Are the guardians bigger than the Sport?
Rugby, they said, is a game played in heaven. Will it be heaven, sort of, watching Rugby in the 1st week of the local League. This is at a time when both sides of the House that talks as the Legislature, include Rugby personalities as well as Rugby enthusiasts. They will be seen taking time off, the push to prove who has more numbers, opting to put their hands together to cheer the better Rugby moves.
This is while the talk is about long jumpers, pole vaulters and reverse sweepers entertaining the public at large. The game will go on. The Rugby season kicked off on Friday and Week 1 will be over as you read this column. The talk is that it will be a good season.
Everybody hopes this season will be better than the last, in terms of quality Rugby and more spectator interest. Hopefully, the limited entry of foreign players will boost the teams that lagged behind last year. Despite protests by some, the foreign players have set foot on the island.
The point that is circulating in my mind is whether this upcoming season will be Coach, player, Referee or game centered. The semi-professional nature of local Rugby has its share of contributions. The prevalent culture of Rugby in Sri Lanka has been 3 dots vying to being centered, that is the player, Coach and the Referee. While cheering from outside are the smaller dots of administrators, both domestic and national. In the placing of the dots, more important is how these 3 characters can change the face of the game. The fact is that, it is the game that is important. What will the 3 contribute overall.
If the essence of joy in Rugby is to see players running with the ball, can we honestly say we see this happening. Are there moves that causes the crowds to jump from their seats and keep them on the edge of their seats. On the other hand, we see collision garbed in the name of pick and hit and even the backs going into contact. Evasion, side steps, dummies or chip and collect are only in the memory of some. These close play help milk penalties, as mauls collapse and, or some gibberish action is rewarded with 3 points. Most times the points that carve a win. Doing little to enhance the quality of Rugby. There is debate in the world to reduce the points for a penalty.
The game to go forward needs a nexus between players Coaches and Referees. An understanding of the administrators and the governors is also important to understand what the coach wants from the game. What do players want from the game? How do they want the game to be played? On the other hand, what does the game expect from these 2 dots in the circle? The Coach has his objective to be met and that is linked to performance. The expectancy is that effort will lead to performance and lead to an outcome which is the reward. This entails winning matches and getting the silverware, or getting close to the silverware.
On the other hand, players expect their rewards through performance which may be in the form of giving his best or playing to live another day. They play, but is it their best shy. The way Clubs are changed is a good indication of what motivates them.
The Referee who has the Laws, clarification and guidelines to go by, but interpretation plays a key role. The Referee has to apply the Laws and interpret taking the game as the most important. The game should be the core of his mission and, or objective. Subordinating the individual to the game. No two games will be alike. It is unlikely that situations will be similar. It is the game and the way it is played that he should be contributing to. In some, it will be more forward play, while others may run the threes. The flow will be impeded as pillars and posts are advised to fringe around the breakdown. Some may slow down the game on purpose. That is their game.
It is at this point that the 3 centre stage dots need to be cohesive in their approach on how the game is to be a played.
This will then take the game to a level that will bring the joy of Rugby and then, trickling in of spectators. The sponsors will be happy. No matter what Laws are there or what Regulations are in force, until and unless the game is served it will be what it is.
Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, Coach and an Accredited Referees'
Even if Sri Lanka gets the services of the world's best referees, there are still unhappy souls - File pic