No, I’ve Never Played Rugby Before. Why Do You Ask?
Yup. I tried rugby.
I was just walking out of the bookshop with my arms filled with various books for my classes, when this guy walked up to me and asked if I was interested in playing for the team JCU was trying to start up for girls. He handed me his card, said practice was that night at six, and I went on my way. I was starving, and my stomach wasn’t about to settle for a long chat with this guy.
I have a friend back home who graduated from SMC who played rugby and loved it. All I really knew was that the sport is huge here in Australia, and there was a good chance I’d get my ass kicked. I mean, the last time I played an organized sport was lacrosse during senior year of high school.
I love lacrosse, but, as it turns out, the two sports are very different.
The first thing I noticed when I walked over to the oval (the football field) was that I was the only female around. The guys’ rugby team was there, and I stuck out like a sore thumb as I walked over to the gym behind the field. I hung around there for a few minutes until I saw some girls, then followed them to where the coach was waiting. There were about eight of us in all, and for a few minutes we just tossed the rugby ball in a circle, discussing how none of us but two knew how to throw the ball.
Then the coach came over, and we arranged ourselves on the other side of the field so the guys could play where we were, and played a fun, no-tackle version of the game to figure out how to play.
I had no idea what I was doing.
Luckily, a girl I’d sat with on the bus tour around Cairns was there and had played the sport before, so I’d hiss questions at her every chance I got. I had a tendency to spike the ball out of midair when the other team was tossing it, but, apparently, this is not ultimate frisbee, and I need to actually catch the ball to gain possession, rather than simply hitting it away from them.
Overall, I thought the practice was good so far. Just playing around a bit, pretty low-intensity stuff. I wasn’t intending on sticking with the sport–I just figured I was in Australia, and I might as well give it a go and learn how it’s played.
And then the real practice began.
After our casual four vs. four game, we went and did conditioning with the boys. We did lunges, we did sprints, we ran backwards, we ran forwards, we did throwing exercises where we ran in impossibly tight circles, throwing the ball to someone while almost simultaneously catching it from another person. There must’ve been six balls going at once, fifteen people running at the same time, and whenever someone dropped the ball we all had to do ten push-ups–if we dropped it again, twenty. Then thirty. Then hills. And then the cycle started all over again. I used up all my good push-ups in the first ten.
Here I was, someone who hadn’t actually sprinted in years, in my Converse since my running shoes are in the mail, running around with forty sweaty guys who had probably been playing rugby their entire lives.
Not to say learning about the sport wasn’t fun. I know how to throw the rugby ball now, and I have a general idea of how the sport is played. Even on one of the hills, I got to call out the command for when we’d jump up and sprint up the hill. But my god, it was exhausting, and lasted two hours instead of one and a half. It was pitch dark out by the time we finally ended, and I was being eaten alive by the mossies.
I’ve already told Chichi that if anyone gets Dengue fever, it’s gonna be me. It’s just one of those things I’ve come to accept. I’ll get Dengue at some point, and if I didn’t get it last night, it’ll be sometime in the near future.
On the (literal) bright side, walking back to my apartment after practice was the first time I got to see the Australian night sky. Granted, all my interest in astronomy didn’t quite apply here, since everything looked different, but I pretty much walked back through the gap in the hedges where everyone ditches their shopping carts (my keys were in my room, so I wouldn’t have been able to go in the front way) with my neck craned toward the sky.
But I was right about one thing. Rugby kicked my ass. I think I’ll stick with bushwalking . . . or sleeping.