Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Last Man Standing

In the cult film from 1975, Rollerball, teams from cities around the world compete in a brutal contest that inflicts a crippling injury toll in a competition that consolidates the power and wealth of corporate owners via a worldwide viewing audience. In the final game, only one player is left standing: Jonathan E, played by James Caan.

With the SuperRugby finals now upon us, one can’t help but see similarities to Rollerball in this ferocious, gruelling marathon of a competition. There has been a horrific injury toll, with crippled knees, dislocations, broken limbs and jaws and multiple concussions, jeopardising not only players’ careers but their long-term health.

The Waratahs enter the finals missing most of their first choice players due to injury. Gone are fly-half Berrick Barnes, his back-up Halangahu, half-back Burgess, winger Drew Mitchell, outside center Rob Horne, Palu, Kepu, Baxter, Polota-Nau and second-string hooker Damien Fitzpatrick, while skipper Phil Waugh is playing with a snapped biceps tendon.

After last month’s show trial where team members and coaching staff were virtually paraded with dunces’ caps while members of the public threw the verbal equivalent of rotten eggs, the Tahs have morphed into a team that runs with the ball and scores bonus-point tries rather than kicking it away at every opportunity, giving some citizens of New South Wales the courage to once again whisper that they are Waratahs supporters.

The Auckland team are rightful favorites for the first qualifying final, with the Tahs’ front row  -- which includes the third string hooker and fourth string tighthead prop -- sure to be targeted and exposed.  But Tahs fans will be hoping they have their own Jonathan E in the shape of Kurtley Beale, who has played like a man possessed in his last games for the team, almost single-handedly lifting New South Wales into the finals with his individual brilliance.

In Rollerball, the game's corporate owners ultimately stand accused of putting profits before player welfare. As rugby's administrators join the worldwide audience enjoying an armchair view of the game, perhaps they should take stock of the carnage that has resulted from SuperRugby's expanded format, and consider ways to reduce the injury toll so that future generations might be willing to play rugby in the professional era. 


  1. Rollerball was a movie that was so far ahead of it's time in terms of the role of sport in society, the power of multinational corporations, and the fact that players in contact sports are carted off the field like cattle from a slaughterhouse floor. The movie is almost 40 years old, but still stands the test of time as one of the better sports movies made.

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing the information.......

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