This little Prop just could not sleep, because his thoughts were way too deep. His mind had gone out for a stroll and fallen down the rabbit hole…
Continuing the discourse of the folk we meet when charging down the street with your local rugby team, today we discuss the Half, also known as Scrum-Half, Half-Back, Smart-Half, Half-Hole, Half-Wit… whatever you want to call them, they wear no9.
Some may find it surprising, but I generally genuinely like no9s. The true first-principles of their role heartens me on so many levels; the plucky little Hobbit in the face of rampaging Uruk-Hai, or the intrepid Terrier gamely holding court between the Mastiffs and the Greyhounds, or the Hare outsmarting the Hounds and all that. But if only the incumbents were generally worthy of the love…
See the 9 is a midget mixing it among giants. And it truly takes a mad bravery to do as they do. And thus they deserve love. They carry tremendous responsibility on their wee shoulders. Primarily they act as the coordinating lynch-pin between Forwards and Backs. But they are also entrusted to befriend the Referee, possess passing accuracy worthy of SEAL Team 6, kick short and long off both feet and possess Steve Bradbury opportunism to take advantage of lazy defenders. Well, that’s the dream anyway. And the reality is not too far from that truth because, to be frank, they either do it and so survive, or they don’t and so they won’t.
For instance, in attack the No9 stands under the lineout jumper anticipating a ball that will be thrown anywhere but where it should be, knowing all the while they will have to regather it and snap off a sniper’s pass in microseconds to some breezy 10 (who won’t be paying attention). And he must do so all in-time to take evasive action himself to elude the opposing, slobbering Psychotic No7 and the Deranged No2 coming at him with their own visions of enacting the Pincer-of-Death manoeuvre on his skinny ass. It’s more akin to WWE wrestling than any game of gentlemen.
Alternatively, Halves get to root around the base of a ruck to rip their own ball clear, while praying to Dear God and the Referee that no shambling Lock of Chewbacca-sized proportions comes through the centre of the corpse-strewn bone-yard of the ruck to put a shoulder in his teeth because “He played the ball Sir! He played the ball Sir!”
Have you ever heard of Coursing? Well this is it, in real time, but with humans instead. Watching the No9 is a bit of David Attenborough rabbit-eludes-hounds experience, but one where you also get a bit of extra value for money by hearing the rabbit continuously commentate on their situation to the narrator, who is slowly but surely getting the shits with him, while you sit there chuckling and saying either one of two things; “How the Hell did he pull that off?” or “Yeh, he’s proper fukked.”
And the dog theme continues as defensively many coaches direct 9s to be the ‘Dog Chaser’ and provide yet another cover-defence option by following the play one pass behind and 5 metres deeper behind the tackle-line. This is so as when the marking Faerie and both Flankers and likely the no8 all missed their assigned tackles, there is still someone else to blame. The fact that Jonah Lomu’s bigger brother, after he had just smashed through four other tacklers, in now bearing down on a guy of all 4ft 10in and maybe 70kg (on a wet day) has nothing to do with the fact the Half is just about to miss his cover-tackle assignment and bear the blame.
Physically, Halves tend to be small. The size issue is understandable because the position calls for lightening quick responses and it is easier for garden variety homunculus to get down low and close to the ball. Shortness also helps them elude decapitation manoeuvres from opposing Flankers and the Hooker (not always the opposing one) and does in-general help folk feel some begrudging man-luv for the wee varmint.
However, Halves then tend to undo all this goodwill by, in true little-dog fashion, making way too much noise to be good company. Seemingly in direct disproportion to their diminutive stature, the sheer volume and dimensions of their incessant and frankly unintelligible crap, in non-stop stream, is just baffling. Particularly given it does them no good beyond pissing everyone off. Halves argue with everyone; opponents, Refs, their own team mates, the touch-judge, the canteen ladies, the coach, the ball boys, even people who aren’t even at the game frequently seem to be getting a spray. But then again, no one is ever quite sure it was them that got a spray, because the velocity of the chat is such to make it seem there are no breaks between words. Thus no-one is ever quite sure about what he just said.
“GeraroundhereontheleftontheleftontheleftBreakBreakBreakHe’sgoingblindblindblindTommythesweepersweepersweeperheisyoursyoursyours…” Seriously it’s worse than trying to read the Hansard of a Welsh auctioneer on speed. But everyone gets pissed-off with them nonetheless.
Halves also tend to be the teams biggest ball-toucher. This isn’t a reference to call Child-Services or Police. But it is an acknowledgement that they touch the ball more often than anyone else does. And they can be relied on to somehow procure a ball in the most unexpected circumstances; touch-footy before a wedding because the bride is late? The resident Half will find a pill. But that said, the position does nevertheless seem to attract disproportionate numbers of Catholic school-teacher and Scout-Master types as well. So you go-figure.
Speaking of the Police, along with talking very fast, Halves tend to dress even younger than their size and their baby-fresh-faces suggest they are. Currently that means they wear white shoes with skinny jeans, puffer jackets and baseball caps. And they often seem disproportionately cashed-up. This frequently leads to fellow team-mates wondering just how good a Chemistry teacher their Half really is and pondering where exactly he gets all that energy and cash from.
Anyway, to the casual onlooker, Halves look very important as they puff-up and prance about like the little Roosters they are, throwing orders at the Ogres (Forwards), while screaming at the Fairies (the Fairies) to “Reload”. However, the truth is that in-reality their skills are generally developed as a Darwinian measure of survivability, and their incessant crap-chat, mixed with self-imposed self-importance and more than a dash of smart-arsery, means they are frequently the generator of punch-ups (often with their own team-mates) that they happily start but then bugger-off and leave to others to sort out – not that the Hooker or the Pyscho Flanker really mind that much.
The Half’s favourite laugh is being sure they get to pinch the ball from the scrum base before the No8 picks it up. Their biggest hate is the Hookers stray hand that emerges from a ruck to pull them face-first into the mud. And their favourite word is to shriek “Reload, RELOAD, RELOAD!” at the no10 in ever-increasing intensity while the no10 is ignoring him and being gob-smackingly blasé about the inevitable counter-ruck coming to decapitate them both.
Inspirations: Napoleon, Bilbo Baggins, Rocket the Raccoon, Scooter from the Muppets
Drink: Coke with acid
Politics: Socialists. Will also be the red-ragging, union rabble-rouser at the AGM before nipping out the back.
Motto: “Dude, you holding…?”