My ability on the rugby field during my school years equalled my ability on the academic front.


But hey, like so many kids back in the mid-60s I was happy to have a go and join one of the school teams...not the "premier" school side I should add.

We were the kids who wore ill-fitting hand-me-down boots and believed the best way to tackle one of the kids heading your way with the ball tucked under his equally inept arm was to grab their jersey and try and haul them down.


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Tackle around the legs?

You had to be kidding.

There were no post-match functions or coaching de-briefs.

The coach (one of the head-shaking teachers) simply went back to the staff room (for a sly brandy I daresay) and you just wandered home in the playing gear you'd ended the day in...for mum to wash.

And you did not wash the grime from your knees until dad had seen it and asked, with pride, how you got on.

"They beat us 36 nil," you'd say.

"Oh well...there's always next week," father would reply kindly.


I pretty much quit rugby when I got to high school because the playing skills across that landscape left me behind...and on the sidelines.

However, I returned to the oval ball game around 1975 while working at the wool stores where one of the gaffers was tied up with the Tech club.

He said they were looking for players for the Under 23 side so hey, why not?

I went along to training at Whitmore Park and surprised myself with the pace and stamina

I had...a legacy of the physical labour I was involved in every day at work.

"You're on the wing this Saturday," the coach said.

And so it came to pass I donned the Tech jersey to the great pride of my father and uncle...both devoted Tech chaps.

We played Taradale and they were rather good.

After a few aftermatch ales I wandered home and when dad got in he excitedly asked how we'd got on.

I said we had the final say in the tough encounter as we got a penalty goal right on full time.

And then I sort of sank that lofty moment by adding that we ended up losing 46-3.

"Oh," dad said.

"There's always next week..."

The next week, I think it was against Marist, lasted about 10 minutes due to injury.

For in the final stages of the Taradale clash I took on their huge winger and while the tackle sent him down it sent me into a semi-coma of transpired I'd done a couple of ribs but I didn't want to let the side down next week so suffered during the week and tried to have another 80-minute crack at being average.

Not a chance, and that was effectively the end of my rugby career as the following season I veered toward football, as the impacts were far, far less extreme.

But watching the big games back then never made me wince.

Today they often do, for the physical quota in the top level clashes is, in comparison to the '60s, much more amplified.

That thing called "concussion" is a major component in the whole deal today, and it has come into focus big time within the All Black camp as two top lads, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith, have both suffered a string of concussion injuries.

Once is bad enough (I had it for a few days after a motorcycle crash) and I would not wish to go through that cranial uncertainty again.

It has got to the stage where the AB management has come out and said the preparations for the French tour were slightly hampered by injury worries and several players showing signs of physical weariness...already.

Crikey, it's only early June.

Possibly a legacy of Super 15 starting in summer and rugby, across the board, pretty well running about twice the time it did in decades passed.

And the physicality of it today within a landscape of players who, to me, appear to be getting larger every season.

Which means the hits get harder...which means more potential injuries.

So we better get some bigger players then.

Which means the oppos will get some bigger players...and the injury count just seems to keep creeping up, and what I find most troubling is that those injuries, particularly the head jobs, will create issues in the post-play middle age years for some of those who got knocked about.

However, in the wake of three Northern Hemisphere countries being dealt to by three Southern Hemisphere countries last weekend, maybe the IRB crew in London will consider touch-rugby?