Smash, tackle, build-up.

Have school lunch hours ever known a better-named sport?

Oh, it was wonderful. Exhilarating. The sort of game that left you sweaty and scuffed and, in all likelihood, missing several shirt buttons. The sort of game that taught little boys about nature's simplest laws: if you have to run from the lion, it pays not to be the last gazelle.

Smash, tackle, build-up was my primary school's version of bullrush.


One person was "in" and everyone else was given 30 seconds to flee about the playground fort. One by one, the hunter would tackle and pin his victims. Every captured victim would join the hunter until the "build-up" was complete.

Sure, it wasn't the safest sport.

You would cut shins and graze elbows. You'd always bust open the grubby scabs on your knees. But in the final golden years of solid pine playgrounds, bark chips, tyre walls and decent heights from which to drop, our version of bullrush was a defining joy.

Few things are more cliched than lamenting the kids these days. But we are breeding them too soft.

How many playgrounds have traded the old pine fort for the ubiquitous fluorescent plastic?

How many have traded bark chips for waterproof rubber mats? How many kids spend their lunch hours on screens instead of ripping open scabs and running from the lion?

Two boys with broken bones make a bad week of bullrush at Christchurch Boys' High School.

At least one of the breaks came in a game that pitted the school's senior students against the smaller year nines.


Presumably, participation would be voluntary, although it may not have been quite so black and white. Teachers were apparently present.

Still, I'm sure Christchurch Boys' won't be planning to ban bullrush.

And nor should any school. Bumps, bruises and - yes - the odd break, have always been a part of childhood.

An iPad is amazing but there are some things even it can't teach.