6. Will This Bard News Ever End?

Some things make life worth living, but let’s face it, this isn’t one of them. Not that we’re going to stop now.


First published in Rugby League World, Issue 436 (August 2017)

Dear Uncle Nigel,

Well can he do it? That’s the question we’re all asking. No, not will Jeremy Corbyn win the Daily Mail Tie Wearer of the Year award. I refer to something even more unlikely. Can Colin Hitler find the key to the Bard Island Barnacles trophy cabinet (last seen in 1975) and win the Rowton-Wattlesborough Cup? Yes in the shock of the season so far the pocket general has taken the South Atlantic’s perennial dungeon dwellers all the way to the final (to be held as usual at Hell Island’s Judith Chalmers Memorial Stadium).

The Road to Hell took its first unexpected turn at the semi-final draw at which I had the honour of holding Bard Island RFL chief executive Tedstone Dellamere‘s velvet bag. The whole of the South Atlantic was expecting the traditional Barracudas-Buccaneers final and were very surprised when those two teams were drawn against each other in the semis – the first time it has happened since 1993 – the year before Mr Dellamere took charge. In fact I doubt anyone was more surprised than he was, as his reaction was most peculiar, leaping across the table, grabbing me by the throat and shouting “I told you to warm the balls”. He later took to staring into space and muttering about empty seats.

The unexpected draw did cause some problems as the semis are held at neutral venues. This usually means that the Buccaneers play their opponents at the newly re-christened Bard Island Shake ‘n’ Vac Superbowl (better known as the Fish Bowl), while the Barracudas travel in the opposite direct to the Buccaneer’s DDT Stadium. This of course was not an option this year and the obvious solution, playing the game at the Barnacles home ground was blocked after it was closed by the World Health Organisation due to the state of its women’s toilets

Luckily local entrepreneur Peter Sandlee, owner of the Drenge Valley Showground rode to the rescue. He’d spotted a gap in the Showground’s calendar that could accommodate the game (although it would have to be an early kick-off in order to accommodate the sheep racing), and as a sweetener, as proprietor of Drenge Valley Travel could provide supporter transport with his brace of charabancs.

Thus the cream of South Atlantic Rugby League descended on the scenic Drenge Valley, bringing with it a carnival atmosphere full of balloons, facepaint and counterfeit Polish lager supplied by Mr Sandlee. After sampling some of the latter, Turd Tycoon and Barracudas chairman Sir Kinton Nesscliffe (recently knighted for his services to manure and Rugby League) joined the fans on the terraces, happily joining in the abuse of his own club coach Woy Woy Roy from Woy Woy (in fact some say he actually started it). Buccaneers president Lady Lavinia “Blackbeard” Pulverbatch though was less egalitarian in her approach, taking her seat, as usual, in her own portable royal box.

The game was another seesaw thriller, with tries for the Barracudas by Brockhurst, Dick and Dinsmore counterbalanced by Buccaneers tries from their star trio of Mary, Mungo and Midge. In the end it was a decision by referee Dave “Mad Dog” Pulverbatch that effectively decided the game in favour of the Buccaneers. It was unpopular with the crowd, many of whom were unaware that having an untied shoe lace during a scrum was a penalty offence. Others claimed it must have been a case of mistaken identity, as the player involved, teenage wonder boy Yatton Dinsmore, is the only player in world rugby to have a medical dispensation to play in Velcro slip-ons. No matter – the Barracudas are through to the final!

The Barnacles journey across the Island to the Barracudas home town of Talbot Rothwell was less eventful. Their opponents were the infamous Nookie Bears, the team put together by the Reverend Shibdon Carwood, the celebrated Rugby League loving warden of Nookie Prison. As part of their rehabilitation the Rev Carwood handpicks violent offenders from D Wing and teaches them the value of healthy exercise, the meaning of team work, and the intricacies of getting away with a chicken wing tackle. Captained by Mancuncian expat Florizel Street (aka the Moston Strangler) and rewarded on a snout for points basis the Bears can be formidable opponents. However it was generally agreed that the Bears were hampered by the Rev Cawood’s refusal to remove their leg shackles following a break-out in the 3rd round which left him without a hooker and with only one real prop forward (he would have been without any at all if Benny “the Blimp” Butterworth had been able to squeeze through the dressing room window as well). So it was that Colin Hitler’s Barnacles cruised to an easy victory and the semi-finals. As for the Nookie Bears, their prop was later arrested at Bard Island International Airport trying to sneak out of the country disguised as Tanya Arnold; the hooker is still at large.

One person who claims not to be surprised by any of the above is my fellow Blasted Heath Hotel resident and new age thinker Ongar Street. He claims that it was all predicted centuries ago. I asked him to explain more and he charged me £15 for his latest quality tome ‘Nostradamus: Seer, Sage, Rugby League Pundit’. Apparently the predictions of the 16th century prophet Brian Nostradamus (he later dropped his first name to make himself more mysterious) are largely concerned with Rugby League. Hence all the references to rams, warriors, bulldogs and dragons that no one can make any sense of. Ongar says that Nostradamus has a 95% accuracy rate when it comes to Super League fixtures and that he uses it for all his spread betting. Which does make you wonder if it’s so good, why is he effectively sleeping in the Blasted Heaths’ broom cupboard.

Yours faithfully

Crispin St Claire

(Read the next thrilling instalment in Rugby League World, every month until the editor gets bored, gets sacked or stops getting the jokes).