“This is a reminder that we have training tonight, at the usual time and place. It will be our last official training session for the season; please make the effort, as we have much to prepare for the upcoming match on Saturday. As to Saturday, kick-off is at 1:30pm. It has been decided that we will mark the auspicious occasion with a proper run out of the tunnel. Thus, come 1:29pm, feel free to bring your son, daughter, pet llama, Elmo’s goldfish, your girlfriend, someone else’s girlfriend, or some random bird from Sticky Fingers, so they can say they have run with the mighty Bulls of Hong Kong.” – Tommy D, Facebook message to team
That Thursday night, and the Monday before it, was highlighted by our Donkey Ball training sessions. James outlined the plan at the beginning of the week, saying the backs would practice forward moves and the forwards would practice backs moves. Donkey Ball was the call we decided to shout when backs flip flopped and ran up as forwards on a penalty, the forwards staying behind to run a back line – God forbid. Then we practiced a 13 man line out, which we felt would confuse the competition, provided we set up right and didn’t screw up the throw. The 13 man line out meant people like Rian and I jumped into the line,
behind Paul Su
and Conrad. One of the options was to have the jumper dish the ball off to the scrum half, who’d remain outside the line.
On Thursday, James explained to those not present on Monday what we were doing. “The forwards went with Elmo and did back moves…” James said.
“Useless cunts…” Elmo muttered.
We did a few drills and then gathered together for the famous 13 man line out.
“And what will happen here,” James instructed, “is that Teddy will jump, and then toss the ball to Nick, and Nick will run like a little cunt around the side here.”
What do we call that play, someone asked. Silence. Long pause.
“Cunt ball?” Someone suggested.
“Okay then. Cunt ball it is,” James said. Fandy picked up the ball to throw it in. As the thrower, Fandy wasn’t paying attention to the details on the field. The play was passed on to him through word of mouth.
“Hunt ball?” Fandy asked. “Why ‘hunt’ ball?”
“Just throw it in!” Someone shouted at him.
The backs practiced Blitz, Truck and Champagne ball. It was quite a spectacle. James instructed us to shout a word that began in L or R to signal the direction on Blitz – anything but ‘left’ or ‘right.’ We all tried to think desperately fast of words we could substitute.
“Lymph node!” Ollie shouted.
“Lynch mob” someone else yelled.
Andy set up for a Blitz left.
“Left, left!” Andy shouted. “Ah shit. Sorry guys.”
“Andy, aren’t you a fucking pilot? You guys have an entire language for this?” one of the backs noted.
“Yep, sorry guys. Lima! Lima!” Andy continued.
After one of the drills, I caught up with a guy who plays for one of the other teams in the Club. He asked me where we stood in the standings, the Grand Championship, etc. It was a tough conversation.
“You guys must be one of the only teams ever to win the league and not even make the tournament,” he noted, not trying to be mean, but just trying to assess our situation as I explained it to him. It was a fair assessment.
On game day, we set up to run with our children as mascots, per Tom's Facebook message. Somebody asked Youngy if he had any children that he knew of.
As several of us grabbed our actual children to run out, Elmo grabbed Tom, the 17 year old Colt who looks 13, and ran with him on the field. For a brief moment, it did look as if Elmo could have sired Tom. After a family photo, the game began, the clouds burning off under a winter sun.
I was on the sideline, when Richard Simpson approached, pitcher in hand.
“Hi Richard, how’s it goin?” I asked. Richard poured a beer, thought for a second.
“I woke up two hours ago -- my suit on, shoes on, wallet empty – to the sound of Po puking,” Richard said. He handed a beer up to Po. (Richard, a proud Bull, supported us faithfully this year, home games and away. Po as well!)
A few minutes into the game, HKFC staffers came to the sideline saying they needed Teddy and mentioned something about an emergency. I knew his wife was pregnant and I thought, this is it. I immediately imagined all Bulls in full kit showing up to the delivery room to celebrate, and then I felt really bad for his wife. Turns out, false alarm for Teddy.
My sister and brother in law were in town. They were on the sidelines watching, with my small children. I was telling them about what a great bunch of guys our coaches are, putting in all that time, energy. Nice Irish boys who deserve a lot of credit, blah blah blah. My sister and brother in law were watching James, when a play occurred near him that he didn’t like.
“Kick him in the fucking head!!” James shouted, a gutteral scream. I couldn’t tell if that was a question or a statement. Did he see a kick to the head or was he commanding it? My sister whispered something to her husband.
The game wasn’t much of a contest. The Bulls rolled all over the Tai Po Dragons, who never gave up, but were now match for us that day.
We tried one 13 man line out that basically failed, prompting a profane tirade from James that not even a cabin boy on a Merchant Marine ship with 40 drunken sailors has ever heard.
At half time, James reminded us that the goal was to put 100 points on the board. “No mercy!” he said.
He said that only 35 minutes remained in the season, and that afterwards, we'd be so bored we'd “pulling our plumbs.”
“Or, well, someone else will be pulling their plumbs,” Karl chimed in.
Too many tries and great plays occurred on the pitch that day. A few highlights stick out, though. Rian scored a try, had an awesome catch deep in our zone, and ran like wild. Joe Kay
, one of the Bulls present during the 2001 Grand Championship, trained all week and played a solid half.
John returned after an injury and ran as far as he has in 20 years with a dash up the middle. Ashley scored at least 3 tries and had some great kicks.
Youngy, our founding father, returned to the pitch in great form. When the final whistle blew, the Bulls celebrated a fine win to cap off the team’s first ever league championship season.
Sometime around the middle and end of the game, my sister saw Braggy and said to my brother in law, “there he is. There he is. That’s the guy!” The night before, fresh off a flight from the states, my sister spotted a devastatingly handsome man, spectacles on, standing in the airport, bald head glistening in the lights. “Mike, Mike!” she shouted, only to find out that it definitely wasn’t me. The guy she approached was on crutches, and she’d have known or heard about it if I were crutch bound. She put it out of her mind, and later found me near exit A.
And that day of our Taipo victory, she spotted Braggy and realized that the bloke she saw in the airport was actually him. The legend of the “Chrome Dome” backline lives on (Graham, Big Braggy, Little Braggy, Yours truly…) As we stood around in a circle after the game, Callum joined in, wearing a visor with curly hair poking out, looking way better than Youngy's photo shopped version of Callum, pre-chrome dome. His brother Little Braggy wore the curly hair
visor that evening as well, judging by Facebook photos.
Congratulations to every Bull, current or former, young or old, for a great 2011-2012 season. Special thanks to James and Karl for coaching us, and all our supporters who were there all season. Until next season…