Ex-pat Ashburtonian Brendon Argyle, now resident somewhere west of Sydney, reminisces on the sometimes peculiar idiosyncracies of Senior B rugby, and particularly the Celtic Killer Bs.
Isn’t the internet great!
It’s at least 15 years since I was lucky enough to pull on the green top of the Killer Bees of Celtic’s Senior B side, but thanks to social media I can still be an avid supporter from half way across Australia.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed since I last pulled on the Emerald Green of the Celts – 24 names available in the squad, four coaches, two managers and a medic?
Still a few names I recognise too, including the ever-present, ever-young Donny Summerfield.
That’s the thing about club rugby, and especially the thing about B grade rugby.
We know deep down we aren’t getting a call-up for the All Blacks world cup squad, most of us will never win the Watters Cup, but the chance to win the last game of the season is only a part of the reason you keep coming back on a freezing cold Thursday night in July … it’s your mates.
Times like these really drive that home.
Growing up at Celtic, we hit that age group where every other year we combined squads with another club.
In my time I’ve played with Hampstead (we won Lotto that year and went to Skateranch – good times), Hinds/Southern, Allenton – even Collegiate once I think, and as a result when it came time to play in the open grades we all knew each other, and we all loved playing it hard on the field, and having a beer after in the sheds.
The banter and spirit of the game was always there, thanks to refs like Chrissy, Bumble, Ant and Chatter keeping the games flowing, with a bit of guidance and waggling the finger if we all forgot we weren’t playing for the clock tower.
Week on week anything could happen.
A three-point nailbiter won in the last seconds, or suffering a 60-point thumping from a team you beat four weeks ago.
You might be playing against the Tigers, facing some MC Hammers legends in the twilight of their careers, or find yourself lining up with a 300-game club icon on your own team who’s dropped into the squad to give you a little edge (even if he gets himself sent off four minutes in to the game).
I consider myself very lucky to have been a Killer B, and to have grown up in a rugby club.
Our club – like all clubs I guess – has names that will always be associated with hard work and selfless dedication; Adlam, Casey, Hurley, Prendergast, Kev’s Green Ute, and nights that will long be remembered, if not always in great detail, that those lucky enough to have been there will always cherish.
A (rugby) team is one of the few places left where a younger person can be moulded and shaped by their elder peers.
Guided in what is acceptable and appropriate behaviour, learn to take their turn in service and to be competitive, gracious and humble in their endeavour.
Taken aside quietly and advised “not like that here mate”, and supported by a team-mate if times are tough.
The interclub spirit of Senior B or Senior Reserve rugby is such a special feeling.
A long trip to play on the High Veld of Mt Somers could entail snow, frosty grounds or a 23 degree scorcher, and definitely an even longer trip home.
The annual cup clashes between certain teams, marking special relationships, special players or friends passed away far, far too soon, and past friends are always keenly contested, and the big one at the end of the year is not why you play the first few games of the season, but it’s a helluva carrot in those last two or three!
We played in a few finals in my time, won a few too.
It’s not just the cup you hold up at the end of the day that is the heart of Senior Reserve Rugby, it’s the people you hold it up with (and likely drink from it afterward in a covid-responsible way) that make senior reserve rugby what it is.
As I said at the start, times have changed.
The world got busier and the club rooms got just a little less boisterous.
The names and faces around a club will change, the ageing
carpets and tables will be
replaced, the players will
become coaches, managers,
and eventually players again, then spectators, but the
spirit of the club lives on, in those of us scattered around the world looking on, those there now, the ladies in the kitchen, and in all those who have supported us in the 99 years so far to get here.
Good luck against Methven boys, Buzz Buzz.