Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Around a month ago, I wrote an article for Inside Feed about GPS Rugby and questioned whether it was everything it is built up to be. The 2020 version of the famed rugby tradition in Brisbane will be something very different. The hype behind school boy rugby is heavily dependant on the school culture, the strength in crowd numbers, the sidelines filled with adoring family and friends. The war cry's bellow out, a signal of unity, strength and support. You're representing your school, for many, realising a dream, but this year it is going to be very different.
The GPS Rugby season is not only a special moment for the players on the field, but it provides a unique opportunity to bring in the wider school network. It provides a fun environment to support your team or school, and reminds everyone about their love for the sport. My understanding of this year's rugby landscape is that players will be able to go their game only, once they are done, they have to leave and can't stick around to watch their mates, or indeed the First XV. Similarly, parents must check in via mobile app and once their son's game is finished, they too must leave the grounds. In effect, no crowds, no atmosphere!
What will happen come the last 5 minutes? You're tired, you're down and almost out and you need a lift. It is the war cry's that often get you through it, they give you that little blast of adrenalin. Now for those who haven’t had the opportunity to play in this atmosphere, the power of a war cry can mean a change in momentum. It symbolises the support not only from your team mates but the school. It’s a push in the back from your peers to get you going when the times are tough.
I understand we are living in unprecedented times and not for one moment am I suggesting that any of these COVID related measures should change, but I feel for the 2020 cohort of players, particularly those in the First XV who have dreamt of one day running out in front of a big crowd and doing their school proud. They still get that opportunity, don't get me wrong, but not being able to walk off the field and be ambushed by your best mates will be tough.
How I see it, this will have a massive influence on the 2020 GPS rugby season. The change from physical to virtual presence will demonstrate which team is a tight group, and those that are not. Taking away a crowd means more responsibility on the players. If the game is not going your way, it’s the players responsibility to realise what they are playing for, there will be no crowd there to remind you it will just be your team and the opposition. This GPS Premiership will require a unified and strong hearted group to make their way to the top of the ladder. For all teams it will be something unique and now the weight of the jersey is firmly in the players hands. Not only that, but the season is also shortened, a hybrid competition if you will, with not every school playing each other and luck of the draw ultimately likely to decide who wins. Does this put an asterisk on the competition this year? Does it diminish the value of the 2020 premiership? Potentially. So many questions and we await so many storylines. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens, via live stream.