Spend An Evening In The Bizarre World Of A Rugby Society…

Friday evening was without doubt one of the weirdest evenings of my life. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how it would turn out. All I did know was that I was about to be immersed into the world of a University Rugby Society — and I wasn’t entirely sure if I would make it out in one piece.

The event was ‘Captain’s Dinner’. It had been arranged by the captains of the rugby teams (those in 2nd and 3rd years) and is an annual dinner that takes place at The Royal York Hotel. It is a sit down, 3 course meal and every rugby player is meant to bring a date. My good friend Luke didn’t have a date, so I said that I would go along with him. We get along really well, have good banter and he was happy he didn’t have to stress about impressing me and I didn’t have to stress about impressing him. I made an effort to look nice, however, as there’s a real element of male pride at this dinner, starting with how nice their date looks. Superficial and silly, I know.

I didn’t know that many people at the dinner, but thankfully a couple of my girlfriends had gone along as ‘friend’ dates as well so that lessened the nerves a little bit. Being surrounded by huge rugby players that you don’t know is a little intimidating! But surprisingly, they were actually all very friendly. Every person I was introduced to was smily and charming.

All was going swimmingly, until Luke and I realised what table we were on for the dinner. We scanned the table arrangement sheets that were pinned to a board and saw that my title was ‘victim’. Brilliant. Not only that, but we were the only freshers to be on a table with an Old Boy. By Old Boy, I mean someone that left the university a couple of years ago but that comes back to a lot of these kind of events. They can’t really let go of their university/rugby past and still want to be involved. This was not good news. The Old Boy we were seated beside was called Phil Johnson, or Johnson, as he’s known to everybody. I had not heard good things. What I had heard were tales of him ripping off doors in clubs, making freshers urinate on him and ripping Lukes shirt in half the first time they met. It was fair to say I was feeling a little tense.

We were seated to our table at 8 and at that point Johnson hadn’t arrived. Our table was nearly full except for him, and Luke and I were breathing a very small sigh of relief. However, Luke was very much on edge. He was terrified for the moment Johnson burst through the doors, because as well as his crazy behaviour, he is known to make freshers do mad things like drink a whole bottle of wine in one go and then eat a fag butt or something ridiculous like that. To make things worse, we heard that Johnson had been at the races all day and was steaming drunk. This meant he was going to be 10x more loony than usual and anything could happen…

I’d never met Johnson before, but as soon as he entered the room I knew who he was. He came in shouting and waving a lot of cash around, before going to embrace other Old Boys, hugging and kissing them as if he hadn’t seem them in years. He yanked out his chair that was next to Luke, and proceeded to order Luke to serve everybody around the table a piece of bread. After that, he wanted wanted to know what I was drinking. Luke gestured towards my glass of white wine and in a split second Johnson had announced that the wine I was drinking was disgusting, upended the glass onto the table splashing wine over Luke and myself, threw his credit card at Luke and demanded that he go to the bar and get lots of beer and the best bottle of wine they had.

It was honestly like watching a man in his primal, caveman state — before civilisation. Here was a hugely intelligent guy, who had left uni two years ago, but was back again acting like he was in a zoo. Like a prat, basically. The rest of the night continued like this: the main meal arrived, he picked up food of his plate and threw it at neighbouring tables; he wrenched the table cloth so hard that a lot of our glasses and plates fell just so that he could use it as a sort of napkin, tucking it into his shirt; he fell backwards off of his chair, pulling two neighbouring chairs along with him; french kissed another Old Boy beside him (although he isn’t usually that way inclined); threw his cheesecake at a guy sat opposite him, who got very angry and called people an array of racist names. Not only this, but there was a hell of a lot of ‘funnelling’ – pouring every alcohol under the sun into this huge, home-made funnel that was then put into some poor rugby boy’s mouth and released. I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching. I felt like I was in a horror movie. A weird, homo-erotic, nutty horror movie…

Aside from feeling pretty tense throughout the evening, it was also very funny and my date Luke was lovely, constantly checking that I was okay and not too traumatised! As the evening at the hotel drew to a close, we slowly got a little more tipsy and headed out into the night. The whole thing felt like a surreal dream…

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