The ugly side of rugby

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians flyhalf Ben Volavola in action against Wales during their pool match at the Oita Stadium in Oita, Japan. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA/FILE

The ugly

I grew up around the rugby ovals in England as a toddler watching my dad play rugby so it can be said that I’ve spent most of my life around this sport.

The truth of the matter is that I have been involved in rugby as a parent, supporter and team manager for 18 years and I have seen it all.

The cheers, the jeers, the respectful and encouraging words of wisdom to the downright rude, irrelevant, disrespectful and infuriating comments blasted all over social media for all the world to see.

Unfortunately, the ugly side of rugby has now become a moving beast. Then there was also the challenges of looking different.

Yes, he was exposed to racist comments.

I will never forget being out at a club at East Sydney where Ben was playing for the NSW Waratahs A team against the Sydney East Grade 1 side.

As he ran the ball down the sidelines, a spectator shouted out a racist comment to taunt him.

What this gentleman didn’t realise was that it was comments like this that would fuel him.

And it certainly did. Ben and the boys were relentless and had a convincing win that day.

As a parent it is confronting and often quite hurtful. But one thing I have learnt is that when you attack one member of the team, the whole team feels it. Regardless of what level you are playing at, when a team is formed, a bond is created.

So, when you attack the individual, you are in fact attacking the whole team because the team is a family.

Fortunately, outside of this “team family”, they have an extended family that includes the family members of the players, the coaching staff, the management team, friends and the fans who will support the team regardless of the outcome of any game.

This for me is the ugly side of rugby.

So, as we continue with our journey with our Flying Fijians, the next chapter is yet to be written. I can see it now.

The chapter will reveal a story of how the game between Fiji and Wales unfolded and I have no doubt that there will be many who will have something to say about it be it good or bad.

There are others such as myself who are holding on to hope, expecting a miracle and there are others who have already called it a wrap.

Only time will tell. Am I nervous?

Yes, a little but I feel quite calm about the whole thing. And I am aware that Wales is the current Six Nations champions who will bring all their firepower to the game. But I am a believer in the impossible.

Many years ago, a shepherd boy took on one of his biggest battles.

He was up against a warrior who was well-known by many around the land.

He was bigger, stronger, more knowledgeable in his craft and more experienced. Many underestimated the potential of this shepherd boy others mocked him and pretty much wrote him off.

This was the story of David the shepherd and Goliath the giant warrior.

This story focuses on the most unlikely of outcomes of an underdog who chose to believe and wound up beating the odds.

I know how important this game is for our Flying Fijians but I am also well aware the belief that these boys have in themselves and more importantly in the God that they serve.

When Ben was interviewed prior to their game against Georgia about his expectations of this game, he was quoted saying, “I still have faith!” I for one am holding on to that faith like the shepherd boy, we will beat the odds!

As a parent who has stood along the sidelines for 19 years watching him work on his craft, I couldn’t be more grateful for where his craft has taken him to.

Now the time has come to put everything he has learnt into one of his biggest games to date.

All I ask is for you to believe!

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