Rookies, Legends and Others…

So, it’s been a while, but i heard somewhere that it’s best to leave them hanging, wanting more…. And that good things come to those who wait… and plenty of other cliches along the same vein. All of which are not terribly clever code for “too busy to write”. But rest assured you now have my full attention. I’m locked in, going nowhere, devoted to… ooh, look a butterfly!

Anyway, the 2013 season is in the books, and by now you’ll have realised that we did it. “Yo Adrian, we did it”… National league champions, promotion to the premier division, and onto the 2014 season. I thought about a detailed recap of the final, a breakdown of the game, or perhaps more appropriately a breakdown of everything that happened in the 12 hours after the final whistle, which included, but was not limited to, vodka, strip clubs, sex, tears, falling over, forced removal from bars, homoerotic dancing and Curtis being rejected. Again. But i think the urban legends of the Gladiators in Leeds are perhaps more powerful than idle gossip noted on some far flung corner of the internet.

So, how do i recap the 2013 season? I could poke fun at Crane, but that’s been done before. Mainly on this blog. I could pick at some of the other familiar faces on the team, but let’s face it, they’re familiar because we all pick at them already. So I had a new idea… A rookie review. Rookies of 2013 – most firmly entrenched as regulars by now – were one of the highlights of the club’s year, some for performances on the field, most for performances off it. So where to start?

We had the awards and the standout rookies were named and received appropriate plaudits. This is by no means the forum for additional praise. This is where they are brought back to Earth with a bump and presented with their “welcome to the mad house” t-shirt. And without further ado….

Most Likely to be removed from a karaoke club

In a standout performance, this award was a no contest, and Oli Ackland-Snow takes this in a unanimous vote. Baby faced assassin Oli has slotted into the Wide Receiver corps, and soon established himself as Curtis’ least favourite receiver for reasons unknown. The only possible logic for this is that every time Oli strays into Curtis’ field of vision, the Bourke eardrums erupt with the dulcet tones of the young soldier, and his rendition of a modern classic. When presented with a list of every song ever created in all of human history, Oli chose to avoid classics by the Beatles, he shunned the Rolling Stones, he avoided Metallica, he shirked Michael Jackson, he opted out of Led Zeppelin, and he rejected Stevie Wonder. Instead, Oli took a deep breath, braced his larynx for the demands that he was about to place upon it, and unleashed the most heavenly falsetto that anyone has ever recited. So was it some Puccini operetta that he sang? Perhaps the Ave Maria? Or even the Aled Jones rendition of “Walking in the Air”? No, it was not to be. It was the seminal Carly Rae Jepsen work – “Call me maybe”. The gusto, the enthusiasm and the intensity he displayed was intimidating, truly lost in the musical genius of a mid-America tween. Unforgettable, and un-repeatable – we hope.



Most likely to become a pirate

Another unanimous choice here. The singular standout was a man whose body offered more hair than the entire Junior programme combined. A man whose beard defied belief, and a man whose chain smoking rivalled Joe Wilson… almost. James Birch is the winner of this prestigious award. The bearded wonder astonished opposition, not through his onfield prowess, but more because he opted out of wearing the eye patch under his helmet. Hanging the parrot on the hook whilst getting changed, and paying his membership fees in pieces of eight because common practice for the leading rookie tackler in 2013. However, in 2014, he is vying for the “most unusual injury” award already, as tales of testicular troubles titillate his teammates.



Most likely to have hippy parents

This was a more difficult award, as it takes into account lifestyle, dress sense, personal grooming and personality traits. Ultimately however the award goes to the man who forced a “yes, that is his real name” at every card check, Sky Bultitude. Let me qualify this by saying that i know nothing about Sky’s parents and i certainly bear them no ill will. In fact, i’d love to shake their hand for having the balls to slap that on a birth certificate. According to the dictionary of baby names, Sky is an abbreviated version of Skye – so are we to believe that we pay homage to a desolate Scottish island, or that we are praising the heavens? Either way, it’s predominantly a girl’s name. Confusingly enough, it was also the code for one of the defensive play calls, which looked peculiar when Sky himself was lined up at Cornerback. Still, despite this perceived disadvantage, Sky performed well during the season and was a worthy addition to the secondary.



Most likely to be mistaken for another player

“Jake, no Josh, no it is Jake…” a common refrain from the sideline this year. Poor Jake Hawkins. Very talented outside linebacker, but so often confused with other players. As a result i suspect his stats may be somewhat undercooked (although, with Nick Foxley collating the stats, perhaps it’s not surprising that they are undercooked – let’s face it, nobody was suspicious when they saw Nick led the team in tackles, despite never suiting up….) . Still, Josh, no Jake, was a welcome addition to the team even if nobody knows who he is, and everyone continuously forgets his name…



The Nick Foxley “Pass the Zimmer Frame” award

The sun sets, the band softly playing “Old Man River”, and there’s a silhouetted figure sat on a porch in a rocking chair. He has a pipe in his mouth, a newspaper in his hand and half moon glasses teetering on the tip of his nose. The grey bushy beard is emblematic of a man who is world weary, and has learned to appreciate every day as if it could be his last. In between cries of “get off my lawn” to the young whippersnappers of the neighbourhood, he murmurs about “the good old days”, or how things were “different when i was your age”. The sun dips lower in the sky, and the light glints off the man’s weathered leathery skin and he is revealed as…. Warren Heather, the delightfully spry receiver who proved to everyone that you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks.



Most likely to be GI Joe

He might as well arrive to training in fatigues and a beret. Tears well up in his eyes when the first bars of the national anthem are played. And he wants to belt out the song that represents the country he’s so proud of. He takes a sharp breath, he prepares himself for that first note, and then summoning every inch of his diaphragm he projects…. and a muffled squeaky voice emerges. That’s right, Military muscle man himself, Lewis Henson. Old Chewy took a leave of absence in 2013 to wander off to some far flung clime for a bit of sun and sand… Problem was, the brochure said Jamiaca, what he got was Jalalabad. Fair play to him, we got a cracking video message from him to round off the season, and it’s great to have him back. The one thing i learned from the process… don’t mess with his girl. One harassing mail, trying to coax him into training was met with a barrage from him better half that i won’t soon forget. Not sure who’s the most militant – Chewy or his woman!



Least reliable

This will have to be deferred for now. Dan Johnson didn’t turn up…again. Still, i’m sure we’ll see him soon. Won’t we?

Most likely to waste money on hair products

This was a hotly contested award, plenty of candidates for this – not sure if that’s a good thing or not? Ultimately however, one man’s luscious locks won through. The man who loves nothing more than to feel the wind in his hair – or so we thought. Apparently, he has a soft spot for Thai women who aren’t as feminine as one might think… but perhaps that’s a story for another day. Josh Milgate just steals this from our next winner…



Most likely to arrive in a tow truck

Chris Palmer – “Leaf” gained some notoriety for arriving in Leeds with an AA entourage after a pretty significant prang on the M1. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but a fair amount of bruised pride ensued, which he took out on Gateshead, as he ran in the final score of the game. Look forward to having him back in Colchester soon. Probably on the back of a flatbed truck…



Most likely to be asked for ID in every bar he ever goes into

Baby faced assassin Alfie Sharman graduated from the juniors in 2013, and followed up his nomination to the all BAFANL Junior team with some sterling performances through the playoffs for the seniors. The problem is, Alfie looks about 12. Those chubby cheeks, the innocent glint in the eyes and the slightly hangdog expression he often has reflects an early stage teenager rather than a University undergraduate. It’s fair to say that Alfie is already odds on favourite for this award in 2014, 2015, and really every year going forward. I don’t know what to say, i just can’t resist those chubby little cheeks and dimples….



Most likely to invent a new dance craze

The Dougy, the worm, the Hogarth shuffle… all dance trends which have captured the nation. In 2013 we were able to add another name to the list. No, not Psy and his crazy Korean horse dance, but Garry and the Shuttleworth Shake. A revelation on the dance floors of Colchester, Garry was able to transport the dance move to the football field, taking his crazy moves to the end zone. The defensive end racked up the Sacks this year, but nobody remembers that. We only care about his mesmeric hips… Shakira has nothing on Shuttleworth.



Most likely to turn down a sure thing

A phrase for the ages was coined in 2013. It had a hashtag, and it very nearly had a t-shirt. #DoingAVenables had Twitter all abuzz, so much so that i believe it registered as trending in one particular postcode for 30 seconds between 0315 and 0320 one night… So practically world domination. Young Linebacker David Venables was the runaway winner here – and whilst he’ll tell you that he was being respectful to women, and responsible, considering his highly paid high powered job, the truth is perhaps somewhat different. This is another one to file under the “buy him a beer and ask him about it”, if you want the full tale, but it’s well worth the effort.



So, a worthy crop of award winners here, and some high benchmarks for the new class to aspire to. The 2014 group are doing well though, between the Andre diary entry and the Mitch Freeman Freak show we’re off to a strong start!


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