8. Bard News for Everyone

Schadenfreude; Its a small town in Germany best known for its gassy beer and oompah music. It’s also the name given to the pleasure derived from witnessing the troubles or humiliation of others. Think Big Brother, the Middle-Eights or the Government’s Brexit negotiations. Or indeed the latest instalment of the South Atlantic E-Mails which bring


First published in Rugby League World, Issue 438 (Oct 2017)

To: Nigel Wood
From: Crispin St Claire – South Atlantic Development Officer.

Dear Uncle Nigel,

Since I last wrote, the usually sedate world of South Atlantic Rugby League has plunged into a murky world of scandal and intrigue. Not a day seems to go by without another emergency meeting to discuss the latest controversies that has hit not one, not two but all three of our leading teams.

It all started when the local TV news programme, Round Our Parts broke away from its coverage of flower shows and pot holes to launch an investigation into the refereeing decisions of Bard Island’s top official, Dave “Mad Dog” Pulverbatch.  In recent months he has awarded penalties for skipping, spitting, excessive showing off, being too cockyand loitering with the intent of being offside. He has also sinbinned and sent players off for premature celebration of a try, flagrant waste of talent, breaking wind in front of a lady, owning a misspelt tattoo, wearing a manbun, and using Denim aftershave in a built up area. He even sent Preston Brockhurst off for being too good looking for his own good (which, if you’ve ever seen a picture of Preston you’ll know is a laughable decision.). Well it turns out that some of these offences aren’t even in the rule book! Worse still it seems that they’ve  only ever been committed by teams playing against the Bard Island Buccaneers, which are coincidentally owned and run by the Pulverbatch family. Are they by chance related? They certainly are! Turns out that Mad Dog is actually the nephew of their Life President Lady Lavinia “Blackbeard” Pulverbatch. There’s even a distinct family resemblance, if you ignore the facial hair.
Of course with Mad Dog scheduled to referee the Rowton-Wattlesborough Cup final (in which the Barracudas will play the Barnacles), the South Atlantic Rugby League Inner Council (aka SARLIC) had to act fast. It sprang into action and appointed an investigatory committee that looked at all of Mad Dogs decisions over the last five years, from the pre-match coin toss to his choice of shampoo in the post-match shower. After close study, the committee chairman Sir Danvers “Hammerhead” Pulverbatch declared that there was no case to answer and that all of Mad Dogs decisions were correct and above board. – with one caveat; he was too lax when it came to penalising offensive aftershave and that use of Denim. Hi Karate and even Pagan Man would now earn an automatic three match ban.

Well no sooner had that storm passed, than another broke – in the unlikely form of a fashion item in the pages of Oi You magazine (the South Atlantic’s slightly more aggressive answer to Hello magazine). The magazine’s fashion editor, Mrs Delores Dubois, exclusively revealed the Bard Island Barracudas new kit for next season, describing it as “a fetching shade of ocean blue” and “a big bold break with tradition”. Well that was the problem! The Barracudas have always played in what has been known in fashion circles as Horse Manure Brown, so as you can imagine, this big bold break with tradition has been met with outrage. The reaction of Abington Pigotts, the president of the Barracudas Supporters club was typical. She declared she would never again set foot in the Barracudas’ Bargain World Cellulite Reducing Bum Lift Tights Stadium (aka the Fish Bowl) before burning her collection of match programmes in a huge funeral pyre, apparently visible from space.  In fact it was only physical restraint by the police that stopped her from sitting on top of it on a homemade throne constructed out of old Rugby League Yearbooks.

The Barracudas are currently holding firm and refusing to back down. However pundits are saying this could be the greatest kit based controversy since the Oldham Bears scandal of the 90s when Jean-Paul Gaultier designed a kit for the Bears that included shorts with no backside in them. As you’ll remember, initially the Bears forfeited a couple of matches after their team was too embarrassed to leave the changing room. However they soon discovered that opposing team were reluctant to tackle players that effectively had no pants on and racked up a number of one sided victories, before the RFL stepped in and outlawed the kit (spurred on by rumours that Gateshead Thunder were toying with a kit completely made from transparent vinyl).

Which leaves the Bard Island Barnacles, so named because they are usually found stuck to the bottom of the league. Well not this year! As you know, they’re riding high under the inspiration leadership of player coach Colin Hitler. So what better time for the Bard Boyz curse to strike. Bard Boyz is of course the South Atlantic’s leading magazine for teenage girls and has long featured rugby league players among its roll call of teen idols (you may well remember its fabled “Kelvin Skerrett – Phwoar!!!!” cover). However in recent years, becoming its cover star has often gone hand in hand with imminent misfortune. Bust-ups, break-ups, out-breaks of boils, imprisonment in a Turkish prison and a booking for Keith Lemon’s Celebrity Juice are just some of the unfortunate fates recently dealt out to fool hardy souls who’ve taken the Bard Boyz shilling. Which does make you wonder why Colin Hitler agreed to be its August cover boy. Fate’s punishment actually took its time in coming for Colin, as his appearance was swiftly followed by him achieving third place in its annual 100 Dishiest Men poll (behind Harry Styles and Prince Harry). Then a twitter storm erupted when aggrieved Jeremy Corbyn fans (beaten into fourth place) accused Hitler of
trying to rig the poll by covering up the existence of his wife Sigourney! The Barracudas have denied this obviously, but it’s undeniably true that Sigourney Hitler didn’t arrive on the island until after the polls had closed, which has prompted much speculation to the cause.  One rumour floating around is that Sigourney delayed her journey south because she was worried about the damage that the South Atlantic climate would do to her shaggy perm. Another is that her electronic tag wouldn’t let her come south of the Equator, no matter how much they boosted the signal. Still, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity – and it’s given plenty of free advertising to Sigourney’s new beauty salon Hair Hitler. It’s the biggest retail excitement to hit Bard Island since Preston Brockhurt’s nail bar (which turned out to be hardware shop which served real ale).

Yours faithfully

Crispin St Claire