For those wondering wtf this is all about, during our mutual Festival of Corona Lock-down I’m periodically revisiting and plagarising old articles and updating my observations on the various attributes of the folk one may meet on the a-typical rugby park. I’m lucky enough to have played rugby in some pretty obscure places around the world over the years and despite variations in language, standards, styles and law interpretations, it’s remarkable how similar the actual participants are no matter where I found myself strapping on the studs (steady on…).
So far we have reconfirmed that Props are the resident philosophers and moral navigators whilst the Hooker is the social deviant and team weirdo. So now, given I’m slowly dying in a zoom-meeting with 27 other no-lifers discussing the do’s and don’t of verifying the timing of enactment for amendments to Commonwealth legislation (in this case the Whistleblowers Act), I’ll take a time-out from the breathless, invigorating ne’er-a-dull-moment world of legislation train-spotting and tackle another position.
This time: Locks.
Locks wear No’s 4&5. They play in the second row, behind the front row and surrounded by the back row. That explains why they are called Locks.
Locks are the true dreamers of all rugby players. They typically see themselves as possessing Brad Pitt looks with David Beckham-esque skills on a Gregor Clegane physique of oversized humanoid perfection. That’s nice. The truth generally is they are usually as physically dynamic as a stoned giraffe and as coordinated as a Uzbeki sports-car marketing plan. And whilst 6ft 10in and 120kg is barely sufficient at Test level, at your local club anything over 5ft 10 and 85kg will generally get you a jersey.
A Locks job is actually an example of existential philosophical simplicity: shove in scrums and jump in lineouts. That’s it. Anything else is gravy. However adherence to these simple primary tasks is patchy at best as whilst they often perceive themselves as misunderstood 12’s or 8’s they also then fail to recognise they actually possess the ball skills of goldfish and the game-vision of the Star Nosed Mole (go on – look him up…). Therefore their team-mates generally conspire in unspoken conclave to carefully stage-manage the Locks involvements. Therefore their usual exposure to the ball in-play is deliberately limited to either watching it fly past their feet in scrums or over their heads in lineouts and kick-offs. Either way they don’t touch it.
That said, due to tv over-exposure to the likes of John Eales, Victor Matfield and Eben Etzebeth the modern Lock even at club level is subject to the expectation of being quite active around the ground. Given the Lock can’t make 1st ruck because they are still in-scrum or lineout, there has been a growing expectation in recent years they should make 2nd ruck along with the Props and then take up residency in the middle of the field as some sort of human skewer ball-runner or crash-tackler. This expectation is intimidating for Locks and downright frightening for the rest of us. Thankfully this is fake news subject to alternate facts as waiting for Props to make any ruck is akin to waiting for the 2nd coming of Christ, therefore actually having a Lock arriving at any breakdown in either half is generally regarded as a good result.
One noble element of Lock play is the likelihood of split and cauliflowered ears from excessive time spent scrumming and mauling. Whilst such scars should be worn with pride, Locks often don copious amounts of strapping tape around their head – often even under a headgear – in a vain effort to avoid such inevitabilities whilst simultaneously waxing their ears (it’s a Brad Pitt thing) as they remove said tape post match. Personally I would rather the swollen ears. But at least their need for tape is authentic. Other forwards who tape up their noggins pre-game are pretending. Backs who tape their heads are just Fairies wishing they weren’t and who generally just need a good haircut.
All that said, despite their clear & obvious limitations, having a grizzled old 6ft 5in and 20stone Lock in your team is a comforting gift from the Rugby Gods. Sure he has less skill than a drunken Panda and trying to lift him in a lineout or kickoff has about the same probability of success as an Australian Government web-site launch, but just having Chewbacca in your team is cuddly-fun and handy come Boat Race time.
Typical conversations with Locks tend to be a bit cat & mouse. Because they spend so much time either face-down in scrums or face-up in lineouts they don’t see much of the play and instead they have a lot of time for inward reflection. Therefore they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to glean information from spectators (who actually saw more of the play) what actually happened in the game all-the-while trying to sound like they already know. So when in conversation with Locks be prepared for lots of seemingly rhetorical questions and cunning disguised as philosophy.
Favourite drink: Scotch on ice whilst reading the Financial Review wearing their leather patched tweed jacket.
Philosophy: Generally Existentialists
Politics: Mostly Nasho’s
Popular figures: Hodor, Andre The Giant, John Cleese