Hacksaw Sam…How come my dog don’t bark (when you come around)?

18Sep - by Tim - 2 - In Club talk

I got the baddest dog, he’ll bite anybody.
He bit my little brother, took a chunk out of my ol’ sweet li’l mother.
He bit the mailman – he sees him every day; he takes one look at you, he wanna jump up and play.
Now I ain’t got a clue as to what you puttin’ down, but

How come my dog don’t bark when you come around?

Dr John – How Come My Dog Don’t Bark (When You Come Around)?

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Any idea what the handwritten message on the binding on Sam’s wrist is?  Answers on a postcard to…

I wasn’t aware  until Sunday that Sam Tuitupou is known as ‘Hacksaw’ on the circuit.

Hacksaw Sam…

Kind of makes sense given the destructive nature of some of those hits he puts in during a game.

Last weekend’s The Rugby Paper featured a short article on Sam, written by Neale Harvey, focusing on his desire to stay in the game when he decides to call it a day as a player.

He’s keen on taking up a coaching role.

Whilst with Cov, Sam has been working towards a Level 3 coaching qualification with the express intention of undertaking more coaching as and when the time comes.

Initially, I feared that the article was going to reveal that this was something imminent, but the good news is that Sam appears to be considering an extension to his playing contract with Cov beyond this season.

My contract is up this year so we’ll have talks in the next couple of months over whether I stay on

It seems that by dropping down from the Premiership, Sam has regained his ‘zest’ for the game and he is hoping:

to help Cov back into the top flight

Sam, now 36 but looking even fitter than he did 12 months ago, says that since training part-time his body has recovered somewhat from the rigours of the Premiership and he is currently playing far more than he had anticipated. Two 80 minute performances in the last two games would certainly confirm that and I’m not the first person to have commented post Bedford that Sam seems to be playing some of his best rugby since joining us.

His midfield partnership with Andy Bulumakau at the weekend was one of the reasons that Bedford struggled to break us down as little as they did and his tackling won us important ball from opposition errors resulting at impact, or from Coventry steals thereafter.

He explodes into the tackle and once hit, players invariably stay down…

The article is positive in terms of Sam staying on an extra year at least as a player:

I thought my time was almost up as a player last year, but winning National One was very special and hopefully I can be part of this new generation push to the Premiership. If we do, then I might call it quits then!

He cites Pat Lam as his motivation to go into coaching  –  another South Sea Islander who achieved so much in the game and is now making a success out of coaching too:

It’s exciting to see how he’s going at Bristol and they couldn’t have asked for a better start in the Premiership than beating Bath in front of such a big crowd, so it inspires you to create the same sort of buzz here at Coventry

That’s hardly sounds like someone who is planning to move on before too long, does it?  

One of the big pluses for me since Rowland Winter’s arrival at Cov is that we no longer see the ‘journeymen’ of old come to Cov in the expectation of making a decent amount of money by doing relatively little. Too often we brought in players with big reputations who failed to deliver…

In the last couple of seasons, Winter has attracted some seasoned players to Cov, players with vast amounts of experience behind them but who have all shown a commitment to the club above and beyond what one might have reasonably expected – the Boultons, Makaafis, Nilsens and Tuitupous spring to mind. And even Boris seems eager to get involved, despite being contracted to Leicester.

And the likes of Ram, Preece, Beech, Gibbons, Halaifonua and the brothers Bulumakau seem no different…

There’s a real willingness on behalf of these players to commit themselves to the cause and as a result Cov supporters have welcomed them into the fold with open arms, adding to the family ethos of which the club is so proud.

Players have been happy to involve their partners and children as well, something that I don’t recall always being the case in past eras – which makes yesterday’s statement by the Chairman about supporters’ behaviour all the more disappointing.

But more on that in a future post.

I mentioned recently that Sammy was fast becoming something of a cult figure among Cov supporter. If he remains with us beyond this season he might well find himself offered a place amongst the pantheon of Coventry greats, not simply because of what he is helping the club to achieve on the pitch, but also for what he brings to the club in terms of commitment and dedication off it.

Sam’s final words in Sunday’s TRP only add to this aura of greatness for me:

Coventry have got huge ambition to get back into the Premiership.

They were a forced to be reckoned with back in the day and we’re working our way towards that again.

‘We’re’ – first person plural personal pronoun – us, together. Sam has clearly bought into what the club is trying to achieve and as such Neale Harvey’s article is great news for all Coventry supporters.

Sam’s future involvement at the club can only aid the cause yet further.

Get that contract signed please, Sam…

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For the second day running, I want to give a mention to a comment made on the Messageboard by Mark Harrison, this time in response to an article by Mark Forster on the ‘Cov Dog’…

Mark H suggested that the Cov Dog was:

a term applied in a time and a place…in the past.

It doesn’t ring true anymore

giphy38I was away when he wrote it, otherwise I probably would have responded at the time, but the more I think about it, the more I believe he’s right…

…in fact I’d go further and tentatively suggest that actually there never was a ‘Cov Dog’.

Heresy perhaps, but I’ll try and explain why I’ve come to that conclusion.

The Cov Dog is a term supporters have used in the past, myself included, when Cov have been up against it and done what teams at every level and in every sport do in those sorts of situations, they’ve  dug deep and shown a level of resilience and commitment above the norm.

It’s an expression I’ve used on a number of occasions in this blog to describe that unquantifiable force that some players (indeed some teams,) have; that willingness go the extra mile, a desire to play not for yourself or even your team mates, but for the Club and the supporters, for the badge on your shirt and the honour it brings.

giphy37I always kidded myself that it’s something specific to Cov – naïvely believing there was something special and unique about putting on the Coventry shirt that brought out the best in players including some great names from the past who might not have been the most talented, but who always left everything out on the pitch. Tony Gulliver, Paul Thomas, Steve Thomas and the like spring to mind, or more recently players like Matt Price and Sam Pailor…

But more recently I’m beginning to believe that actually it’s simply a self-perpetuating myth created because, as Coventry supporters, we understandably want our club to be that little bit more special…and of course to ‘intimidate’ visiting supporters and players by suggesting that Cov have that ‘X’ Factor that other clubs don’t have.

It was interesting to read Rowland Winter’s comments early doors when he mentioned that he’d seen no evidence of any Cov Dog either in the videos he’d watched prior to his arrival or in the first few games of the 2016/17 season. The term appeared to irk him somewhat…, although in fairness that might just be me misinterpreting his words.

giphy35What’s been noticeable to me is that almost without exception, the players that Winter has brought in have shown that kind of spirit from the onset, that willingness to put everything into a game without question, from the word go, well before they’ve really come to understand what it means to play for Cov.

I think we’ve tended to associate the Cov Dog with  loyalty to the club, crediting it to players who have been here some time and who wear the shirt perhaps with greater pride than those who have yet to understand why Cov is such a special club – or at least that’s what we’ve wanted to believe.

In the years prior to Winter’s arrival, players came and went with almost monotonous regularity and the likes of Hodgson and Price, players who remained with the club longer than three or four seasons, appeared to be the exception rather than the rule. Loyalty to one club is rare these days – and that’s not meant as a criticism of the players, just a reflection of the fact that there is far more movement between clubs than there ever used to be…or so it seems, anyway.

In truth though, this notion of the Cov Dog is nothing more than what you’d expected to see from every player, not matter their length of service to the club. To any club. Players at this level have to possess the ability to raise their game and to dig deep into their physical and mental resources when the situation demands. That’s not something unique to Cov.

Look at the two last home games against Jersey and Bedford…backs to the wall stuff involving several players making the first few appearances for the club.

That 10 minute spell against Jersey either side of half time when Cov were down to 13 players and defending for all their worth wasn’t so much about the Cov Dog, as it was about pride and passion and a professional (very much with a small ‘p’) approach.

I don’t for a moment believe they were consciously doing that for the club, or for the supporters…it was about natural instincts kicking in, proud players working for each other. That’s why as individuals they are as good as they are…they can turn it on whatever the team or the situation.

This is a different era. Far more is at stake in every game – rugby is almost unrecognisable from Michael Green’s ‘coarse rugby’ of the sixties and seventies, the era from whence the Cov Dog probably originated.

It is far more professional and in many ways better for it. Professional rugby and the advent of the national pyramid of leagues, with all the pressures resulting from promotion and relegation, mean there is far more to play for and careers hinge on league positions. Bonus points require teams to keep going for the whole 80 minutes and as a result there is arguably a greater intensity in the modern game, an intensity which requires, demands even, that X Factor in every game than one might otherwise have associated with the Cov Dog.

It’s something experienced by all teams, not just Cov.

giphy36For me, the dog has long since had it’s day…if it ever had one at all, that is.

And the other thing in all this is that I’ve always believed that players give of their best in every game…to suggest otherwise would seem very strange.

I’ve never played the game at any level beyond schoolboy, but I imagine that there are some games where you’re able to influence the result more than in others, but that’s not necessarily through a lack of effort.

To hold back from a tackle or hesitate for a high ball is exactly the kind of thing that leads to injury and unless you’re entirely focused I imagine you’re in danger of putting yourself or your team mates at risk…

If Cov do possess an X Factor then for me, it’s off the pitch rather than on it. The influence of the home crowd, as much on the opposition as on Cov, is probably far more significant than any spurious idea of a Cov Dog being unleashed, much as we all like to believe in it.

And whilst in the past I’ve certainly been drawn to what is a rather romantic ideal of what playing for Cov should be about, I recognise these days that the Cov Dog is more in the minds of the supporters than it is in those of the players.

No, this notion of the Cov Dog is one that is common to all players at all clubs – how many times have we seen the opposition do to us what we’ve did to both Jersey and Bedford in recent weeks? It’s no different.

If I am wrong and there really is a Cov Dog, then it’s obviously enjoyed itself with a few strays up and down the country…it’s not something Cov can alone lay claim to, that’s for sure.

There will be those who disagree – mine is as always just an opinion. But I do think we are deluding ourselves if we think the qualities we define as being implicit in the Cov Dog are unique to Coventry Rugby Club.

Sadly, it’s taken me the best part of 50 odd years to accept that…

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I’m spoilt for choice as far as songs with a canine theme are concerned, but given that I’ve attempted  to dispel the myth of the Cov Dog, How Come My Dog Don’t Bark seems an obvious choice…

…another one from my late brother’s collection, I’m afraid. I’m just about as unoriginal as the Cov Dog itself.

Who Let The Dogs Out (Baha Men) – was a close second…just a little too corny even for me…

2 thoughts on “Hacksaw Sam…How come my dog don’t bark (when you come around)?”

  1. Of course fighting spirit is universal in rugby, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have our own expression to encapsulate that spirit.

    1. Hi and thanks for leaving a comment – would agree totally, I was just trying, probably rather ineffectively, to make the point that it isn’t something exclusive to Cov and the ‘Cov Dog’ kind of encapsulated a time when the game was amateur rather than professional. As is always the case with these posts, it was just a question of thinking our loud really. What you say makes perfect sense…

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