Here come the Men In Black
It’s the MIB’s, uh, here come the MIB’s
Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
They won’t let you remember
Nah nah nah.
The good guys dress in black, remember that
Just in case we ever face to face and make contact
The title held by me, MIB
Will Smith – Men In Black
Full marks to everyone involved in the organisation and delivery of yesterday’s Referees’ Evening.
It was interesting, entertaining and, above all, highly informative and as an initial Supporters’ Club offering, it was just the sort of activity that will attract members to future events.
I have to start with an apology…it went on a bit longer than I’d anticipated so I had to do a runner, or more a waddle in my case, in order to catch a train so I failed to say a big thank you to everyone involved.
I think Nigel Harrison had a lot to do with the organisation, supported by other members of the committee – a great effort on their part and I’m sure they will be pleased that it was so well attended.
Thanks, too, should go to Rowland Winter, Boris Stankovich, Eoghan Grace, Pete White and Rhodri Adamson for their contributions as well – particularly Boris who not only provided a real insight into the dark arts of the front row, but also managed to make it entertaining as well. If ever a man loved his job, then it’s Boris and I swear he would have gone on until the early hours had he been given the chance. It was as much a privilege listening to him last night as it is watching him play at the weekends…
But the biggest thanks must go to Rhys Davies who not only fronted the evening in a relaxed and informal way, but also provided commentary on a number of video clips detailing aspects of rugby’s many laws, especially those pertaining to foul play.
It was fascinating to listen to someone in the know talk through various incidents, explaining why decisions were made, or not as in the case of the Hartpury game, using clips from the ref’s mike to reinforce the points he was making.
What was particularly obvious to my untrained spectator’s eye is just how little you actually see when watching a game ‘live’. Often it wasn’t until Rhys had stopped a clip and explained to us what we should be looking for, that I was actually able to spot the offence. As a supporter I tend to follow the ball, or even the player, rather than see things holistically which is definitely a requirement of a referee.
Rhys also detailed the role of Assistant Referees, what they should be looking out for and how they can support the referee. It was evident from listening to Rhys that a good AR can be a real asset to the referee and to the success of the game – what I hadn’t realised was that approximately 90% of ARs at our level are ex-referees, often having refereed at a higher level than National 1.
Rhys made it clear that some are better than others, with those ARs who offer a running commentary being particularly annoying (to the extent that as a referee he’s even switched them off in the past)! However, equally when we have a pop at ARs for not getting involved, it might well be that they have been via the ref’s earpiece, only for the referee to ignore their comments.
Rhys took us through a number of clips, asking us to either spot the offence leading to a yellow or red card or asking what the resulting punishment should be. He made it clear that many decisions regarding foul play allow for little in the way of subjectivity on the part of the ref…’the rule says this, therefore I have no option but to..’, particularly regarding tip/high tackles. The same isn’t necessarily true of the punishment resulting from a red card though, where it very much depends on the make-up of the panel convened.
After watching several clips of varying scenarios, Rowland Winter, Boris, Eoghan Grace and the two scrum halves, Pete White and Rhodri Adamson, came in to for a q+a session.
RW was asked by Rhys what the major difference was between Cambridge and Coventry…and the answer was quite revealing. Cambridge, he feels, are a ‘big small club’ and Coventry are a ‘small big club’. Without wishing to agree with his judgement on Cambridge, knowing as I do very little about them, his comments about Cov are spot on…although I’d tend to go one stage further and suggest that until fairly recently the club tended to believe itself to be simply ‘a big club’ in some respects.
In terms of how the season has gone so far, he felt it was pretty much as expected. He reiterated what he has said previously, namely that this season is very much about putting everything in place to secure Championship rugby, not only in terms of what we see as supporters, but also in terms of the infra structure to support the team. Bringing all that together as well as 25 plus players from 25 plus teams, was never going to be a quick fix. There is no time limit on promotion; there never has been and there won’t be either. It will happen when everything comes together.
RW went on to say that he was beginning to look for a little more stability in terms of team selection now. The coaches had a pretty good idea of the 25 players they felt were going to be the basis of squad over the coming months and that other than in the front row, there would be less rotation than we saw in the first 10 or 11 games, the front row being the exception because by rotating them we would have the advantage over most teams in our league after 20 games or so because they didn’t tend to rotate. Therefore, in the final third of the season they would be struggling with their fitness levels whilst our front six will have played a lot less..
With regards to Saturday’s game, Boris has been rested as the artificial surface doesn’t lend itself to his game (or age!), and the coaches have opted for a very mobile set of forwards, with the exception of maybe Jimmy Litchfield and Brendon Snyman. Rosslyn Park tend to play by numbers and in that sense are somewhat predictable, so Cov will go for all out attack.
The quick taps are back and those travelling down to the game can expect to see Cov at their most expansive, hoping to get the bonus point by half time. The artificial pitch down there lends itself to Cov’s game whilst RW feels that Rosslyn Park have yet to adapt totally to it. It certainly sounds as if Cov will be looking to run RP ragged early on and have picked a team that is mobile in the forwards and has plenty of pace in the backs.
Should be an entertaining one then!
When asked about the difference as he saw it between the Championship and National 1, Eoghan Grace deemed second tier rugby to be dull and boring, ‘it is as it is’. The club, he said, is putting into place coaching and support structures that will ensure the club is ready for Championship rugby when it happens…and it will happen according to Eoghan.
Pete and Rhodri (when he was allowed to get a word in edgeways by Boris!), spoke about what it was like to play behind such a powerful scrum (the best Pete White had played behind), as well as general comments about the role of the scrum half and the need to understand the finer arts of the scrum in order to be an effective scrum half.
Well, he talked in a really interesting way about some of the mysteries of the front row, commentating on more clips from Rhys Davies, explaining how the opposition attempted to disrupt the scrum and what to look out for as a spectator. He also took us through, in some detail, the incidents in the Hartpury game that lead to the uncontested scrums, explaining why the referee made the decisions he did, talking us though the scrums via the official recording of the game.
What was abundantly clear is the Boris is coaching the forwards to the highest standards, far in a way above what is happening at most National 1 clubs. Whilst he might be in the ‘arse-end’ of his career (I think that was the phrase he used!), when he does decide to hang up his boots, or that decision is made for him, he will have left a legacy – players who will have benefited hugely from playing with him and learning from him.
One can only hope that he remains with us for the next few seasons as a coach once he retires so that the Development Squad youngsters, like Joe Foreman, Jake Byrne and Will Priestley, will have the benefit of working with him as well.
The evening ended just before 10.00 pm and would have gone on a fair bit longer had Rhys not brought proceedings to a halt.
It was a rare treat for me as a Coventry supporter.
As someone who doesn’t tend to chat to players in the bar after a game (mainly because I’m in awe of them most of the time – it’s that standing in the shadow of giants thing again…), the chance to listen to them talk on a semi-informal level about not just rugby generally, but also Cov specifically, was so enjoyable.
The Supporters’ Club is helping to break down the barriers between the club and those who support it. It’s something that RW has encouraged through an ‘open door’ policy since day one and if we are to understand what the club is trying to do and how it is going about doing it, then events such as this one are so important.
I know in the past I’ve been as guilty as most in being critical of what appears to be happening, and probably unfairly so.
But in the past the club haven’t always explained what is that they’re trying to do…so supporters were often left to make assumptions some of which I’m sure, on reflection, were incorrect, leading to a lack of trust on both sides.
Not so now…
A really worthwhile evening, then, for all sorts of reasons.
There are plenty of other rugby related areas that could be addressed in the same way – lineouts, the three-quarters, fitness/training/injuries etc., not to mention the business side as well with the plans for the ground, the proposed synthetic pitch and so on.
Even, perhaps, ‘An Audience With…’ featuring past players like Gully, Steve Thomas, Marc Thomas and so on, hosted perhaps by our own John Butler…now that would be interesting!
Anyway, needless to say, I enjoyed yesterday’s event immensely.
I’m looking forward to the next one already….
And in homage to Rhys Davies and all referees who do such a thankless job at times…
Here are…’The Men In Black’…
The best kept secret in the universe…the best, last and only line of defence:
Answers yesterday’s quiz later on today!
It’s very late…