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The Characters Within Rugby

A while back I had the idea to write a screenplay.

I should preface this by saying that I have absolutely no experience in that kind of writing. But what the hell.

The idea I had was for an Office-style mockumentary, only instead of a paper company the cameras would follow an amateur rugby club. Rugby clubs the world over offer certain archetypes and these would make for excellent viewing. Every club has these certain men and women and some of these characters would be recognized from Manchester to Seattle to Mumbai to Auckland to Pretoria. 

The Old Boy (or Girl): In their late sixties, works at a car dealership or a construction firm. Every conversation includes a reference to one of the following—heavy wool kits, raking in the rucks, no subs, no lifting in the lineouts—and how the modern game is grossly inferior to the one played in the 1970s. Usually has a cigarette between their lips. Offers annually to repaint the inside of the clubhouse, shows up and drinks a few pints while managing to paint the same wall every year because, “Someone messed it up last time and no one pays attention to the details anymore.” Might have the club crest tattooed somewhere on their body. At the end of the day, has a heart of gold and would do absolutely anything for anyone involved with the club, be but aware they’ll complain the entire time.

The Superstar: Usually a flyhalf or center. Always talking about how they trained for three days with Manu Tuilagi. In actuality, stayed in the same hotel and saw him in the gym. Excellent player, but everyone around them drags them down. If only that pass had been better they’d have taken on those four defenders. Usually doesn’t attend socials because their “girlfriend already made plans”. Understands the game better than they leads on.

The Psychopath: Almost invariably a flanker or a tighthead. Uses smelling salts before matches. Could be 24 years old or 47, no one can actually be sure. Doesn’t usually start the fights on the pitch but is always there to support when something goes down. Often sweet and mild mannered off the pitch, likely works in IT. 

The Former Glory: Played four season overseas and never lets anyone forget it. Talks about their time in the French third division like they were touring with the Lions. Usually injured because “the physios here aren’t as good as the ones overseas.” Shows flashes of absolute class followed by loud declarations for anyone to hear. Recounts their exploits at socials, mainly to rookies who are spellbound. 

The Grinder: Not a great player, or even a good one. Often hands are made of frying pans. But shows up to every training fifteen minutes early. Always at the away games. When the coach asks for someone to hold the tackle pad, they immediately jump in. Likely to be voted Most Improved Player at the end of the season.

The Glue: Absolutely the life of the party. Mediocre rugby player at best, but top marks for the social. Always organizing the post-training drink ups. Comes up with the social themes. First to crack a joke in the scrum or lick an unsuspecting opponents ear. Probably has mates at all the other local clubs. Somehow ends the game dirtier than anyone else.

The Rager: Everyone knows to keep them away from the ref or the other team’s Rager. Like a Viking berserker, absolutely uncontrollable when they get the bloodlust. Once threatened to fight the opponent’s 70 year old coach. Off the pitch, works as a nurse or a pastor. 

The Athlete: Excels seemingly effortlessly at every athletic endeavor. Stand out footballer, great cricket batsman, maybe runs marathons in their free time. Put them on the wing and they’ll run forever. At fullback they’ll tackle head-on the opposing lock who broke through the defense. Mild and humble off the pitch.

The Rookie: Brand new to rugby. Mates brought them out and they have no idea what they’re in for. They either last two trainings or are in for life.

The Funny Talker (U.S. version only): Speaks with an accent, therefore immediately placed in the starting XV. Was actually an accountant in Dorset who played minis. Now the starting scrum half. 

These aren’t just caricatures, or stereotypes. These are real human beings all over the rugby playing world. Walk into any club and you’ll hear the same conversations—that time she scored on a 1 v 3 in the corner; that time the ref didn’t play advantage and it cost us the game in 1987; that time he fought the big lock with two caps for Scotland; the time she missed the tackle and got back up to make the next three; the time he held the opponents head down in the mud puddle until the ref made him let him up. 

See, these aren’t just made-up people. We all know these people—at least some of them, or combinations of them. And every one of them are at your wedding, your backyard bonfires, they’ll be at your child’s christening and at your funeral. Because this means more than just a list of personalities and traits. It means we get to do life with thirty mates and swap stories for the rest of our lives.

We few, we happy few, and all that. And if anyone knows anything about screenwriting, hit me up. Onward.