Recent calls for rugby to be restricted to ‘tick’ tackling until the age of 18 reminded me of my late introduction to the sport.
I was in my mid-20s and had never held an oval ball before, but there was little else to do at weekends in the Welsh borders where I was working on local newspapers.
My hill-farmer colleagues made me practise passing the ball and got me fit, but we didn’t tackle each other as our training ground was a cinder pitch.
Real confrontations with determined opposition came as a painful shock when I finally took to rustic playing fields dotted with frozen cow-pats.
How grateful I would have been to be taught proper techniques in my teens.
How much safer it would have been to learn among equals, rather than suddenly facing stronger, more experienced opponents.
Fortunately, I rarely got close enough to the ball in actual play to be tackled.
While, whenever I attempted a tackle myself, opponents invariably jinked nimbly at the last second and I ended up sprawling empty-handed into the mud.
It was certainly a rough, old game but not only was it a curved ball, it was also a learning curve. The varied mix of roles in a rugby union team means there is a suitable position for everyone, whatever their size and athletic abilities.
Most importantly, the rough and tumble of it all instilled a team spirit and healthy respect for your fellow man – whether small and elusive or big and overpowering.
Like ups and downs in life, the game taught me my place in the scheme of things. That was further driven home when coming here and playing at Fleetwood, then Fylde RUFC.
My place now is firmly on the sidelines, muttering with quiet pride about once playing for a Welsh team – while admiring the courage and skill of those, well trained, who simply do it better.
* For Roy’s books visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.com.