Monday, December 22, 2014

Fair Play: Former Wallaby star helps out Cebu rugby

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Dec. 20 edition)
HERE’S a not so well-known fact: thanks to an underwear ad, Philippine rugby got noticed. Years back, some members of the Philippine national team posed for an underwear ad that was placed in a strategic location and had politicos fuming mad.

Why they got mad over guys in underwear but never raised a pip over scantily clad women all over mass media was one of the reasons folks began asking more about the picture, hence the Philippine Volcanoes getting noticed.


But Philippine rugby, or the Volcanoes, is not all about modeling. Since that time, the Philippine Rugby Football Union has been slowly spreading the gospel of rugby all throughout the country.


One of those who helped spread the sport—but didn’t pose for an underwear ad—is Jerry Branzuela, a stocky Cebuano built for the sport which he learned in South Africa.

Now, if you want your child to develop character, let him try rugby. Why, check out their philosophy: “Always make your teammate look better.”

Rugby is a unique sport where the only way to move forward is to pass to a teammate behind you and even a goal in the sport is innocuously called a try.

And first thing first. Isn’t rugby a sport that’s too physical for Pinoys? That’s what we all want to know, right?

Jerry, who says rugby is like chess on steroids, had the perfect reply, “We develop the best boxers in the world, right?”

It’s not just about size, it’s about skills set, and what Jerry and the Cebu Dragons Rugby Club are doing is to impart those skills set to those interested in the sport.

Of course, they lack facilities and equipment but are making do with what they have.

But last Thursday’s meeting may help change that.

Rodney Kafer, a former rugby union player in Australia, met Jerry to talk about the sport and how he can help.

“Whatever the Cebu rugby scene needs, I’m sure I can help out,” he said. “I think I got a few pretty good contacts.”

And Jerry was nodding like crazy, “I’m sure you do! I’m sure you do!”

Kafer, one of the directors of the Cebu-based Eziconnect Philippines and a commentator for Fox Sports rugby, has been interested in meeting the local rugby players for the some time and finally got to do that last Thursday. Him saying he has contacts would be akin to any former NBA champion turned sports analyst saying he’s got a few basketball contacts.

My friend King Cortel, a former sports reporter who now works for Kafer and was the one who facilitated the meeting, also suggested doing what another Australian did for Cebu, Graeme Mackinnon.

“He gathered used equipments from his contacts in Australia and brought them to Cebu. You could do something similar,” he said.

Jerry also mentioned a tournament in Manila and shared a funny tale of how the team would stay at those three-hour special hotels and greet any couple who comes out with a thumb’s up and say, “Good job!”

Rodney won’t join them for those three-hour specials of course, but the former Brumbies and Wallabies star promised he’d join the Cebu Dragons so he can help them “get back at those Manila teams.”

He won’t just be a figurehead though. Jerry said another player from New Zealand handed the team some tactics and strategies and Rodney agreed to check them out and help them refine them.

He also promised bringing in a few guys for the Manila tournament, all ready to don the Dragons jersey. I think this is where I tell the Manila guys, “Watch out for them Dragons!”

(mikelimpag@gmail.com)

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