Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Rugby League Biff

Well who would have thought a bit of biffo would have got the Rugby League world and beyond talking
so much. The Manly versus Melbourne game certainly did that and also brought out a lot of people talking a lot of "you know what". I have read with interest, every paper this week, plus listened to the radio and watched the news and footy shows etc and heard many good points but have also heard so much dribble from people who have no right to even make a comment due to not playing the game or even being involved in it.

Let me say this, I have not had one person, not one, say a negative comment about the fight. Now I come across a wide range of people in my job and in society in general, men and women and they all actually enjoyed watching it. My twin boys who play rugby league and are not thugs, couldn’t get enough of it and to be fair I enjoyed it too, so much so I had to have a cup of tea to calm myself down ;)

I had firstly better give my full opinion on the fight as I saw it and also who deserved what. Darcy Lussick started it and really it was over nothing and he saw fit to unleash a punch. He shouldn’t have done that but like most of the fight the punches wouldn’t have bruised a grape and most didn’t connect in any of the fights. I do have a problem with the cheap shot from Adam Blair and he should be suspended but not rubbed out for the season.

The next problem I believe was the referees; they should not have let Adam Blair go until Glenn Stewart was off the field. One paper wrongly reported that Blair ran after Stewart, this is false, he jogged off as most people do when they are sin binned, Stewart walked slower then a man with a wooden leg and Blair caught up to him. Now I am no professor but if one man is running and the other is walking, the running man will catch him. Again I have no problem with this because it was the referees stuff up and the send off should be sufficient. What didn’t need to happen were the five Manly players running a considerable distance to come over and attack Blair, in my eyes this is a dog act. It was one on one, two grown men having a fight and no need for any other person to interfere and really, did Blair and Stewart  expect to hit each other with there eyes closed!!

Now the Melbourne bench got involved and why wouldn’t they when one of their own team mates who they sweat blood with each and every week, is getting attacked by five Manly players.  I would be disappointed if they stood there and did nothing and allowed Blair to get beaten up. The blokes who ran in to start should also be suspended because they made it worse then what it already was, which wasn’t much at all. I am a big fan of both Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart and actually played against Adam when he was a young fella at the North’s Devils in the QLD Cup. I would hate to see these guys rubbed out of the finals series because of this.

I also want to say this that Rugby League is a gladiator sport and that’s why people love watching it and that’s why I and so many other people loved playing it. If there is one thing I miss being retired, is the contact part of the game, some people like it some don’t, but I certainly did. We are also talking here about 17 players on each side trying their hardest to win a game of football and to eventually win the greatest prize of all - the Premiership. And shock horror, believe it or not, tempers are sometimes going to fray and shock horror again there is going to be a fight. This is where I get the shits with the people who haven’t played at the highest level and haven’t trained their arses off like these athletes do today. They are going out every week to win a game of football and get over the top of their opposition and please their coach. It’s very hard to switch emotion off and testosterone levels are working over time as well.

This is also why players get the shits with referees at times because in the heat of the battle the referee makes a blunder or talks down to a players and it’s hard not to show frustration. I remember in a QLD Cup game I played in with Burleigh against North’s and Brett Suttor was the referee. It was a stinking hot day and both teams were going hell for leather and a scrum is packed and Brett in the arrogant tone that he used to speak to us, proceeded to tell us how to pack a scrum properly. Nothing gets a forward more riled then a referee doing that. I proceeded to ask Brett, whether he had packed his slightly frame into a few scrums. He then went onto to say he did at which that point both forward packs burst into laughter - funnily enough he didn’t see the funny side.

Sorry I digressed there, in reality there are very few fights at all compared to yesteryear in fact the last biggest fight like this was in the Cowboys v Warriors game a fair few years back, so it has been a long time between drinks so to speak. To also put the latest fight in perspective what happened, to Steve Price after he was knocked out last year in the State Of Origin, was by far much worse then what happened on Friday night yet that was brushed under the carpet.

Another column in a paper said there was a spate of mass brawls the next day after the Manly v Melbourne game, copy cat brawls I think was the wording. Please, do me a favour, how the hell would they know they are copy cat brawls, did they do a question and answer with the players from all of the teams after the game, I think not. I am going to let everyone in on a couple of little secrets here and please don’t tell anyone as I may be embarrassed. I watched the Greg Dowling and Kevin Tamati fight on TV and neither I nor my mates, went out on the footy field that weekend and had a fight before during or after the game. I know, I know I must be mentally tougher then people today. My second secret is, I had a few fights in my junior career and not one of them was because I saw something on TV and was trying to re-enact it was because in the heat of the battle you sometimes lose your cool and unless you have played the game you would not understand.

If your junior coach is a good coach he wont let you get away with doing cheap shots or fighting all of the time in games and for me along with the children’s parents, they are the key to all of this and not what you see on television. I have coached from Under 8's through to Super League in the UK and I very rarely see a fight and I have never heard anyone every say they started a fight because they saw someone else do it on television. Just because I see Chuck Norris knock 22 people out in a movie doesn’t mean I think I am Chuck Norris (Chuck Norris sets ants on fire with a magnifying glass - at night).

Brent Kite made a good point that if it’s that bad then stop showing it so much on television, which gives it more exposure. Now the newspapers and television stations aren’t stupid, they know by putting in the papers and on screen that it will get more viewers and readers respectively. It was mentioned on the Fox Sports show "The Back Page" that one of them was in a bar and the footy was on but people weren’t really watching it and then the fight came on and the whole bar was transfixed to the screens around the place.

I am not saying violence is the answer far from it but please, will the do gooders stop carrying on like it’s the end of the world and get over it - quickly. This is a great game and already people have tried to tone it down to the point that you can’t even give a bloke a facial anymore. Now I hope we don’t lose any sponsors over this and I very much doubt it but I can tell you this much, I guarantee the next time Melbourne play Manly, it will be a sell out and I also guarantee it is the Friday night game with a massive viewing audience - is that bad for the game, no it isn’t.

I have just learnt Adam Blair will miss five matches and I do not agree with that one bit; please revisit my Steve Price comment!!

I leave you with this quote from the late great Vince Lombardi - Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport, dancing is a contact sport.

Cheers Vowlesy

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Rugby League Pranks

The beauty I have had out of playing Rugby League is that I have made so many good friends and had so many great laughs over time. You always have your very funny characters that you just enjoy being around, they just lighten the mood at training and make it so much more entertaining. There is always someone you take the piss out of more then anyone else and funnily enough, even when you have a re-union many years later, that same person, will still have the mickey taken out of them - normally they are wingers:).

Not only are there funny people but there are always players playing pranks on one another, some small ones and some at a much larger scale. Now I have been very lucky to have been a part of a couple of good pranks and they were both performed at Castleford and both involved the same individual. That individual was Welsh International and Cronulla raised Mark Lennon.

Now Lenno is a great mate of mine and a top class bloke but he was a serial pest and a serial liar (I mean that in the nicest way Lenno). Lenno had this angelic face that all mothers love and believed could do no wrong. Mark lived with his cohort and now Bradford Captain Andy Lynch. Lynchy and Lenno (has a dodgy ring to it doesn’t it)at the time were only young blokes and lived together just out of Castleford.

Now when I say Lenno had an angelic face, he did because I believed,  for a number of months that he was telling the truth, when I asked him if he had anything to do with all the pranks that had been going on around the place. The pranks included messing with our furniture in our room in Lanzarote, wheels being taken off cars and various other pranks to do with automobiles. In fact one time the two pranksters, jacked up Dale Fritz's car and took his tyre off but in doing so damaged the panel work because they put the jack in the wrong spot.

Once it was realized that Lenno and Lynchy were lying through their teeth a couple of plans were hatched to get payback on these scoundrels. The first one involved Aaron Raper, who was injured at the time, stealing Lynchy's house keys and getting them copied while he trained. We then found out when both lads wouldn’t be home and I Aaron Raper, Michael Eager and Dale Fritz went around to Lynchy's house and took everything from downstairs to upstairs and vice versa, as well as turning it upside down, just for good measure. We then went our separate ways and waited for pay dirt to happen. I received a phone call off Lenno explaining what had happened and he asked if I had anything to do with it. In most my most innocent voice I said "of course I didn’t I had been with the family all day". It worked because they didn’t find out until a couple of years later that I had anything to do with it.

The second prank was a much larger scale and an all time classic. This prank also involved his flat mate Lynchy as well but for a different reason, which I will explain later on. Lenno drove and old bomby car, as most of us did to get to training and it just so happens Mick Eagar and Fritzy had found the same car over at the wreckers across the road from the Castleford ground. We all went over and inspected the car and it was exactly the same as Lenno's bar the different colored seats. We spoke to the owner of the wrecking yard and explained what we wanted to do and with much laughter he agreed with great plan we had.

We pooled our money together and for a few hundred quid we purchased the car and had it crushed. The second part of plan involved Mick Eagar getting Lenno's keys after the last game and stealing his car. This was able to be done when Lenno's counterpart Lynchy, rolled over and joined our team (so much for loyalty). Lynchy got the keys for Mick and he did the rest and took the car to a safe house ( I just added that bit because its sounds so good)

So Mad Monday rolls around and everyone is at the Tiger Bar at about 9am, enjoying a few drinks, when Lenno arrives asking who has got his car. Of course we all plead our innocence and say we know nothing about it. Lenno was pretty good about as he was thinking his car would be returned later and it was just a gee up. Just before 11am, I am supposedly called into see the CEO Richard Wright for something, this is done so that everyone knows I am going into see him, for theatrical purposes. I come back about 10 minutes later and address the players and hold up a set of keys that the police had just supposedly handed in to Richard. I hand them to Lenno and then tell him that his car has been found but there is a problem and he needs to come outside to have a look at it.

The timing was perfect for this prank because just as we get outside, in rolls the truck with a squashed car on the back of it that looks like Lenno's.  A picture is worth a thousand words and I wish I had of taken a picture because the expression on Lenno's face was priceless. His bottom lip dropped and started to quiver and he eyes started to tear up as he saw his beloved car, flat as a tack. The players were showing a lot of sympathy for Mark by rolling around on the floor laughing their guts out. If Lenno had of looked closely he would seen the seats were a different color to his but I guess when you have so many tears in your eyes from crying it would be easy to miss it.

It was the best prank I have seen and it was worked to perfection and I have never in all my time seen so many grown men laughing so hard. We didn’t let on to Lenno for a few good hours that it was all a prank. His reaction was that he knew all along.

Now the moral to this story is "young blokes don’t play pranks on older players because they will get you back ten fold". As Lenno and Lynchy found out the hard way. When myself, Rapes, Monkey and Fritzy get together for a drink this prank normally pops up in conversation as it will no doubt do again on Mark's wedding night later in the year.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Life After Footy

I read with interest in the GC Bulletin this week that former Rugby Union International Tim Horan struggled with the transition from player to retirement. This got me thinking to when I finished playing professionally and how hard it was to adapt back into normal life so to speak.

Now when I first started playing grade football, I worked during the day and trained at night, a lot of times doing ten hour days as an apprentice cabinetmaker and then going to training for a couple of hours. Most times by the time I came home and cooked dinner etc it was 9.30pm and time to get to bed and continue the cycle at 5am the next morning.

I finished my apprenticeship, so as I had something to fall back on but in all reality I was never going to continue on in that trade. The day I finished my apprenticeship, I quit and never did it again except for some stuff around the house. Luckily for me, my football career took off and it was a rather long one at that and the game also turned professional, which meant no working.

When I finished in the UK and came back to Australia to live, I wasn’t too worried about work because I was going to buy a business of some sort. I looked at a number of different ones from juice runs, Subway franchises, to a news agency but nothing seemed right. I was also training fulltime with the Brisbane Broncos for a few months to try and have one last crack in the NRL, which meant commuting to Brisbane most days for training from the Gold Coast. I ended up playing the season with the Broncos feeder club the Toowoomba Clydesdales.

It was when that season finished that I really struggled, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or for that matter, could do. I had no qualifications bar my trade and I wasn’t confident enough to try and pursue that again. As time went on, my confidence dwindled, until I was in a pretty dark place that I certainly didn’t like being in. I felt like a failure and my marriage suffered as a result too and I continuously doubted myself. I was having some pretty ordinary thoughts and looking back the worst thing I did was keeping it all to me. I wanted to tell people but felt too embarrassed to do so as I felt like it was my fault and that I was the only person it was happening too. I wanted to tell a close mate but being a man decided against it, the closest I came to telling someone was Danny Orr a team mate and close friend from Castleford. I told him of a few things but not how low I was feeling. My Mum and Dad knew that I was pretty down but they had no idea just how far down I really was. (till now)

There were a few factors that basically put me back on track and got me out of a dark hole, that I now know many footballers fall into come retirement time. The first one was that I have always been a pretty positive person, who has kept plugging away when others may give up, secondly was my love for my kids. I would see my kids smile, or give me a hug and it dug me out so many times. The last factor was a mate who I played footy with, Ben Ikin. I mentioned to him one day that I desperately needed work. A week or so later, he asked me to come in and interview for a job running the packaging side of his Dad's removalist business. Now I had no business experience at all and was running empty on confidence, so I didn’t hold great hopes for getting the job.

Ben rang me a few days later to say I had the job, now to say I was excited was an understatement. I was double fist pumping, doing the double heal click like the Toyota ad and generally jumping up and down (Funnily enough another mate, Dave Bouveng had fixed me up with a job at Carlton United breweries the same day).  It was amazing how much I changed as a person overnight, once I felt self believe again. I had a smile on my face, I walked tall again, something I hadn’t done for a couple of months.

Since this time I have talked to a large number of former team mates and many have also faced the demons alone without telling anyone. It’s hard to explain why we go through it, as it’s not missing the lime light or anything like that. Maybe it’s the familiarity of being with the boys and talking crap at training and actually being a strict regime. Men will often bag women because they tell each other all their problems that they are having in their life but it’s actually something that men can learn from. As men we tend not to say anything as it may be seen as a sign of weakness and there lies the problem. We let it build up and up inside us rather then sharing it with someone who might be able to help.

I have grown so much from what I went through and have never been back to that hole and nor will I ever again. The advice I offer all footballers is be prepared for retirement. Do some courses so that you can get a job when you finish your career and also network with your sponsors because they are business people who can help you later in life.

It’s important the clubs police this and don’t just get the kids doing personal trainer courses because there are a thousand of them in Australia now. The scary part about today’s players is, many will go through their whole career and will not have worked a day in their life.

Some more advice for players is, if you only get offered $200k a year instead of the $250k you wanted, just sign!! Try and get a job that pays that much in the workforce believes me its hard. In saying that for what Rugby League players put their bodies through they are very much underpaid compared to other sports.

Last but not least, for the players that play up and get into trouble, send them out concreting, or working on a property for a couple of weeks and I am sure they will then appreciate what a bloody good job they have.

This one was a bit heavier, so I apologies’ for that but just wanted people to know what goes on in a footballers life at times, its not all glamour and glitz.