<a href=””>Knackered</a&gt;

Scrotum’s aren’t aesthetically pleasing.


They’re just not nice to look at; thin skinned hairy parcels which wrinkle and contract at the slightest sign of cold or fright. Membranous tissue which seems to stretch a mile before snapping; no, there is not a lot going for them.

Ugly; I readily concede, but they do hold important bits.

Bits men want to keep and protect, although unfortunately scrotum’s afford scant protection as I’ve often found out playing contact sport.

I’ve played in dozens of games of rugby where I wished I had a titanium protector instead of my flimsy sack. I’ve been kicked, punched, grabbed and kneed in the knackers more times than I wish to remember.


But it’s a numbers game; it’s like surfing, hopefully the shark will bite the guy next to you, not you. Now I’m retired from rugby, I reflect that  the only comfort I ever took in this, is the times I watched, guffawed and giggled at many dozens of my team  mates and opposition who grabbed their balls, sunk to their knees, closed their eyes and screamed. Some have cried, some have impersonated Edvard Munch, some have even writhed on the ground for extended periods wishing to be put down..

You would think that men; knowing the agony created by a low blow below the belt would take sympathy. But, no – we find the howling, the grimacing and rolling lolling about hilarious!

Image result for kick in the balls

Weird creatures!

However, there are exceptions to the rule.

I played in 2 games whether players have suffered serious scrotum injuries. On one occasion a testicle was ripped straight out of the scrotum and was left dangling against the upper thigh of my team mate. Thankfully a quick trip to the A&E, a gentle guiding hand, a few well placed sutures and the testicle was safely re-inserted and stitched back into place.

On the other occasion, the poor severed testicle had suffered significant damage and could not be saved. Although the player was in the opposition, there is no comfort there. The poor guy had his testicle removed.

You can rest assured that on both of these occasions there was no giggling, smirks or jokes. Gathered players simply standing in silence, hands on hips with heads down. All of us thinking, thank God it wasn’t me. 

Its no laughing matter when your knackers are knackered! Pain is fair game, testicles sacrosanct.

They say New Zealand men are tough, the All Blacks especially so. Many years an All Black Captain suffered a cruel blow between his legs. physically knackered, his knackers knackered, he still managed to find a way to play on. His name was Buck Shelford.

Bring back Buck!

buck shelford

Here is his story:

Buck (Wayne) was a victim of the infamous “Battle of Nantes”, which was one of the most aggressive games of rugby ever played and witnessed. During the game a French boot found its way into Shelford’s groin, somehow ripping his scrotum and leaving him with one testicle hanging free.

Shelford was caught at the bottom of a ruck 20 minutes into the game, losing four teeth, and sustained a large tear to his scrotum courtesy of a stray French boot.

Incredibly, Shelford had his injury stitched on the sideline and played on until deep into the second half, when a knock to the head left him concussed and unable to continue.

The Daily Telegraph.

The aggression of the French rugby team was unprecedented, and many of the All Blacks suspected foul play. It would later transpire that many of the French players were pepped up on amphetamines, a reasonable explanation for their violent physicality.

“When I came out of the tunnel and I saw them, I looked into the eyes of many of the players as I walked past them, and their eyes did not say that they were going into a game against the All Blacks,”

“Their eyes just looked like they were on something, and I could not prove it.”

Wayne Shelford.

The French team doctor at the time, Jacques Mombet, much later explained that the Nantes Test was the most obvious example of French players using amphetamines.

He said New Zealand realised their opponents were “loaded” and made a complaint to the International Rugby Board, which eventually led to a clampdown and ultimately drug testing.


Now, I have played in some testy games before, but I recall this Test Match vividly and I am so pleased I was not within 1,000 miles of the sideline, such was the aggression and violence.

I have genuine respect for French Rugby, my pecking order has always been All Blacks first, then France and then any other team playing England or Australia. But on November the 15th 1986, the spirit of French rugby suffered a blow as painful as any  blow to the groin, and it was no laughing  matter.

Kia Ora



My favourite word



It seemed to me I was walking into a tinny house. It was an old wooden cottage, crooked and barely standing, like the occupants within it.

Four young men sat in the lounge drinking cheap beer and smoking dope surrounded by squalid mess. There was a foul smell and an underlining unstated threat of violence in the air.

‘Kia ora, I’m here to see Annie,’ (name changed) I said.

It was 10.25am when she walked through the door into the lounge. Her clothes old, perhaps 10 years out of fashion, but still, she carried them well. Her shoulder length dark hair had not seen the contents of a shampoo bottle for many a shower, her grey hairs slowly starting to win the war against the dark. Once upon a time this woman would have been attractive, now, while not quite Hesperus-like, she appeared  ethereally awkward and out of place.

She walked over and tried to smile. Picking up my hand she lead me to her bedroom.

Her bedroom dark and small, and in contrast to the lounge neat and tidy. It smelt similar, like any other middle aged woman’s room; of tea tree flecked with low key floral tones. While not welcoming it seemed a refuge compared to the human carnage next door.  familiar.

‘We can talk here,’ she said.

I sat next her to on her bed.

As I sat next to her I noted immediately her breath smelt of alcohol and tobacco, that her remaining teeth were stained yellowy brown.

My son,’ she said, ‘my oldest son was killed in a car accident two days ago.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that Annie,’ I answered, then paused.

‘I am not safe here,’ she said, ‘my youngest son next door is so angry,  I know he will get so high again today, so angry, he will come and give me a hiding.

‘Do you want me to call the police?’ I asked

‘No, I want to leave, leave now,’ she repeated adamantly.

We slipped out the back door and walked without turning our heads.

Over the next five hours while I  arranged  respite and refuge we talked.

Annie’s story hit me hard.

Physically, emotionally, sexually and verbally abused from a young girl Annie had endured a life of addiction and incarceration. Everyday and every year it seemed she was caught up in a repetitive cycle of violence and fear.

I had never met anyone like Annie before, her life was a life that most people only read about and never quite believed. Annie was a statistic not a real person.

But despite the awful pain she had suffered, what struck me the deepest was the simplest and most human of all emotions in a life filled with inhumanity. It was her horrendous grief in losing her oldest son, and her desire to protect her youngest son. She was many things, but above all she was a mother first and I am grateful that she had the grace to show me that.

Grace: (ɡreɪs)

  1. smoothness and elegance of movement.
    “she moved through the water with effortless grace”
    2. courteous good will.
    “he had the good grace to apologize to her afterwards”
 1.     bring honour or credit to (someone or something) by one’s attendance  
        “he is one of the best players ever to have graced the game”
grace 2

It might be my Catholic upbringing. It might be that my education was provided by the Society of Mary, but grace has always been so important to me. Of such import that long ago I adopted grace as a key part of my value set.

Its not just the onomatopoeic quality of the word grace, it’s not it’s simplistic construction of 2x consonants, 1 vowel, 2x consonants, nor its strength. It looks good on a page and it rolls off the tongue with as much depth and sophistication as smooth cocktail olive. Grace to me is so much more than it seems, so much more than just a word – it is a behaviour.

If it were not for grace, I would never had learnt to provide time and space to people who were still finding their way. I would never have understood the impact of my actions on other’s. Some people go through life never worrying about what others think. There is strength in this approach, their is bravery, but there is also a degree of nonchalance and a lack of connectivity. To grow it is essential to learn and some of the best lessons come from the human condition.
Kia Ora