Week 49 of my comfort zone challenge took me into the muddy, aggressive world of rugby.
Those that know me, will understand that Rugby is so far outside of my comfort zone. I’m a skinny, passive guy that has never even been close to any kind of fight in my life. Granted rugby isn’t a fight but it feels like you need to be up for a fight to be any good at it.
Having been badgered by my friend Berwick to play rugby since back in January when I started these challenges putting it off until December was a good effort by me to not play. However, persistence beat resistance and I couldn’t say no any longer.
His team, Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club, agreed to host me and promised me game time. I agreed to play, but suggested I only needed about 10-15 minutes’ game time as I’m unfit and will be useless to the team. I might be up for a challenge, but one of my biggest hates in life is losing and letting a team down because of me.
Of course the match I picked to play in was away to Whitstable, a place I’d never even heard of, and seemed to be a pilgrimage from where I live. However, the hour and a half journey gave my team mates the opportunity to tell me the rules, how to tackle, tips and tricks for my 20 minute game time.
We got to the ground, got changed and I started to practice some tackling on guys at jogging pace. It was only after a bit of touch rugby, the manager told me “Tom, you’re starting. Wing.” I originally thought it was a joke, but no, I started and played the full match.
It’s one thing tackling people at jogging pace, but when a guy taller, bigger and faster than you runs at full pace at you, with a palm to aid him and having never tackled someone before, it’s fair to say it’s not so easy. I must have missed about 5/6 tackles through the game and it’s something I never got used too. It goes against everything your mind tells you to through yourself head first into somebody running full speed at you.
The good news is, I played the full 80 minutes, I came out alive, I quite enjoyed it and WE WON by just one point! It says more about the team I was playing with than myself, but I’m glad to say my rugby career has a 100% win record.
The amazing thing of rugby, which I’ve never really appreciated quite enough until I played was the sportsmanship that comes with it. Guys have been in battle for 80 minutes but it’s all left on the pitch. There is a real respect for each other, which is shared over a beer and chili con carne in the bar. Just brilliant.
A massive shout out to the guys at Hastings and Bexhill Rugby Club, who were nothing but accommodating and encouraging the whole time. I’d miss a tackle and they would tell me what I did wrong but and how to improve. An extremely welcoming bunch of guys, who even gave me the man of the match. If you’re interested in playing rugby, you’d do well to find a better group than these.