact I am very much in the minority as one of only a handful who are neither from Maori decent or the Pacific Islands. When I played back home I considered myself as one of the more loose players, willing to try offloads, throw the ball around in my own half and generally avoid kicking at all cost. However having trained with a squad full of islanders (a demographic renowned for their ability for free-flowing rugby and keeping the ball alive) there are times where all one can do is stand and watch in awe as our 130kg prop throws offloads which most backs would be proud of.
Now, this doesn’t come without its challenges, structure is a word which I’m not sure quite translates to some of the lads and can foresee it being an unenviable task for our coach to get everyone singing off the same hymn sheet. Nonetheless, I am not adverse to free-flowing rugby where offloading out of contact is preferable and rucks avoided, in fact I hope to thrive in such an environment and cannot wait for our first match next week. Fingers crossed the weather stays dry.
Off the field my days have become slightly more structured since my last post, which is probably a good thing. I am now gainfully employed at a great local cafe, which all things considered is pretty cushty. I work until 2pm each day making coffee, serving customers and cooking up a storm in the kitchen (eggs Benedict is fast becoming a speciality). The job is ideal with 2pm finishes it leaves me plenty of time each day to explore the area. Furthermore, I now save a fair amount on my food bill due to the fact I eat two out of my three square meals a day courtesy of my employer (luckily I wasn’t asked to disclose how much I eat prior to getting the job). Lastly and if nothing else it’s a good way to meet people outside of the rugby club albeit most are pensioners who tend to repeat themselves.
My current situation is reminiscent of being a student. No real responsibilities, a part-time job that has no implications on future employment opportunities and no commitment to anything other than playing rugby. My biggest worry at the moment is probably whether I have time to go to the gym for one hour or two each day.
Safe to say I’m enjoying this setup.