1. A Day in the Life

Watergate? Chicken feed. The Pentagon Tapes? What were they again? Wikileaks? Forgotten them already. Rugby League World’s new exclusive blows them all out if the water. The Pulitzer Prize already has our name on it. Working with a mysterious hacker we can only refer to as Spotty Derek and in collaboration with the New York Times, the Spenborough Guardian and the Australian Woman’s Weekly (which may or may not be fake news), we present what we’re calling:

THE SOUTH ATLANTIC E-MAILS (because we couldn’t think of anything better to call them).

First published in Rugby League World, Issue 431 (March 2017)

Dear Uncle Nigel,

Can I say once again how grateful I am to be given this opportunity to become Rugby League’s South Atlantic Development Officer. Especially after all that kerfuffle over my work on those financial assessments for the franchising department – who knew that getting decimal points in the right place would be so important? And to think they said I’d never work in Rugby League again!

As you’ll remember I’m based here on Bard Island, which is roughly halfway between South America and South Africa so pretty much at the centre of ‘my patch’.

I had a pleasant 42 hour journey after leaving the RLIF’s Venezuelan office (motto: ‘you don’t have to be Caracas to work here but it helps’).

Everyone has been very friendly since I arrived but I think you might have given me the wrong brochures to look at when telling me about the job. The sky and sea both seem to grey rather than blue and when I wore my Bermuda shorts on the second day I had to be treated for hypothermia; there’s certainly no place here called Martinique. Still it all reminds off my days studying History of Art at Hull University (except slightly warmer).

My guide to local life has been my landlady Mrs Delores Dubois. As well as running The Blasted Heath Guest House, a Shakespearean themed hotel on the west side of the island (complete with rooms such as the Desdemona Bridal Suite and the Lady Macbeth Breakfast Bar) she writes a local history column for the community newsletter Your Bard.

She tells me that the original settlers were a group of actors who were shipwrecked here on their way to perform in Chile. Although life on the island was hard they decided it was easier than doing a season of Mother Goose at the Santiago Alhambra and decided to stay, naming the island after the immortal bard.

However, people on the nearby twin islands of Clawphin and Mobyclaw, claim that Bard was a penal colony and that the name actually comes from the fact that all the houses on the island had iron bars on their windows. Bard Islanders on the other hand just think that their neighbours have ideas above their station because they have a volcano and a Café Nero. (If the names Clawphin and Mobyclaw sound familiar, it’ll be because of the 1970s Lobster War between them – it was a bit like the Cod War but with more Michelin stars).

Rugby League is thriving here on Bard. As you’ll remember it was introduced to the island over a hundred years ago when some whalers from Whitehaven were marooned here for asking for broken time payments. Since then Rugby League has grown and grown and there are now three teams in the local league. Imagine, every game a local derby! How exciting!

At the top of the tree are the Bard Island Barracudas. They’re owned by the island’s guano magnet Kinton Nesscliffe, a direct descendant of the original settlers (he can trace his lineage directly to the rear end of Idle Jack’s pantomime cow). Nesscliffe has pumped his manure millions into the club to make them top of the pile – quite literally as their ground is built on top of one of his reclaimed dung heaps. In fact before the stadium was built the mountain of manure made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest pile of poo in the world (this was of course before Sylvester Stallone made the second Expendables movie).

Their sworn rivals are the island’s glamour team the Buccaneers, They were founded by legendary one legged pirate Bob “Peg Leg” Pulverbatch who was surprisingly fast down the wing but had a rubbish kicking game. The team toasts his memory with a tot of rum in the dressing room each game at half time, which may explain why their second half defence is often a bit shaky. A few years ago the pirate connection led to rumours that Hollywood actor Johnny Depp was looking to buy the club. However in the end he spent that month’s $2 million on a life size gold statue of Garry Schofield and his weight in anchovies instead.

Last and certainly least are the Bard Barnacles, so named because they are stuck on the bottom of the league and can’t be shifted. According to the locals they play in black and white because it allows them to field penguins when numbers are low.

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to get to some of the other nearby islands, among them Devil Island, Blood Island, Monster Island, Hell Island, Doom Island, Dread Island, Despair Island and New Widnes. With a bit of luck we should be able to pull together a South Atlantic team for the 2021 World Cup to help as you say “make the numbers up”, particularly with the new interpretation of the grandmother rule: extensive research on my part has revealed that most Australian players do have grandmothers and therefore will be available for selection – apart from the ones especially created in secret laboratories obviously.

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).