Se­cret Player

Our for­mer pro pro­vides a unique in­sight into the game

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -

Each yEar at around this time, clubs wel­come their new sign­ings, and for sides of any de­cent stand­ing these will in­clude a sprin­kling of ‘big names’ – that is, big within the rugby world, which is to say minute ev­ery­where else.

World cup and Grand Slam win­ners, for­mer cap­tains of south­ern hemi­sphere national sides, record point-scor­ers for their coun­try – that’s the level I’m talk­ing about. Their ar­rival cre­ates a gig­gly-as-aschool­girl buzz among play­ers.

What’s he like? Will we be as­tounded by his preter­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties? Does he wear trunks in the shower? That’s it, I’m go­ing to sit with him at lunch, maybe I can be his new bestie!

It takes no more than a few ses­sions, or a match or two, for this ex­cite­ment to die down, and for ev­ery­one to re­alise he’s just a bloke grov­el­ling in the mud like the rest of us. Gasp­ing, strain­ing, gen­er­ally try­ing to get through 80 min­utes un­scathed, whilst do­ing more good than bad. What a lev­eller this in­sane game is.

True qual­ity, of course, will man­i­fest it­self over a longer pe­riod, through what the player does in the course of a sea­son or mul­ti­ple sea­sons. I re­mem­ber play­ing along­side one for­mer all Black cap­tain and not be­ing that im­pressed at first. he couldn’t shoot death rays from his eye­balls and de­ploy smoke bombs from his ass! But af­ter a cou­ple of games my tiny brain started to re­alise that he was just do­ing what good play­ers do: run­ning hard, mak­ing his tack­les, pass­ing at the right times and keep­ing mis­takes to a min­i­mum. Quite a rev­e­la­tion that you don’t have to make 50m breaks, crack ribs or run in won­der tries to be one of those top, top play­ers.

This par­tic­u­lar chap also had an in­stantly pos­i­tive ef­fect on what is now called ‘cul­ture’ (back then we just called it wear­ing the right kit and turn­ing up on time). In all se­ri­ous­ness, though, a truly suc­cess­ful sign­ing will ex­ert his in­flu­ence way be­yond a Satur­day, im­prov­ing the squad’s over­all ap­proach

“For sign­ings, the per­cent­age punt is on a solid jour­ney­man”

to train­ing, anal­y­sis, match-day prepa­ra­tion etc. But how many big names can you think of who have per­ceiv­ably done this? Erm… I’m cer­tainly strug­gling, and I can ac­tu­ally re­call many more who have had the ex­act op­po­site ef­fect on teams.

They may have al­ready reached an in­dis­putable pin­na­cle or it may just be the com­fort blan­ket of a hefty three-year con­tract, but I have seen many of these guys, hav­ing es­caped the scru­tiny of their own coun­try­men, in­cre­men­tally and sub­con­sciously (one hopes) take their foot off the pedal. By the time their con­tract is up and they are po­litely ush­ered out the door – prob­a­bly in the di­rec­tion of Ja­pan – it’s a real strug­gle to re­mem­ber what all the fuss was about. hav­ing seen this hap­pen again and again, I’m con­stantly amazed by the likes of LeBron James, ronaldo and Federer. af­ter all they’ve done and earned, how can they still be both­ered?

So, for new sign­ings, the per­cent­age punt is on a solid jour­ney­man, a guy who is maybe just about at or be­low in­ter­na­tional class and for whom a suc­cess­ful club ca­reer will re­al­is­ti­cally be as good as it gets (note to any po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers: I am cur­rently un­at­tached).

Worst case, the club hire a guy who gets on qui­etly with his job, con­stantly look­ing to im­prove and add value to the team. Maybe mo­ti­va­tion is not ti­tles, more to im­prove his stand­ing and end up with a bet­ter con­tract, but hey, he’s still a good guy to have.

The best-case sce­nario is, for what­ever rea­son, a club and a player click. Stars align, light­ning is bot­tled, and some­how some bloke the fans had barely heard of be­comes a lo­cal hero. I’m think­ing of the likes of Dean Mumm, Bruce rei­hana or chris Wyles.

Of course, clubs with more money than sense will never learn, and come Novem­ber 2019 we’ll see the usual in­flux of stars, mak­ing noises about ad­mir­ing the bru­tal­ity of north­ern hemi­sphere rugby and not be­ing here for a hol­i­day. Pre­pare to be mildly un­der­whelmed.

Re­li­able re­turn Nizaam Carr has re­joined Wasps

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