Hear The Roar
I went on an adventure one Friday night and that’s saying a lot coming from me who leads a relatively quiet life. And to make it even more interesting I actually quite enjoyed that adventure, which is probably even more surprising to those who know me as it involved the sport of Rugby. Yes, I’m very aware I live in maybe the world’s capital for Rugby but remember that I was born into a footballing family and come from one of the true footballing nations (The Netherlands), so for me to say I enjoyed my very first rugby match is saying a whole heap!
But my ‘adventure’ started even before the game kicked off though, and even before I drove into the wrong gate before the game (but the nice attendant let me park there anyway). It had in fact started the weekend prior when on a chilly Sunday morning I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Ok, I was where I can be found on many days, camera in hand ready to capture the action on the football pitch when low and behold a convoy of cars came up the drive, but the occupants didn’t quite resemble the football players I had come prepared to capture on film (junior representative players). Nope these players were a little bigger and carried peculiar shaped oval balls. Hmmm, maroon and gold colour kits, deer emblem? That’s all just a little ‘fishy’.
I was then introduced to what must be the nicest manager in Rugby circles, Mr Mike Mannix, and stood somewhat with jaw ajar as the players made their way out to the ILT artificial turf at Southland Football. I quickly regained some of my composure however, and spend the next hour or so happily photographing the training session and learn a few bits of lingo from a amused Coach Brad (Mooar), who at one stage made sure that I knew there were 15 players on the field during a game – which I was quite proudly able to confirm that yes, that’s probably the only bit I did indeed know about rugby! Not sure if the lack of knowledge is actually something to be proud of, but rugby is so very new in my world that I have to start somewhere in my quest for knowledge. I had a great morning at the training session; learning new things; meeting the staff and players; receiving a borrowed beanie when it became clear I left mine at home and the weather turned colder half way through the training session and finally being given the chance to take a team photo after training!! Such a nice bunch of guys! It was the prefect finish to a pretty good week.
So here I was a few days later making my way into Rugby Park Stadium for the opening game of the ITM Cup season of 2014. My first rugby game! So exciting! And I had no idea what to expect. Everything was a new experience. The pre-game entertainment was ripper rugby for the very young players from around the region, from memory one team was from Te Anau. They couldn’t have been more than 7 years old. Imagine being that young and being able to play on the very field as the Southland Stags, under the lights, in front of a crowd sitting in the stands! What a thrill! Steve-O the Stag (the Southland Stags mascot) was on hand to calm any nerves and to provide encouragement to the youngsters and was mobbed at the end for a photo with both teams. That’s a night they won’t forget in a hurry I’m sure.
The match against Bay of Plenty was off course what we had come for and we weren’t disappointed by a Southland Stag win – much to the delight of the vocal fans in the stadium (34-23 was the final score). It will take me a few games to get used to the flow of the game, not to mention the rules but I was surprised at myself that I enjoyed it as much as I did. The fans obviously seemed to love it all, whole families were scattered around the grounds, some people bringing blankets to ward off the cold while others braved the brief shower of rain without shelter, they were obviously deeply devoted fans. There were plenty of kids in the stadium, most clutching a ‘kid pack’ upon entry into the grounds, and they were just as vocal in their support as their adult counterparts. The Sky Sports camera man with his assistants were running backwards and forwards in their own ‘corridor’ along the sideline, staying within their allocated lines while keeping up with the play on the field, just in front of where I had stationed myself around the half way line. I had a pretty good vantage point to check things out on my first night. I didn’t venture too far from my confort zone but as I wandered around the stadium I met some of the people who make it all happen – administrators, coaches, ushers, security, catering, admittance, ball-boys, mascots – all the people who normally may go unnoticed but without whom the game just wouldn’t happen. From past experience these are the very people who bleed their club colors as much as (if not more than) any avid fan. Speaking of which, I was also in a perfect spot to watch the fans during the game and it didn’t take me long to figure out that different parts of the stadium ‘house’ different sectors of fans, and in the coming weeks I’ll work up the courage to mingle amongst them, to get their vibe and pick up some very important ‘lingo’. That in itself sounds like another adventure!
The Southland Stags play North Harbour away next, but are back at Rugby Park Stadium on August 30th, 2014 with an absolute treat to the rugby fanatic. Not one but three games on that day – starting at 3pm with Southland Metro v Otago, the main game at 5.35pm Southland Stags v Otago followed by Southland Under 19’s v Otago Under 19’s at 7.35pm. How fantastic is that? For more info and ticket information check out the Rugby Southland website:
Their facebook page:
Rugby Southland Twitter feed:
And off course all the images taken at the game against Bay of Plenty are on our pinterest page: