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A prop's lament

An old man, a battered prop with round shoulders, stooped, ka devoted servant of game and club, a man with only one blazer and one tie, both his club's, and a man determined to move with the times and not be a stick-in-the-mud, wrote to his club and shocked them all by resigning from active participation.


His letter contained the following:

When we changed from 3-2-3 to 3-4-1, I adapted.

When you stopped having to play the ball with the foot after a tackle, I adapted.

When you were allowed to fumble and it was not a knock-on, I adapted.

I also adapted from time to time with the tinkering with points for drops and tries.

When hookers started throwing in at line-outs, I adapted.

When loose scrums became rucks, I learnt the new vocabulary.

When the swing pass went out of fashion, I adapted.

When the coach was a man and not just a means of transport, I coped.

When props got penalised for working their man over and dribbling ceased,

I knew that the game had lost a lot of its appeal.

I even adapted when advertising boards were put around grounds.

Later I sighed and pondered but yielded when they stuck advertisements on the jersey I loved so much.

When brown leather balls with laces gave way to feelingless plastic of leprous white, I still picked them up and put them in the bag.

When hookers stopped hooking, when the ball could be put in at any sort of angle and foot-up joined the horse-drawn trams in the past, I gritted my teeth and stayed in the game.

When the torpedo kick disappeared for a funny Australian way of kicking, I adapted.

When they let women into the bar, I found an agreeable corner to reminisce with my friends.

When women started playing, I adapted by pretending they did not exist in the hope that they would go away.

When they brought on dancing girls and fireworks and played canned music, I did not watch but concentrated, and hoped the players did the same.

When players hugged each other like soccer players after scoring tries and embraced instead of three cheers at the end of matches, I turned away in sorrow but kept my peace.

When they let league players back to play our game, I ignored them and never learnt their names.

When they gave me money for doing my jobs at the club, I said thank you and put the money in the poor box.

When players stopped paying subs, I doubled mine.

When they called players by numbers as if they were cattle and not men, I stayed with names and kept going.

When they came with all sorts of big words like phases, rush defence, fetchers, offloads, back three and tight five, I tried to learn but in my days after matches we had a tight fifteen, not just a tight five – and we sang all sorts of manly songs to prove it.

When they allowed lifting in the line-outs, I shut my eyes and prayed but shut up about it.

When the man next to me booed the visiting kicker to put him off, I did not hit him.

When instead of beating a man, you bashed into him, I grimaced but carried on watching.

When referees started coaching and giving instructions, I shut up in bewildered sorrow.

When touch judges started sticking out their flags and telling the referee what to do, I was grateful for my bareknuckle days but accepted the change.

When they started the TMO-ing, I got through the boredom by thinking of better days.

When players ran about with their socks down, I averted my eyes and carried on.

When beer and steak were replaced by energy drinks and pasta, I was uncomprehending but adapted.

But when I collected the valuables in the changing room before the match and most of the valuables were ear-rings, I decided it was time to write you this letter.

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