John Afoa aka Animal terrorises the crowd at a public appearanc
John Afoa aka Animal terrorises the crowd at a public appearance
When engaging in rugby conversations or watching a game, it helps to know a few facts about players – their position, past players they’re not quite as good as, and more importantly nicknames. Commenting “Ted doesn’t look happy” may not be a groundbreaking observation, but it does show that you know who the All Black coach is.
Nicknames are something men like to give one another, to create an environment of intimacy, or as they may prefer ‘mateship’. It’s much simpler in Australia where you add ‘Y’ or ‘O’ to a name – e.g. Warney and Steveo. In New Zealand we have historically had a less predictable approach with famous nicknames including Inga the Winger (my childhood favourite player Va’aiga Tuigamala), Pinetree (the legendary Sir Colin Meads, named Player of the Century), and J-Lo (the obvious diminutive for the man mountain that is Jonah Lomu). Okay, I may have invented the last one, but I would like to see it picked up by the international media by the end of the tournament. Please humour me in this.
It’s well documented that the moniker your parents give you at birth can have a significant impact on your life. We have all giggled childishly at characters on American sitcoms called Randy or felt sorry for the school kid with the name that’s too big for them. I can only assume that some rugby players are given their nicknames before they grow out of ‘the awkward phase’ – Richard Kahui is too handsome to be known as Kaks, and the nicknames Horey (Andrew Hore) and Woody (Tony Woodcock) are both a little bit juvenile and obvious.
I was shocked to read that our brave hero, I mean All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw is not just Richie (think of other one-name legends like Madonna, Pele, Oprah and Lassie), but apparently also answers to Fluffy. Quelle horreur! One can only hope that John Afoa can bring some Animal back into the team.
The mind-bending moniker isn’t solely the property of the New Zealand rugby player. A glance through rugby history shows us that there have been some that evoke awe, and others that are more… cuddly.
There’s been Welsh First Five Neil Jenkins who was also known as the Ginger Monster. English Prop Jason Leonard OBE also went by The Fun Bus (and comes from Barking, tee hee). Poor old Irish Hooker Keith Wood was variously called The Raging Potato and Uncle Fester. I’m sure he has a wonderful personality. More recently, the unkind amongst us have enjoyed comparing fresh-faced Australian James O’Connor with Justin Beiber. Let’s be fair though, he’s not a child, he was born all the way back in 1990. Plus he looks much more like that guy from Westlife.
With all due respect, I’d rather be a Goldie than a GG, but nothing can beat the title given to former French Centre Philippe Sella – L’Incomparable. But to bring it back to basics, we’ve got to front up, give no quarter and remember that there’s only one title that matters. Champion.
Bring back Buck!