The morning after

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Matabele

Journey Man
A Silvertails feature piece

It infuriates - this sneering disdain from gnarled old warhorses for those that haven’t played the game.

“You can’t really have an opinion about this game� they growl out of battered lips “because you don’t really know what it is to play it�.

You can be sure that what they’re thinking of is one thing – the pain.

If you’ve never played the game of Rugby League you’ve no idea of the pain the game inflicts.

Sure the uninitiated can nod ascent to the theory that the body takes a battering, but it’s a little like saying you’ve experienced the Battle of the Somme because you’ve watched a documentary on the First World War.

Consider that at its very essence the game is little more than two walls of large men that run at each other and collide sometimes up to five hundred times in the space of 80 minutes of frenzied action.

There are few games that compare with the brutal combat that is Rugby League.

Of the contact sports AFL occurs in wide open spaces and the accent is on running. Rugby Union has far more breaks in play. American Football follows a similar format but the ball is only in play for an average of 12 minutes per weekend.

In comparison to League, basketball is little more than orchestrated ballet and it’s plainly obvious that a David Beckham wouldn’t last beyond the first hit-up!

And it is with the first hit-up that the pain begins. The ball slowly spirals into your hands as you sprint with all effort towards two or three men of similar size, hardened by hours on a weights bench. They stand less than ten metres away, slowly advancing with feet planted.

Hitting the defensive line at full pace takes immense bravery. One millisecond you are traveling at full pace, the next your momentum comes to a shuddering halt as you careen into several hard men with intent.

In many respects it would be preferable to run into a brick wall as at least it comes in a flat line with no possibility of stray knees and elbows shuddering into vulnerable areas of your person.

That first hit stings like fire. Inevitably it is enough to inflict the first bruise or worse still a cork.

Ah yes, the cork! That burning, throbbing sensation that comes from pulverized flesh smashed up against bone – capillaries and vessels exploding under impact and blood seeping into areas never intended.

I wince at just the thought of it!

Yet this is not the end. This is just the beginning. If the first hit-up takes bravery, the next requires insanity. For now the muscles are already burning, and the body is screaming in protest. And the brain knows what is coming next.

Yet you do it again – hurtling towards the wall for yet another round of pulverization. And again. And again. And again.

Along with the battering comes the fatigue. The lungs burning and gasping for air whilst the muscles tighten and legs begin to wobble. Overwhelming exhaustion overcomes the body as the limbs start to scream that another step is impossible.

It’s at just that point when the opposition winger makes that half-break. When weary body begrudgingly responds and propels itself forward against all odds to make the tackle that needs to be made. Few know the price that is paid when the brink of exhaustion is shattered.

Often the first price tag arrives late in the game. Excruciating cramps as muscles work themselves into golf balls sized knots, well intentioned trainers digging thumbs deeply into protesting fibre.

Twenty minutes pass and still the pain assaults unrelentingly - cramping so fierce that the prone player begins asking for death through gritted teeth.

There’s the long slow limp to the dressing shed, the victory song and half a dozen beers before the blissful ritual of the hot shower. Scalding hot water cascades over spent bodies as rivers of grime, sweat and blood snake downwards to form a brown puddle on the floor.

However it is the next morning when gnarled men form opinions on who knows what about the game.

You must have played the game to understand the weary response to alarm clock, the fall to the floor and the bone weary crawl to the medicine cabinet. The agony of those excruciating, knife in the flesh stabs of agony exuding from every pore.

Only a few understand the true cost of Rugby League.
 

The Wheel

https://membership.seaeagles.com.au/
Premium Member
A good peice - there are a lot of old players who do it tough as they get older due to all the bumps & bruises they recieved during their playing days.

Look at former Manly 5/8 Alan Thompson he has basically paid the ultimate sacrifice for putting his body on the line for the sea eagles
 
Great dramatic writing Mata - you should be writing an analytical piece in the Herald every couple of days like Peter Roebuck does for the cricket. Without a doubt the game is one of the most physically demanding the world has ever seen. Besides from the physical pain, I always feel for the old-timers who obviously didn't receive much in the way on money in their playing days, and now are struggling financially.
 

PJ

Bencher
There is a group called ‘Men of League’ which raises money for ex-players that are still struggling with these ailments and worse due to the rigours of the game.
They had a dinner with a lot of ex-players hosted by Laurie Daley in Wagga last week. About 600 people attended and they raised a considerable amount of money.
There was an article in the Wagga Daily Advertiser about a lot of ex-players plights especially those around before the big pay packets and it is sad to see that many are struggling.
 
Peter Roebuck is the best sports journalist/writer going around. While all the other shmoes just give facts and stats about a sports event, Roebuck actually analyses and dissects the event, using wit, metaphors, similes, etc.
 
Very good article Mata summed up the pain nicely. Funny how people say the game is getting less ruthless than the old days though. When I was playing at 22 it was easy to get out of bed the next morning but at 38 it was much more difficult. My only explanation is that the game was getting tougher :D
 

The Fonz

Reserve Grader
Less ruthless my rectum. I smashed my knee this year. At this stage, i may never play again. I'm 23 years old.
 
Less ruthless my rectum. I smashed my knee this year. At this stage, i may never play again. I'm 23 years old.

Im talking about onfield injuries not the ones you get staggering around maggot after the game :lol:

btw hows the little front rower doing
 

The Fonz

Reserve Grader
Utility he's awesome. 4 months old and already in size 1's. Time go's so quick mate. He's on the verge of crawling. Howz the Fam?

Matabele, gotta see another doc yet. If a reco is the answer then it's not really worth it to play club footy. Too much time off work and no guarantee it will even work. Too much risk for $150 a win. if you know what i mean.
 

Matabele

Journey Man
Utility he's awesome. 4 months old and already in size 1's. Time go's so quick mate. He's on the verge of crawling. Howz the Fam?

Matabele, gotta see another doc yet. If a reco is the answer then it's not really worth it to play club footy. Too much time off work and no guarantee it will even work. Too much risk for $150 a win. if you know what i mean.
I had one 4 years ago that has proved unsuccesful (caveat: biased!!!!!)

Everyone warns you about the pain but it doesn't prepare you. It is excrutiating. That's the reason I'm not rushing back to get it fixed......
 
[quote author=The Fonz]
Utility he's awesome. 4 months old and already in size 1's. Time go's so quick mate. He's on the verge of crawling. Howz the Fam?

Good to hear, my lot are all good, bad news about the knee I luckily escaped any major knee injuries during my playing days. Then again its hard to do too much damage sitting on the bench (other than to the bench)
 
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