What Do You Mean – You’re Injured?
By Old Prop Steve
October 16 2017
With the current crop of injuries at the Pirates, we take a look back to Old Prop Steve’s Blog from September 2009
What Do You Mean – You’re Injured?
One of the things which made the Pirates’ opening day victory at Nottingham so very impressive was that the squad had no less than thirteen players unavailable for one reason or another.
On paper a squad of 32-34 looks more than enough but - hey presto! - that suddenly has become only 21.
With the need to put fifteen on the pitch and to have the required replacements on hand including cover for the entire front row the cupboard suddenly looks very bare indeed.
This of course is one which is impossible to win. Last season Exeter famously had around fifty professionals many of whom practically never got a game and must have been bored to tears as well as costing the club and arm and a leg.
Then of course it is always possible to wheel in somebody on temporary cover duty and several Championship clubs are trying to balance their books that way. There is however a huge price to pay in terms of tactics and team cohesiveness and I would doubt whether any club which sets out to operate this way can have any serious aspirations of actually winning anything.
We all know that rugby becomes physically more demanding as every season goes by. The game is miles faster, the players get bigger and stronger, the ‘hits’ go in harder - but what else is going on? That old sage of Liverpool - Bill Shankly - used to totally ignore players if they were injured and once famously forgot Roger Hunt’s name after he had been out for two weeks with a wonky knee. Somehow the same team used to turn out unchanged week after week!
Injuries now acquire much more fancy names than they used to. Its all ‘anterior medial’ something or other.
I remember once going on a rather boozy tour with an old Irish international full back who was doing a postgraduate doctorate in post traumatic surgery at the Cambridge medical school at the time. Following a rather pathetic attempted tackle he limped sorrowfully towards the touchline clutching his left knee. “So what’s your diagnosis Doctor?” asked the spongeman in a slightly Uriah Heapish manner. “Bejasustis me nay – me nay is ****ed” was all we got. That evening he drank about ten pints of Guinness and played again the following afternoon.
We now have locks and props going down like sprayed flies with hamstring pulls. When I played I don’t think the physiology of such creatures actually included hamstrings. Broken noses, stitched eyebrows certainly…. but hamstrings?
Now these bleddy great nineteen stone body builders seem to have them going ‘ping’ like over-tuned piano wires.
Mind you some odd injuries always did occur. One beefy front row forward I knew did his back in whilst putting up bookshelves (could he actually read we all wondered) and I vaguely recall one not-very-bright scrum-half at the Pirates sitting on a wasps nest.
My favourite though was told to me by that great Pirate and raconteur Bosun James who acted as combined kitman, spongeman and first aider for decades.
Just before Christmas every year we used to play a floodlit match against a team called the Oxford University Greyhounds. This took place at the end of the college term and, coming just after the Varsity match, was largely made up of blokes who had just missed out on getting a Blue.
Having done all the training, they were determined to drown their disappointments and start the Yuletide festivities all in one mega thrash. They always included a good sprinkling of ‘super chaps’ who were reading Land Economy or something equally unchallenging prior to taking over Daddy’s estates in North Yorkshire.
One night, as the play moved upfield, a lone disconsolate figure was left sitting under the Newlyn goalposts shaking his head sadly.
Of course they never thought to bring a first aid man with them so in true rugby spirit Bosun ran over to see what he could do to help the lad. “Wosson boy?” he asked cheerfully. “It’s quite extraordinary” came the reply “I appear to have lost all my self confidence”. “Well I can’t help ee boy, what you need is a psychiatrist – all I got here is a bleddy sponge” said Bosun before he turned heel and walked off.
Seconds later the young man leaped to his feet and sprinted back to join the fray. Later that evening he sought out Bosun in the Westholme bar “Thank you very much” he said “you have changed my life”.
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