Challenge Match

Now that the brew over the Belmont Shore – Austin Valkyries challenge match seems to have slowed down a bit, I thought I should cap it.

I received several well-written messages from leadership on both teams. And after thinking about it for a while, I can see both sides.

I fully admit that when someone first told me about it, I didn’t think it was very fair. Again, this was my very initial thought. Legal yes, but not “fair”. And I thought immediately of a men’s team here in the Midwest.

This men’s team has wholeheartedly used their local resources (in this particular case, allegedly a very wealthy benefactor) to bolster their team, propelling themselves up the division chain and dominating their competition. I met some of the guys that play for this team recently. All nice guys. It was a mix of local guys, a few foreign players and then young American guys from all over the states who had played abroad in Scotland, New Zealand, etc., and then were recruited to this team. In essentially the middle of nowhere. The team plays by the rules, but many of their opponents view the team negatively for this alleged “roster loading”.

And this men’s team is just powerful and fast. You can clearly see that the talent brought in raises the play of every member of the team. It’s like that on every team, though, isn’t it? One player who brings everything they’ve got to practice and games will naturally spread that to their teammates.

Psychologically, you also have to wonder if their opponents haven’t already stepped on the field ready to lose because they know what this team can bring.

But that’s the gist of the argument isn’t it?

The rules are what they are. They were created to cover the broad spectrum of possible issues that can happen on the field and to a team. Teams are supposed to follow the rules. The rules are what make the game fair.

Should we find fault with a team who followed the rules and then won a game? Should we lambast them because the rules allow teams to add new players – foreign and domestic – that can play rugby well? Should we label their opponents as victims because the opposition didn’t have the same level of speed, talent, skills, recruiting, support, mentality, as the winning team?

The answer on any given day is No.

Every player, every team out there needs to know that when you step on the field for a game, you need to be ready for what’s coming at you.

We all need to stop pointing fingers at others and looking within ourselves. Asking ourselves if we are following the rules? Are we playing rugby well? Are we bringing the same level of speed, talent, skills, recruiting, support, mentality as who we are about to play?

And to win games and to succeed as a team, as a sport, that answer on any given day needs to be Yes.

To both the women of Belmont Shore and to the Austin Valkyries, good luck in the rest of your seasons. I look forward to the opportunity to possibly play your teams at Sweet 16s next fall.

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2 Comments

Filed under Blondie: my thoughts, challenge matches

2 responses to “Challenge Match

  1. Anonymous

    Blondie,

    The men’s team there sounds a lot like the Aspen Gentlemen used to be. And you know what? Every other men’s team in Colorado knew that Aspen had good players, and was a good team, and so practices before Aspen games were always better attended, more intense, and just plain harder, due in part to the knowledge that if you didn’t play well, it would be embarrassing and you would be skunked. And in each game against Aspen, you learned something (often it was while you were watching your opposing number’s aspen-leaf insignia high-tailing it toward the goal line). I think some resented not being able to recruit players of that caliber, but I don’t think anyone resented playing against better opposition. In short, it was good for the level of the game in Colorado. Rules changes have prevented Aspen from putting together a team like that again, and I think it is a shame, because now you don’t get to see what rugby can be as often as you used to.

    My two cents,

    Karl Ohlsen

  2. Anonymous

    in germany, a frankfurt mens team got a new sponsor (he is rather wealthy or just rugby mad) and “bought” a whole bunch of players from nz, sa and if i’m right even the usa.
    as rugby in germany is an amateur sport, i guess he just paid for their expenses etc, and this was enough for these rather young and internationally unexperienced players.
    i know that there were other sponsors around here who got hold of some eastern european players who had to stay in the attic of a club house and got only food and accomodation and some pocket money.
    there was even an eveiction on one club by what you would call “la migra”.

    almost every week our club gets a request via mail by some guys from african countries or countries like romania and moldavia.
    countries that have good players, but to be true: they will not be payed if they play here.
    we let anyone play on the team, but we cannot pay expenses whatsoever.
    nobody here is being payed, expect the highest ranked teams.
    in these teams, there may be some, who get some money out of it, but it’s seldom more than a flat and some food and some pocket money.
    this is mens rugby.

    i’d think that a womens team has less to offer, as there are few sponsors etc.
    but: if someone told me that a black fern played a sesaon for some team (we had some hilarious nz girl playing for our direct concurrent, but she was a no 15), i’d lineup to play against her.
    i’d like to ruck against her, tackle her, and even if shes a fast-as-hell chick that steps me out every time, i’d hvae at least this moment where i moved everything of my old, rugbyloving self against someone who grew up with the rugbyvirus in her blood (guess how i cried when this stupid virus suddenly stopped to grow in my 14 year old, big and broadshouldered daughter. we could have been the first northern hemisphere daughter and mother on a team. no 1 and no 15).
    anyhow: stop whining, there is always a new team to beat!!!

    nina from germany, the 36year old rugger

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