Favorite Moments - 026 -050 Your fun memories from EOTB

fm37 - An Irishman's introduction to the great game...

Posted by... quigs eraofthebiff - on ... Monday, May 14, 2012
Leeds .. is the club I follow

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Don't Spit on a Rhino

When growing up in Ireland the only thing we know about rugby League was that there was a funny game on the BBC once a year at Wembley Stadium that had teams with funny names like Hull Kingston Rovers and Wigan. It meant nothing to me or my family. We were all into Gaelic Football and Hurling and Soccer. The ball through the legs thing was completely weird.

As a family, we moved to the south of England and then eventually to Leeds where I did my A-Levels before going to university in Salford. Still rugby league held no interest for me. I was 19 before I ended up in Headingley. How I got there was not my doing.

On my first day at college there was a class of strangers to be introduced to (the same nervous feeling the world over) and one of the last to introduce themselves to me was a girl from Wigan. I remember thinking she had a weird accent. What she picked up on was that I was from Leeds. To explain to people that I was from Ireland was a challenge because I had lost my Irish accent so it was easier just to say I was from Leeds.

Well, I didn't expect to be spitted on but it nearly came to that. She launched into a diatribe of abuse for "The Leeds". I stood back not having a clue what the hell she was on about. Eventually it dawned on me that it was rugby league she was babbling on about.

The long and the short of it was, after a couple of months of this abuse I was in Leeds on a Saturday morning with nothing to do so I decided to go and see a live game. I heard that Leeds (the Loiners then) were playing Sheffield Eagles at Headingley so I got on the bus and headed down to the unknown. All I knew about Headingley was the Skyrack pub. So I got to the pub, had a pint and waited for a group in Leeds shirts to go to the game and I followed them to the South Stand (my Mecca to be!).

Standing in the middle of a crowd is a daunting experience if you don't know the game. I didn't know if there might be violence like in some soccer grounds. What I did notice was that there were a lot of families there so I felt fine after a few minutes. I cheered with the crowd as the squad was announced and booed as the Eagles came out. I didn't want to look out of place.

The game itself flew by and the speed and skill was mesmerising to me. The tries and the moves and the tackles blew me away. However add into the mix a friendly, cheering and knowledgeable crowd and you have a life changing experience. I was hooked. A 42 all draw can have that affect on you.

Next, I went round the back and put myself into further student debt with a season ticket and my first Leeds shirt. I went without a few pints every week to get Rugby League Express and at the end of the season knew all the teams and players and eventually had managed to get down to the Willows to see Salford which had become my second team.

A funny thing about that game was that I met Darryl Powell last year and asked him if he had played in that game. He had and he remembered it well because the referee was retiring and it was his last game and he told both teams that he was going to let things flow. Boy did he keep his word.

The Wigan girl disappeared after that first year but I have a lot to thank her for. Memories, bumps and scrapes (I ended up playing the game too) and a lot of Leeds shirts!

I love this game and it's the fault of a Wiganer. Irony, it's a weird thing. Rugby League - It's not a sport it's a disease, it gets into your blood and I for one don't ever want the cure.




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