Go Jonny, go, go, go

As an Englishman and as a sportsman, there is something we breeds have in the blood called 'Aussie bashing'. Whether it is cricket or Rugby, it is always satisfying; we hate each other, we have done for at least a couple of hundred years...and we love it. Just like they hate us Poms. All in all, I would call it a healthy hate within sporting competiveness which burns like wildfire, whether it is an important match or an irrelevant 'friendly' ( Hmm, friendly isn't probably the right word here..better say 'challenge' match). However this weekend in as England took on the Australia at Rugby Union in an Autumn Test match of no real competitive relevance and lost, it is still hard to swallow. I hate losing anything to the Aussies.

However there was one satisying thing to come out of the match - the return after 18 months out to injury (yet again) of Jonny Wilkinson. The world's top point scorer of all time graced the field and his usual 'ol'faithful' left boot struck another 9 points to his ever-growing tally. Despite the eventual loss, the way he governed the field was like he had never been away for a second. He hammered in to tackles without any worries of injuring himself and to be honest, it was his defensive play rather than his impeccable kicking for which he is famous that shone. It was vital to the England midfield and was (another) demonstration of his prowess. It was inspiring to watch. And I just know that even though he made a successful comeback, he will have hated losing to the Aussies.

Yet it wasn't just the sporting performance he put in at Twickenham that drove me to write this, it was something else about him, his strength of character. Since winning the World Cup in 2003 his career has been plagued by injury after injury, but still he comes back, defying the critics who have tried to write off his career and call for a predecessor. But still he has no intention of abdicating his throne. I personally think that his best is yet to come, he is still only 30 years old.

He leads the team from the front and he blends in just like anyone of them. He plays for the collective, something that I value as as a hockey player like I have previously said in this blog. Each and everyone has to give their contribution for the team; in return you will gain friendship, trust and a sense of belonging, and also the satisfaction of that kind of musketeer, one-for all-and-all-for-one moral I think every team needs to win. And yes -to win - that is the overall goal. The day I finish playing hockey, I would maybe like to coach kids - and this is one musketeer ethic I would install in every one of them. You only get what you give. And I would teach them how to play the third half too, in the bar...go at each other hammer and tong first, then have a pint together at the finish - after all it's all part of social networking ;-)

I have learned a lot from hockey, I have learned it is where I belong. Jonny Wilkinson knows he belongs on a rugby pitch, and his ardour and willing shows that, no matter how many times you knock him down. If Jonny was a track and field athlete, he would be a 110 metres hurdler, and he would fall at every hurdle, but still get up and run his way to a gold medal.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: "The greatest thing in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." Oh yes, this is Jonny Wilkinson to a tee, and something I am learning every day too.


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