The end of the rugby season is in sight. Just the County Cup to come this weekend and another big tournament the weekend just gone. Obviously my younger son’s under 11s team would win them both. Obviously.
They’ve always been a good team, right from under 8s and under 9s when they hardly had enough players to sustain a team, but this season they’ve been even better. Before this weekend, they’d scored 159 tries and conceded just seven all season. They hadn’t lost a single game. Last year’s County Cup final was controversial and disappointing. This year it was going to go our way.
My son wasn’t picked for the starting line-up of the first game. Disappointing.
He’s been there since under 7s, one of very few players who has, and has always been a first team player. He’s not good at tackling, but others can do that. He’s fast and he’s always in the right place. The assistant coach has described him as ‘one of the best wingers in the county’. (Proud face.)
He came on for the second half and they won they game 4-0. All going to plan.
He didn’t start the second game either. But he came on for the second half.
Being a winger can be a thankless task. In a team of very skilled players it’s not always necessary to pass the ball (even though they’ve had it drilled into them that they should). There can be a certain amount of selfishness among players who want to get the try for themselves rather than the team. But they passed the ball down the line, just as they should, and out to the wing.
And my boy scored!
A few minutes later, it happened again.
A 3-0 victory and my boy had scored two of the tries.
Surely that guaranteed him a start for the third game?
It didn’t. It didn’t guarantee him a place in the second half of the game either.
But I got. It was tactical, right? Weaken the team. Do enough to scrape a victory and win the game. Keep your stronger players fired up and full of energy for the semi-finals? That made sense.
They won the third game 2-1 and were through to the semi-finals. It was all or nothing. No runners-up. Win the group or go home.
Everyone was positive and excited. This was going exactly to plan. The cup was in our sights.
The game kicked off. My son was still a sub. And, to make matters worse, the opposition didn’t get the memo. The memo that says our team always win, our team don’t concede tries. The opposition were brilliant. Fast, strong and their passing was faultless. They could tackle our team and we couldn’t tackle them. This just doesn’t happen.
The inevitable happened. They scored a try.
And then they scored another.
2-0 down at half-time and the opposition still playing brilliantly. The writing was on the wall. They’d won, we’d lost.
They’d change the team at half-time, right? Bring on my son? The kid who has always been their first choice winger?
No, they stuck with the kid who’d only been there a couple of weeks. Who wasn’t as fast as my son and hadn’t scored two tries in the few minutes he’d been on the pitch. The kid got injured. My son would come on, right? No. They brought another kid on.
They lost 2-0. Out of the cup.
The team felt deflated, but I felt deflated for my son. That he hadn’t been given a chance. In a way, I didn’t much care about the result. My son could neither take the credit or the blame because he, quite literally wasn’t in the game. I’ve always loved that rugby team. We’ve been there through thick and thin. My son has been to all the training every week for four years in rain, wind and ice. He’s scored tries, he’s helped win games. But I felt detached. He’d been left out.
In the heat of the moment, we even discussed whether to go to the County Cup. For me, not to go would be unfinished business. We’ve been a part of that team for so long and I want to see this season through, no matter what. I don’t want to be a quitter and walk away. If this is our last season, then I want to show that we’re stronger and more committed than the newbies that come and go, yet get inexplicably picked for the team.
This is not how I wanted our season and, potentially, our relationship with the club, to end.
I have my theories about why my son is no longer first choice for the team. In the heat of the moment, I considered sharing them. My blog, my opinion and all that. But I knew I’d take a load of sh*t for them and, frankly, I don’t want that. So I’ll leave it just as it is.