The Rugby Recruiter's Handbook


By Dave Eccles, Aussie Prop


There must be, there really must be a pamphlet entitled "The Rugby Recruiter's Handbook." The reason I say this is because for the fourth time in three years the exact same method has been used to get me to show up for rugby training.

The method is twelve identical steps that it seems all rugby clubs use:

Step1: Nominate the biggest, ugliest player you have to be your rugby recruiter. Usually he is in the tight five. He normally, when recruiting, has a few other forwards in tow. He must, when recruiting, have drunk the prerequisite twenty schooners or pints of beer.

Step 2: The recruiter, warmed up, scans the room looking for potential candidates. Obviously he is sexually satisfied or all the available women have told him to piss off. I look for talent until the night is lost. Not, it seems, the rugby recruiter.

Step 3: Identify suitable rugby candidate. The recruiter abandons any subtlety whatsoever and wanders over to the candidate, introduces himself as “Crusher,” “Killer” or “Bruiser.” Crusher then skulls his full schooner of beer and then says:

Crusher: “G'day!” (Offers handshake.) “Crusher.”
Candidate: “G'day!”
Crusher: “Let me buy you a beer.”
Candidate: (Holding a 3/4 full schooner) “Naaah mate, I'm right.”

Crusher orders two schooners and ignores the candidate’s reply.

Step 4: Crusher, at this stage moves closer to the candidate and invades his personal space. Usually because Crusher is huge, ugly and supporting fifteen stitches above his left eye from the day's game, the invasion of the candidate's personal space attracts TOTAL undivided attention from the candidate:

Crusher: “What are you doing Tuesday night?”
Candidate: “Nothing. Why?”
Crusher : “Come for a run with the boys.”

On the word “boys” the reinforcements - the other forwards; big, ugly and in numbers -move in. The candidate smiles at this brazen standover technique.

Step 5: Candidate: “No, mate.” [Insert amazingly valid excuse here.]
(The candidate smiles, he may even break into a bemused grin. Like he's your Dad and you're nine years old and in BIG TROUBLE)
Crusher: “What's so funny?”

The Candidate’s smile vanishes and he usually starts back peddling racking his filing cabinet for a brain looking for the “UN Guide for Diplomats” file. Crusher knows he has the candidate on the back foot and keeps to his "You talkin' to me?" DeNiro mode.

Step 6: The Candidate now has several quick rounds with Crusher and his mates and is foolishly trying to keep up. This is getting the candidate drunk – fast. Soon all powers of rationalization and sanity will be lost.

Step 7: During the deliberating rounds of beer, Crusher keeps asking why you can't go to training. He tells you time and time again that it's the game they play in heaven, and why you would be perfect for something known as “The Front Row” (in my case).  The candidate listens to be polite. Crusher at this stage will hand the candidate an empty schooner and says "I'm thirsty." Crusher is up to schooner 26 for the night and is only now starting to feel it. The Candidate is on Schooner 10 and shot to hell. When the Candidate returns from the bar he discovers to his horror that the mates he did come to the pub with have disappeared. It's just him, Crusher and his rugby mates.

Step 8: The Wager. Unfortunately, unless there is a fire drill, a fire escape, or if you must start one, a fire, it's too late now for the Candidate. Crusher challenges the candidate to a wager that the candidate in his inebriated state can't possibly accomplish. If the Candidate wins Crusher will leave him alone – if he loses he turns up to training.

You may think this is nonsense. You are wrong. The first time for me was Arm  Wrestling, the second a rigged coin toss and the third and fatal time a game of pool.

Step 9: The Loss. The candidate when he loses (there is no *if* he loses), becomes frighteningly sober. Crusher shakes his hand – the unwritten gentleman's contract and seals the deal. With Crusher's ham hock for a arm wrapped around the candidate’s shoulder he guides him back to the bar and buys the Candidate another drink. Now and only now, does he introduce you to the reinforcements who have been close by all
evening. Of course, one or more of them knows where you live and would be happy to swing by and pick you up on the way to training on Tuesday.

Step 10: Arrival at the pitch. The candidate - now freshman (or more accurately freshmeat) - is welcomed at training and then asked to perform amazing feats of skill and  ability. Of course the candidate tries but is hopeless. Except for the blokes that play position number nine who are universally annoying and never ever shut up, the team appreciates the candidate’s effort. In particularly they like the fact that they can scrum, tackle, maul and ruck against him and he drops like a sack of potatoes every time. At the end of the night – the fresh meat – is sore but something other than his ribs snaps inside of him. It wasn't too bad. It wasn't too good.

Step 11: Conversion. Unsure about what exactly happened last time the candidate – known universally
as “New Bloke” despite telling everyone his name 400 times – returns to his second training session of his own “free” will. Usually the candidate – New Bloke – has a minor victory against his recruiting player – in my case Crusher. To celebrate the candidate's revenge on Crusher the candidate goes to the clubhouse or pub after training with the team. As the candidate is a forward (he does not change his clothes as is the tradition) smelly as it is.

Step 12: Assimilation. After training for a couple of months and maybe a game or two the candidate is now known as “Tank.” Tank is at the pub on a Saturday night after the game, and has 20 schooners under his belt and still feels sober. All the talent is hitched up to someone. Tank looks across the bar and spots someone who'd be perfect for the wing…  



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