Africans have many sayings. One of the most useful is "Slowly...slowly...catch the monkey". A monkey is very intelligent and very fast! They can be excellent pets, but you have to catch them first. If you run up to a monkey and try to grab him, he will be gone before you are half-way there. But if you are dedicated and you slowly take one step at a time, you will eventually be standing beside him.
When I lived in Africa I was always in a hurry as they thought .I wanted results as quickly as possible as the company I worked for was cash strapped. But I realized that change comes slowly. Often I would be told “You, slowly...slowly...catch the monkey". It took me time to learn that lesson, but I finally learned it.
In today’s rapidly changing world, there may be many monkeys moving quickly. This has had no exception for the game of rugby. Players have moved and continue to move much to the disappointment of some but to the delight of others. To some it is an anti climax. Players have moved from Colombo to Kandy and within Colombo and now to the emerging Navy Sport Club. The result is a raise of an eyebrow of concern and or another topic of conversation.
Whether it be at club or at school level we have had imports. Unfortunately there has been no system in place where one can term one movement as an export. There is a general grumble and cry as players are poached at club level. There is little or no discussion of what happens in schools.
Yet occasionally we hear of protests as well as non release.
In the monkey world you have to be patient. Then at least you will catch some. To do that you got to target and catch the monkey that is really important to you. That is what is exactly happening in the game of rugby as you catch players who you think are needed to take you where you want to be. There is nothing new as this was done in the hill capital as they built what has now become the invincible “Kandy Sports Club.” It is about winning next year’s trophy and the number of player’s you are getting to your side. Today it is the foundation tomorrow it is the crown.
We got to know what we want whether it is at National, Provincial or Club level. I wonder as I look back whether this has happened in the last few years. Except for going on reminiscing of what was and or what the others do or else to target whoever is next. It happened then and it happens now and slowly the other stakeholders the fans watch as the monkey keeps getting away.
While they have been not been able to choose their own monkey and dedicate to catch that monkey, they try to poison and or weaken the monkey in another’s hand. Take the case of player movement as an example. The Navy seems to have set sights and keep acquiring players. Then others protest. Slowly- slowly they seem to be getting there.
What have the others got to do to keep the monkey they have caught? You have to keep them and feed them so that they will be your friend and help achieve what ever you wanted to achieve. As Kandy says: “We are looking for commitment.” Some have been more successful and others blame them for it while others are getting there taking a step at times some are now wondering what is next as they have been unable to make a prize catch.
Those who have been successful now think whether they will lose some of their prized possessions. At the same time they are wondering whether there will be anything to catch.
Why is there player movement or imports as we tend to call it? At club as well as school level it has become increasingly competitive. For a club to maintain that level and or climb to challenge the best it takes time then the wait becomes slow. Sometimes it may never happen. Then one resort is to poach from others and the climb begins. This continues once you start the climb. It then turns to be a battle between the haves who poach and the have-not who complain. It is not a simple equation as this but a one with multiple issues and repercussions as some clubs fall to the bottom.
In school the inability to compete could be a demotion to the next group. That is playing in A .B C or if you have D division rugby. So without keeping the cup empty you start taking from others. Whether it is at the club or school level does the import and their performances help the game at national level? One may say that the intense competition at school level does well for the game. Yet at club circuit there has never been that intense competition. Except this year there is a new challenge. Yet there are a few clubs folding up. This results in the products of the intense school competition having nowhere to grow. The answer is for each club to build its talent base through recruitment. Then it is not easy to develop that pool as you need funds and every body does not have access it.
Getting back to my monkey you will see that they respect hierarchy as they perch on trees. It is structured hierarchy where the dominants eat all before the subordinates. What does the monkey at the bottom layer see when he looks up? Well let it be your guess.
Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB