Did you know rugby’s been around in Oman for nearly 50 years?

Lifestyle Tuesday 23/October/2018 18:41 PM
By: Times News Service
Did you know rugby’s been around in Oman for nearly 50 years?

On the Ball: When you talk about sports in Oman, the first game that comes to people’s minds would most likely be football. It is, after all, a game that is loved by locals and expats alike.
Cricket might be second on that list, but for a significant portion of the population here in the Sultanate, rugby has always been their preferred sport of choice. For you, and me this may seem surprising, but to them, not quite so.
Muscat Rugby Club was incredibly formed in 1971, and three years from now, will celebrate 50 years since it was first set up. Times of Oman was able to speak to Luke O’Mahoney, the manager of the club, who said that learning the sport at a young age provided children with many lessons that would help them later in their lives.
“Anyone can actually participate in and play rugby,” he said. “That starts with the kids, and here, we are called the Muscat Pirates, and that goes all the way from the age of four to the under-18s, and it’s just great to see the kids utterly enjoy it. It gives you a great foundation for life.”
“I started playing rugby when I was about 12,” added O’Mahoney. “I got into it through friends from school, I really enjoyed being a part of it and I really enjoyed the physicality of it and I played it until about 18 or 19, then gave up and came back to it. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been playing rugby and I’ve been able to tour other countries such as the Philippines, Burma and Vietnam and basically, anywhere that’s as far from home as possible.”
One of the major concerns O’Mahoney has is the physicality of the sport. Rugby has developed a reputation as a sport that does cause quite a few nasty injuries, some of which have felled even the most gigantic of professional players. The average rugby pro is a solidly-built athlete whose weight in kilograms easily crosses the three-figure mark.
“It is a full-contact sport, that is undeniable, and people do get hurt, but the skill and coaching is so that players can play at that level,” he admitted. “The contact becomes less of a risk or hazard if you are skilled or coached well, and one of the biggest problems people these days talk about is getting concussions due to rugby, but those are controlled and properly managed so I don’t see it being a big issue at the moment.”
“We play rugby union,” he added. “Rugby league is a bit more tough because that’s all about the collisions, but then in rugby union, you kind of slow the game down because you have set pieces such as the scrum and the lineout. The over-35s love that because they think they will get a bit of a breather, but the kids don’t start with that, they are only exposed to that when they are able to handle it. You don’t throw them in the deep end so that you start hurting each other.”
“There is a natural progression from the under-age setup, we call our under-18s the colts and once they turn 18, then they can play for the senior team,” he added. “We recently had someone train with us for the first time and that maybe shows you where the training has to come in. He just wanted to really get stuck in and get into the full contact, so I had to put an orange bib on him just to make safe, because one or two of our guys are really big hitters and they would have killed him. We needed to pull him aside and tell him that his time would come, but for now, he needed to learn.”
Muscat Rugby’s next season begins on October 26, and all of their matches will be live-streamed on Facebook. They will play against teams from the other GCC nations – Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. What makes the club special, though, is not just that they are completing 50 years, but that they are entirely run by volunteers who balance their passion alongside their day job.
“In three years, we will come up to 50 years of rugby in Oman, and it is a great club, purely voluntary, so that makes it even more amazing that we’ve come this far,” said O’Mahoney. “We actually really appreciate what that means. That is what we try to do all the time. We try to bring more exposure to the club so that people know we are out there, but to do that, you maybe need to be a bit more professional-minded, so as the senior team, we need to lead by example, so that hopefully, our league will entice more people and more kids to play the game.”
“This year, we have a 45-man squad for the senior team, then we have a veterans team for those who are 35 and older who still think they can play rugby, and we have a ladies team, which is actually increasing really fast,” he added. “They play at the moment a slightly different form called touch rugby.”
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