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   Tue, July 29, 2003



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Bret Hart's Sharpshooter : Give sport of rugby a try
By BRET HART -- for SLAM! Wrestling




Ever since I was a kid, I've had an appreciation for rugby. It probably came from my older brother, Keith, who often took me to watch him play.

When I was about 15 -- after years of eagerly watching from the sidelines -- Keith and his teammates offered me a chance to participate in an exhibition game. Since I was so young and skinny back then, I didn't pose any real threat. But I do remember the opposing team racing down the field and finding myself the lone man back to stop them from scoring a try.

Coming right at me with nostrils flared and teeth clenched was a brute twice my age and practically twice my size. I dove and snagged him by the ankle with a shoestring tackle and sent him crashing to the ground.

It was my first real taste of rugby.

I'll never forget Keith and the rest of the team smiling and slapping me on the back after we won the game. Since then, I've been sort of a serious-casual rugby fan. I think anyone who loves hockey would love rugby and, while I was in New Zealand a few months ago, I wasn't surprised to find numerous rugby fans who love hockey. They follow it on the Internet.

The Dynamite Kid was considered a highly touted prospect in rugby long before he achieved stardom as a wrestler. I've always felt he sometimes wished he'd stuck with rugby instead.

Knowing Dynamite, he would have ended up in a wheelchair either way. When we were wrestling in England in the 1980s, he took me to a rugby game in Wigan, not far from his home, to cheer on the local team against their longtime archrivals from Leigh. Dynamite jerked and twisted in his seat and only then did I realize how much he wished he was in there.

He reminded me of how excited wrestling fan get when watching a great match.

I couldn't get over how physical the game was. In fact, I'll never forget one injured player writhing face-down at the far end of the field and an opposing Wigan player jogging over to help him or so I thought. Instead, he kicked him as hard as he could in the face. It's no wonder Dynamite loved it!

Another wrestler who had a passion for rugby was Crazy Nick Carter of the Kiwis -- later known as Butch of the Bushwhackers.

Butch was a standout player with the New Zealand Junior All Blacks once upon a time. I remember being in then-WWF locker-room staring at him while he taped up his ankles. It was obvious they'd both been injured and I asked him how it happened.

He told me while in a rugby scrum, the weight of the opposing team collapsed on him -- snapping both his ankles. They almost had to amputate his feet and it took him years to recover. Luckily, like a lot of injured athletes from other sports, Butch ended up in wrestling and became a star.

Butch suffered without complaint but I think what really hurt him the most was he could no longer play rugby. Butch is one of the toughest wrestlers I ever knew.

While I was in New Zealand, I caught a championship rugby game and found it to be one of the most exciting sporting events I've watched all year. That's why I'm excited about going to the Canada/New Zealand match this afternoon at the Calgary Rugby Union, 9025 Shepard Rd. S.E. It follows the Rugby Canada Super League final, which starts at 1 p.m. See you there!