The Oxford English dictionary defines the vicious circle as ‘a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening of the situation.’
At the beginning of the season we had a small playing squad but it was enough, last weekend we couldn’t even muster a starting fifteen and were forced to default our match, receiving a five-point deduction for good measure. The vicious cycle that has engulfed our team is currently in full motion and there is very little we can do about it.
To date, three player’s seasons have ended prematurely through injury; a prop, a flanker and a flyhalf. We’ve had one player retire mid-season and one swap clubs. Two of our players are in the RAF and have just been deployed elsewhere. Remove seven players permanently from any squad and it will struggle to fill the gaps, when you already have a small squad losing seven players for a whole season could break a team. So it is a testament to the attitudes of the guys who are still around that we came together and worked it out, adversity is often the catalyst for change and in a team environment it can go one of two ways, positive or negative. For the most part we have opted for the former. Unfortunately the last game we played was arguably the straw that broke the proverbial camels back.
We’d travelled to the game with only seventeen players and within ten minutes our prop had gone off injured, five minutes later our centre limped from the field having torn his hamstring. The vicious cycle strikes again. Standing at flyhalf looking at my newly depleted back line that, without meaning any offence, were largely second choice players didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. My main thought was “I’m going to have to run it a lot” which I did. Running the ball from fullback and first five are two very different enterprises. At fullback there is usually a fair amount of space before the next defender and I can choose who I run into, essentially I can avoid the heavy traffic that is the opposition forward pack. From ten it’s all a bit more claustrophobic and the lolloping beast that rear their heads from rucks are all too present. It’s safe to say that last weekend I felt the full force of rampaging islanders more than once.
Ultimately the decision to forfeit this weeks game was made for us at training on Tuesday night when we had more players stood on the sideline watching training than we did out on the paddock. Adding to the missing players I’ve already listed, our scrum half was unavailable due to the fact he was running a half marathon and two more of our lads were MIA due to work commitments (it was a big weekend for the grape harvest and in wine country that comes first). Throw into the mix a number of other players, myself included, who were walking wounded, our squad was not in a very healthy state.
The benefits of a larger squad come when the coaches are able to rotate players allowing time for the body to recover, with our squad there is no such luxury, in fact it works the complete opposite way. Not wanting to let their brothers down, players play through niggling injuries and push themselves to the limit each week with little or no regard to their bodies. Inevitably and unavoidably this only exacerbates the problems. In short, the smaller the squad the more stress it comes under. Perhaps a break from playing is just what the lads need to get back fit and playing again.
On a much more positive note I was selected to play for a representative side last Wednesday night in a trial match for the Tasman Makos. They are the professional side in my area and get together the best forty-five players from the whole region to play in a one-off trial match each year, with the hope of uncovering some new talent. The game went well with my side finishing 21-19 victors. I’m doubtful that anything will come of it for myself however it was a great experience and nice to be in the mix with some players who already have professional contracts.
Sadly, we have also cancelled our upcoming fixture this weekend for an altogether different and far more tragic reason. Last weekend a player from one of the other local sides suffered a cardiac arrest on the field, on Thursday he passed away. Only twenty-two years old he leaves behind a daughter and a pregnant wife. The news hit the Tasman rugby community very hard with many of the boys in the area having played both with and against him for years. So, out of respect for Bevan a number of teams (ourselves included) opted not to play this weekend. It’s times like these when you realize that some things are far more important than winning and losing on the pitch. Having not known him very well I can’t comment on how this tragedy has impacted his family and teammates but what I can comment on is how well everyone has banded together to give support and condolences to those who need them most. Whilst six of the teams chose not to play out of respect, the other four teams that did play honoured Bevan in their own way through taking collections and paying their respects on the field. Either way I know he will be sorely missed.