Rugby sends out powerful message

WINNING a first Island cap is always special but these rugby people acknowledge the achievement better than anyone.

Alun Jenkins, who played in 15 Siams, hands a debut shirt to Matt Armstrong.
 (Picture By Sophie Rabey., 30158860)
Alun Jenkins, who played in 15 Siams, hands a debut shirt to Matt Armstrong. (Picture By Sophie Rabey., 30158860)

Trust me, Wednesday’s pre-Siam shirt presentation evening at the GRFC headquarters was an occasion with a capital O.

Rugby has long done this sort of thing, but it took a leading light in another big team sport, cricketer Lee Savident, to pick up on its value and having watched the Guernsey Press video in his tweeted message said: ‘It is a very powerful message and just quite simply outstanding. Huge kudos goes to the organisation for bringing this very personal touch for the players.’

Certainly, the facial expressions on men, big and not-so-big, old and new, at this annual handout told their own story.

If the newbies did not know it already, the Siam is no ordinary big match – it carries extraordinary value with it.

I bet those men and women players went home buzzing with pride and excitement.

At the same time I felt pangs of sadness for some of our proud veterans who lined up and heard it confirmed that in numerous attempts they never got to win against Jersey.

They included two of the club’s all-time great scrum halves, Richie Jenkins and Malcolm Barnes – a travesty to their skills.

But on Wednesday both men got to know their place in the history of Island rugby lives on.

Contrast this with football.

The winning of the Muratti cap is a treasured thing too, but in approaching half a century in this job never have I sensed the authorities have cashed in on the big-match selection quite like rugby does.

Back in the days of Barclays, Sure and Norman Piette GFA awards nights, when it was the norm for a big name guest to come over, say a few words and pose with the year’s star performers, the Muratti cap was belatedly handed over then.

As it was likely to be June when that happened, the thrill was possibly diminished.

When did I last see a Muratti cap being handed over?

In recent times you would have had to be in the Springfield or Hockey Club bar, where both sides have made semi-formal presentations and said a few words.

Football, we know, is different to rugby when it comes to team announcements.

The oval-ballers name their XVs days out from the big day – the footballers often keep it hush-hush to the day in fear of giving away tactical clues.

While not expecting that routine to change any time soon, football and cricket and hockey, for that matter, could conceivably still drum up the value of an inter-insular cap with a pre-game gathering, and raise the bar of sporting occasions which could do more to sell themselves.

As for the now annual Siam eligibility drama...

We in the media will argue that it always help to have a bit of pre-match argument, so the behind-the-scenes Siam selection shenanigans have given – again – an extra edge to the day.

It really has become a flummoxing situation which I now suspect will never be fully addressed. Is it bad for the game or the image of it?

Not really as long as the Siam – both men and ladies – remains an open, largely unpredictable contest, however that is achieved.

Long, unbeaten runs by any island, any sex, will do the real harm. In Siam terms that was between the 1970s and the 90s.

So as long as there is an acknowledgement of that, on both sides, the Siam will remain a triumph, especially with three of them to savour this season.

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