When my son was in primary school there were twin brothers playing in his Hornswood Junior Rugby team. One was a hilarious, smart-ass, piss-taker, the other one was… really nice.
Tommy was tall, blonde, handsome, broad-shouldered, super-fast, skilled, scored 2-4 tries every match, our best player, smart, confident and brash.
His brother was Carl, was not tall, red-haired, not quite so handsome, a bit chubby, pale, a slow toiler, shy, good-guy front-rower who had never scored a try despite the team having been together for years.
Right on the full-time whistle in one of the last games of the season, Carl scored his first ever try with a great push from his mates in the forward pack. A Christmas miracle in July! As he jogged back to the half-way, us parents and coaches cheered and high-fived. Being a very close-knit team we were overjoyed Carl was finally in the spotlight.
Tommy (sprinting over to us parents on the sideline) – “IT WASN’T A TRY! MY BROTHER DROPPED THE BALL OVER THE LINE. NO TRY!”
Mark (dad of the twins) – “Quiet Tommy. The ref paid it. We win, be happy for your brother just for once.”
Tommy (who’d already scored three tries that day) – “HE DROPPED THE BALL.”
As we always did, the parents stood in a group with the kids on the ground in front, while my good mate the coach awarded the Man of the Match. This one was a no-brainer and he wanted to put special focus on Carl, to illustrate to the kids that continued commitment and effort will eventually be rewarded.
Coach – “Our Man of the Match today, who also scored the winning try is… CARL.”
In a beautiful team moment, everyone cheered louder than we ever had for another player. The one who had always lived in his brother’s try-scoring shadow, deserved no less.
Tommy – “He dropped the ball.”
The coach tried to ignore Tommy and we parents made sure we hid our amusement at the comments.
Coach (to the team) – “So boys, where do we start when talking about Carl?”
Tommy – “Can start with the knock-on.”
Mark (his dad) – “TOMMY!! EITHER ACCEPT THAT YOUR BROTHER SCORED A TRY OR GO AND SIT IN THE BLOODY CAR. YOUR CHOICE!!”
Tommy (thinking on it) – “Guess I’ll have to go and sit in the car.”
Off he went and sat in the back seat while the coach went on. We were all finding it increasingly difficult to contain our laughter. The problem was, the car was only about ten metres away and within earshot.
Coach – “Every team needs players like Carl.”
Tommy (yelling from the car) – “IF YOU’RE COLLECTING NON-TRIES.”
Mark – “TOMMY!! SHUT UP OR I’LL CLOSE THE WINDOW.” Just to us parents, “God help me I’d love to.”
Tommy puts up his hands in a sign of mock surrender.
Coach – “Lots of props never score a ‘meat-pie’ in their whole Rugby careers.”
Tommy – “IT WAS AS ‘MEAT-PIE’ AS A BROCCOLI SALAD.”
By this stage all us parents standing behind the players had tears running down our faces. But Carl, in his shining moment, was focused solely on the coaches words.
Coach – “It just goes to show that you don’t have to be the fastest or the most skilled-“
Tommy (interrupting from the car) – “OR HOLD THE BALL.”
Coach – “A Rugby team is made up of all different types. You can’t win with a team of just halfbacks and wingers. You also can’t win with a team of just Carls.”
Tommy (from the car) – “NOT IF YOU WANT ANY TRIES SCORED.”
Mark – “TOMMY!”
By this stage, us parents are pissing ourselves laughing behind hands and caps. Carl was completely oblivious to his brother’s heckling, he’d learned to just tune it out.
Coach – “But Carl wouldn’t have scored, if his teammates hadn’t been there to help him.”
Tommy – “OR IF THE REF HAD SOME GLASSES.”
Coach – “Persistence!”
Tommy – “OH MAN, I’D HAVE PERSISTENCE TOO IF I GOT AWARDED A TRY EVERY TIME I NEARLY SCORED. I’D BE ON A WHOLE LOT MORE THAN 31 THIS SEASON.”
Carl’s smile just beamed.
I was shaking with barely-stifled laugher.
One of the mum’s – “There was some excellent non-selfish passing today also everybody.”
Tommy – “PARTICIPATION TRY! HERE YOU GO EVERYONE, HAVE A TRY.”
Eventually we got the speech done. Mark had the shits with Tommy, said his goodbyes, got Carl in the car and was reversing in the carpark.
Coach (just to us parents) – “I can’t let Tommy have the last cool line. I have to get one more in before they drive away, so Tommy can’t retort.”
Coach (approaching the about-to-drive-off car and yelling to the parents as much as to Carl) – “HEY CARL, I WISH I HAD YOUR TRY ON VIDEO. I COULD EASILY SHOW THE ENTIRE TEAM WHAT I MEAN WHEN I USE THE WORD TENACITY.”
The coach flashed a smile and wink our way. We understood the magnitude of what just occurred. The coach, the old bull had put the young bull right back in his place. The coaches parting words, were to be the last ones exchanged between them on the matter. Drop the mic.
The car moved off slowly.
Another dad – “Well done, coach. I’ve never laughed so much. I certainly didn’t think you’d be gettin’ the last word in. You are The Man.”
Coach – “Thanks mate. It seems juvenile, but I couldn’t let him be the last to have made a clever comment. As coach I need to be the top-dog to this age group, otherwise these kids will run all over me, metaphorically and literally. How could I get them to jog around the oval six times, do 100 pushups, tackle and put their head in a ruck, if I don’t have that… top-dog respect.”
We high-fived, while all the parents continued to hide their laughter.
Tommy (leaning out of the window as they drove away) – “I WISH WE HAD HIS TRY ON VIDEO TOO… FOR THE VIDEO REF”.
And the car was gone.
One of the dads (immediately being reminded of a funny line from a country song he once heard) – “Maybe you’re top dog, coach, but gee it appears as though you’ve been neutered.”
The coach just stared at the cloud of Hornswood Oval carpark dust left by Tommy’s car.
Gotta love kid’s Rugby.
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