A subject so many of us are talking about is respect in rugby! Respect has always been the one thing that has been so great about the game be it silence when a player is taking a kick, clapping the opposing team onto the park and calling the Ref 'sir' but as recent these traditions are being lost.
The sad news was released that another rugby player has cancelled his twitter account due to abuse just heightens the sad turn that the respect is being lost. Freddie Michalak has been subject to a stream of abuse from French fans to such an extent he made the decision to axe his account. With twitter we are lucky enough to be granted access and communicate with their sporting hero's, and lets be fair the rugby guys are possibly some of the most accessible. Hearing of a player who opens himself up for the supporters feeling it necessary to remove his account because of such abuse is a sad day for the sport.
Unfortunately this isn't the first time we've heard of such a case most notably on a few occasions we've lost Brian Moore to the power of the Trolls, luckily he has returned to twitter and we can enjoy his outspoken views. Love him or hate him Brian Moore is a very knowledgeable man and is very technically aware of the game. The thing I struggle with on line abuse or being a troll as it known is how does it solve things or even serve any purpose, abuse is is just negative and will never encourage somebody to do better its jus detrimental to them. If its about putting somebody down to make themselves feel better as in the case of most cases of bullying, they should remember these guys are professional sports people and they opt to sit in front of a screen telling them what they've done wrong? If these trolls were so good they would be on a pitch teaching the likes of Michelak how it's done, this is not the case so why do it?
A few of the referees grace the pages of twitter as well which is brave especially with the criticism they are rapidly coming under. We all criticise when we believe them to be incorrect in their decision making but to go on line to berate and abuse their officiating can again only be seen as detrimental. A referee is out there to make decisions on the spot and are continually under pressure to officiate correctly, abusing them will only shake their confidence and make them question their calls leading to more mistakes adding to the vicious circle.
As rugby fans while we all sit at home or at a ground watching and supporting our respective teams we all believe we are some of the most knowledgeable pundits around, yes we may have a slight dig at a player who isn't in your eyes doing well, but to publicly and personally attack a player just isn't the rugby way. There is a fine line between criticism and abuse but majority of people are able to distinguish between the two and right and wrong.
There are many negatives about twitter but also many positives! Two pages that have become such a good link between supporters of rugby and encouraging the banter between fans from opposing teams are #RugbyUnited and #RugbyFamily. Banter in rugby goes hand in hand with the game and is the difference between rugby and football, rugby banter is meant in jest and never with any malice, which is why there is no segregation in rugby supporters. When Trevor Large and friends introduced us to the #RugbyUnited concept supporters embraced it and the whole #RugbyUnited brand grew into a phenomenon. Then we had the #RugbyFamily came along with a similar idea but also aiding the grass roots of rugby to come up to the forefront. Both are a brilliant idea and to help unite fans in a general appreciation of the game must be saluted and celebrated.
Growing up watching the game of rugby many I learnt one thing stood out in the game one word.......respect! A sport where guys would smash into each other, hitting hard tackles and with the occasional handbags moment, yet when the referee spoke these hardened rugby players stood like naughty school boys addressed him as 'sir' and listened to his every word. His word was never questioned and you certainly didn't argue with him, to do so would see your team penalised being marched back ten metres.
A sport where you applauded the opposing team onto the pitch regardless if they were your fiercest rivals, you appreciated the skill and ability of every team. To be able to perform in such a sport must be given true admiration, an ability majority of could never even come close to obtaining.
The biggest sign of respect was silence during a player taking a kick at goal, followed by applause if successful as you would applaud if a try was scored. A boo or a jeer was not the done thing and heavily frowned upon, in fact you would be the person who was jeered at for showing such disdain and lack of respect.
Sadly in this day and age of the professional game these forms of respect are being lost and the win, win, win mentality is taking hold, with the amount of money now involved it is inevitable that this one day would happen but the hope it remains is still there as well as the passion and love of the game.
As I am aware to continue the idealistic ethos of respect in rugby many of us hope and dream it will remain, a progression that will continue and we'll never eradicate the boo boys the trolls we can still try to halt. Trolls are a cowardly embarrassment to the game of rugby and there should be no place for them in the game!
Lets try to keep hold for as long as possible to that great rugby respect and help stop the abuse, celebrate the game and salute the players, coaches and officials for reaching the top of their game!