Sunday, September 03, 2006


Hamish McShanks Secret Diary - Part 99

Hamish McShanks Secret Diary w/e 3rd September 2006

I am about to make a sweeping statement but I think it’s one that holds true. ‘For most men; representing your country at sport is the ultimate honour’ There I’ve said it, you can come out from behind the sofa now! I know, it wasn’t very controversial was it. However it is relevant to the following story. Most men have dreamt of being at the centre of some form of sporting heroics. Holding the World Cup aloft perhaps, scoring the winning try in the six nations, seeing the chequered flag as you cross the line at your home Grand Prix, smashing a forehand winner down the line to win Wimbledon. Don’t lie guys, we’ve all done it. It’s what we do, we are men. We like to dream.

A few of the more avid Shanks readers will also know I am quite keen on ‘touch rugby’ or ‘tig’ as it is often referred to by the facetious. Well no one was more surprised than me to find out there is actually a tig World Cup, sorry ‘Touch World Cup’. It’s been on the go since 1987 so I am a wee bit behind the times, nineteen years if you want to be picky. Anyway the next one is being held in South Africa in January 2007 and Scotland is entering a side.

Now I know what you’re thinking ‘so what? You’re well past it old man?’ but that’s where you are wrong(ish)! They have a ‘masters’ category for over 35’s! Again I can hear the snigger ‘Thirty five stone is it’ guffaw guffaw. But ye can shut yer yappers cos I was invited to go to the trials! Yes I was! So there, na na na naa naaaa. Ahem. Anyway the trials were this Sunday…….

Things didn’t bode well as I ambled up to the registration tent. There were a number of very athletic looking blokes warming up nearby. Their jogging looked faster than my sprinting ‘ok Ham don’t worry, those must be the guys for the main side’, ‘the crumblies must be somewhere else’ I knocked on the tent flap and entered with some trepidation.

Introducing myself I watched with increasing anxiety as the guy scanned the list on his clipboard. It’s never an encouraging sign when somebody is sucking air in through their teeth and clucking their tongue noisily ‘Shanks, Shanks Shanks’ he muttered whilst rummaging through all his sheets. Eventually he stabbed his ballpoint pen on the paper and glanced up at me ‘Ham Shanks?’ he enquired ‘yes?’ I replied with relief ‘nope we don’t have you on the list’ my heart sank to my boots ‘but I was invited’ I mumbled lamely. The waterworks were about to come on when one of the other organisers came into the tent ‘are you the guy from Stirling?’, ‘aye that’s me’ I replied whilst trying not to bubble ‘better get a move on were just about to start the warm up

My relief was short lived. I emerged from the tent to see twenty guys warming up; none of them looked like they were near thirty years old. I wondered whether some of them had even started shaving yet. The gentleman taking training was a sinewy looking individual with the look of ‘special forces’ about him. Before I could enquire where the ‘masters’ were training we were off ‘Ok guys follow me for a quick warm up’. Twenty minutes later we returned. Give him his due, we were warm. You could have fried an egg on my baldy heid.

Despite my crimson colour and drenched shirt I had managed to keep up with the young whippets so I was quietly pleased. I would be laughing when I joined up with my fellow oldies ‘Ok guys when I shout out your name come and pick up a red bib’, ‘John, Dave, Bill, Steve…’ One by one all the fit young speed merchants trotted forward to pick up their bibs. ‘I pity the poor basta*ds that have to chase them’ I whispered to the guy standing next to me ‘what do you mean?’ he replied handing me a blue bib ‘were playing them’, ‘Mmgnnfwhassat?’, ‘we are the opposition’, ‘but but but what about the over thirty fives game?’, ‘oh the games are all together, didn’t you know?

Our team captain came over for a motivational chat and to go over tactics. I missed most of the motivational part as I was still in shock. Things went from bad to worse when he started discussing strategy ‘okay guys everyone here knows the wedge formation yeah?’, ‘I-‘, ‘good, right we’ll also use the standard play calls, Green, Cut, Anchor and Widget yeah?’, ‘what ar-‘, ‘and of course always remember to draw your man sideways so we can open up a route for the gold play’ There was a chorus of laughter as if having to mention such an obvious play was ridiculous ‘what the fu-‘

‘Okay I need to know your preferred positions’ he went round the team one by one. My mouth was hanging open as I’d never heard of any of the ‘positions’ they were talking about. ‘Okay, Ham are you a link player or an outside wingman?’, ‘Uum link, yup definitely a link player’, ‘Okay you pair up with Chris then

Chris was six feet two with muscles on his muscles. He had a lean hungry look and wasn’t enamoured at being placed on the ‘possibles’ side. I think he had most definitely expected to be playing in red for ‘The Probables’. Turned out he didn’t suffer fools gladly either. I tried to break the ice by nudging him jovially in the ribs, nearly breaking my elbow in the process ‘what a team Chris eh eh’ nudge nudge ‘we could be twins eh Chris eh eh ha ha ha…..’ he glared at me. I was definitely Danny DeVito.

In my heart of hearts I can’t really say I expected to make the team but there was always a glimmer of hope. Any tiny flicker of optimism that burnt in my heart was swiftly snuffed out with the first play of the ball. The dummy half passed to his outside. Chris pointed at me ‘he’s yours’, ‘I’ve got him covered’, ‘I’ve got him covered’ I shouted confidently. There was a flash of red in my peripheral vision and I heard the referees whistle blow behind me ‘and that’s a try!’

Chris wasn’t happy….

He was even less happy when I repeated the feat six more times. People always say they like consistency, but they don’t really.

Anyone for tiddlywinks? It’s the World Champs in 2008? ……..


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