So here we are, continuing the ambling continuum of a Prop pondering the Pixies and meandering among the inexplicable.
Today we consider the First-Five, Five-Eight, Fly-Half, Outside-Half… or the guy tagged with any one of a plethora of other nonsensical terms, that when conjoined mean even less than one of a single anything. What this confirms is that no one really knows what the bloke wearing no10 is actually there for. And so, while I have played alongside a couple who were truly gifted artisans, I prefer the nomenclature of Standoff for the rest of the general denizenry of the 10 jersey because I find them … well … standoffish.
Positioned next in the backline after the no9, the Standoff has the 2nd highest touch-count in the team and is supposed to be the team’s primary strategist and ‘distributor’. Traditionally it is for him, and him alone, to decide if the ball coming a-flying from the no9, while in-midst of battling his own special version of a Jurassic Park action sequence, has the requisite spin, pitch, roll and yaw to tempt the Standoff to deign touch it with love and caress it onto the Centres, or grasp at it with disdain only to hoof it downfield for someone… anyone other than him… to chase. As-such, Standoffs tend to consider themselves the rugby equivalent of the Quarterback – he around whom all things turn.
But Standoffs do have one major thing in-common with Quarterbacks; given their distinct lack of the nimble elusiveness of 9s, both Quarterbacks and Standoffs are the most late-tackled player on their respective pitch. Be such late tackles the result of a real or imagined lack of protection from his Forwards, or due the perceived unbridled envy from fellow Backs, Standoffs thereby rapidly develop a highly vocalised phobia of any contact with any body at any time from a very young age. This then manifests as a predilection towards hypochondria-inspired, pseudo-concussions, heart aches, sore-wrists and all manner of other imagined injuries and ailments. But this is good. For they deserve it.
They deserve it because those same Standoffs unashamedly also promote themselves as the philosophical political scientists of the game. This self-imposed ‘wokeness’ is evidenced by Standoffs endless pub and BBQ theorising on scrums, lineouts, tackling, cleaning-out and generally all things good in rugby. And it deserves recognition that these deeply intellectual insights stem from complete distance-based, scientific surveillance, as opposed to any lived experience. They certainly wouldn’t foul their data or dirty their kit by actually doing any of those things themselves.
However, this sort of double-down, elitist behaviour will not to be tolerated by the more egalitarian worldwide Rugby Illuminati (the Front Row). While the Standoffs devotion to puritanical observance of the scientific principles of non-involvement is perversely worthy of accolade, given the lengths they undertake to actively avoid anything remotely physical, it is also the very essence of their curse. Thus, as the Force brings balance to the universe, the Rugby Illuminati and Referees’ Associations use Jedi mind-tricks to visit momentary blindness on Refs so as they generally miss the late-tackles on Standoffs by the nut-case psychotic Flankers and Hookers (except when it’s Dan Carter). This ensures any Standoff with any actual superiority among his fellow Backs (tactical, intellectual or otherwise) is returned back to the general mass rank and file of those other Pixies in their natural state – somewhere between that of a box of hammers and those single-cell amoebas found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
So, in case there was ever any doubt or lingering guilt, be comforted that late-tackling a Standoff is actually celebrated as an egalitarian undertaking of God’s work. It is a holy crusade. Thus it is good. Allahu Akbar and all that (Kalashnikovs firing in the background).
Not content with attracting late-tackles from opponents, Standoffs post-game pub-chat only encourages more of the same. Standoffs pub-chat generally consists of explaining to the Centres the 37 reasons why he hasn’t passed them a single ball for the past 3 matches, but rather has kicked every possession away instead. However, far from pacifying his team-mates, this only adds to the cumulative universal desire to late-tackle the Standoff. Only now it’s also his own team-mates hunting him as well.
Again, this is good. Standoffs deserve it. Blessed be the fruit. Allahu Akbar (more Kalashnikovs).
But all this late-tackling makes Standoffs rather sensitive and a bit high-strung. As such they tend to throw temper tantrums (remember David Knox v All Blacks?). And they also frequently flag themselves as emotionally ill-prepared to do pre-season, warm-ups, recovery sessions, sweep out the sheds, do a shift on the Under 10s BBQ, or actively participate in anything that may vaguely involve even a theoretical risk of raising his resting heartrate, let alone breaking a sweat. In these modern times Standoffs will even go to the extent of propagating their own hashtags to create an illusionary Insta-image of someone living their ‘best life’ outside of rugby. Yes really. I’ve seen it – along with requisite model dog and surfboards. Bloody Hell.
But the best part of all this, is that it gives the average team-mate and opponent alike common united cause to late-tackle lazy-bastard Standoffs again. Even well after they have retired. And again, this is good. They still deserve it even 10yrs later, be it if cornered at the Red Lotus Chinese restaurant, or when randomly spotted with his missus selecting Petunias in the Nursery section of the local Bunnings (having a Hooker saying “Here! Hold my sausage!” just took on a whole new meaning).
I once reflected on my opinion of Standoffs. I was concerned that perhaps I was ill-informed or unduly unkind. So, when next at the pub for the post-game, I was glad when I saw my Standoff momentarily alone. He was standing by the old fireplace, holding a purple, sparkly drink in a tall glass. I seized the moment and thrust him a beer in bonhomie and said ‘Hey’ in a misguided attempt to engage in conversation. However, only then did I realise I had absolutely nothing else to say to him. So in a fumbling effort to find common ground while he fussily posited my proffered beer on a nearby table, I asked him what the drink he was holding was called. He called it a Fruit Tingle. Thinking here was now a possible subject to mutually engage with, I looked around and asked if his missus was in the toilets. He sipped the Fruit Tingle through a curly straw, looked at me in baffled distaste and said he didn’t bring – or even have – a missus.
That was 1997. I don’t think I’ve meaningfully spoken with a Standoff since. There is no need.
Inspirations: Somewhere between Regina George and Cher Horowitz sits Sam the Eagle.
Favourite Drink: Fruit Tingles. Whatever the hell they are.
Politics: A sort of anguished-artist, EMO-ism because only they recognise their genius. And it’s true; only they think they possess genius. Greens.
Motto: “Ughhh! Get off of me! Oh… As If!?!?”