I remember Varsity. It was a year ago tomorrow. I remember the slow-burn build-up that started some seven hours before kick-off. I remember the intensity of the warm up as the crowd filtered in. I remember the noise of the fans, sitting right above our dressing room, nearly drowning out our coach's final words to us. I remember stepping onto the pitch, achieving what, nearly two years previously, I had set out to achieve – representing the university against the Other Place. As a small player who was average at best, it had all seemed terribly unlikely.
I also remember my biggest sporting regret. It happened that same night. The ball came wide, I had a clear run to the try-line, but the final pass was batted down by a defender and the chance of scoring a Varsity try was gone. It would not have affected the result, but it would have been some consolation, and some small shred of personal glory, if only for a brief moment. It is a moment carved forever on my memory.
And tomorrow, on the anniversary of all this, I will merely watch this year's Rugby League Varsity match. The club has accomplished an impressive turn around in its fortunes and is now almost unrecognisable as the side that was beaten so very badly a year ago. They have a chance to excise the collective memories of that year, and create some good ones of their own. But for those of us without that opportunity, it will always remain a moment both of supreme pride and of supreme disappointment.
Our time here is short, and there isn't always a ‘next week' for us to redeem ourselves. Once we leave, and head to our desk jobs, these memories are all we have to look back on – most old boys rugby teams contain only two or three who still play regularly.
So my advice is this – keep playing, even after you leave. As long as you do, there's a chance of creating better memories, of keeping the feeling of playing for a team and, if things are not going so well now, of winning in the end.