Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of going down to Harlequins for the day with Agboola ‘Jack’ Silverthorn and it was an eye opening experience in many ways. One of the key buzzwords around Quins is ‘respect’ and in their case it takes many different forms (and as a disclaimer, I’m a Leicester fan, so feel no compulsion to big up a club who have taken the Tigers rightful place at the summit of the league):

Collin Osborne, the skills coach, was our host and given it was the first day back in for the players after their loss to Toulouse (and therefore a manic day for the coaches) and he was delivering a session to those unlucky to not have had any game time over the previous weekend, one could have expected to be seen as an unwanted distraction. Not a bit of it – Collin introduced Agboola to the coaching staff, players (including the deceptively small Ollie Lindsay-Hague, a 7s specialist like Agboola) and spent a large amount of time chatting about the Caribbean, where Collin hails from as well. When Agboola was introduced at the beginning of the debrief for the team there was a prolonged round of applause – totally unnecessary as he was intruding into their inner sanctum. 

Probably the biggest show of respect was something so small, and potentially irrelevant, that it underlines the ethos of the club. When the players were playing basketball, one was body checked by another and ended up on his backside – cue the understandable reaction of telling the aggressor to f-off. No great surprise. Yet, practically immediately, he turned and apologised to Agboola and myself. Why? One could argue that the players are used to having to watch their P’s and Q’s given they are based in a public setting, but this wasn’t in public – it was in a self-contained sports hall and there was nobody ‘un-vetted’ (for want of a better term) present. A show of total respect. 

Inevitably this got me thinking about whether we’re good at ‘respect’ and over the last couple of weeks a few things point to us nailing it on the head… We’re one of the few teams who have gone back to Old Actonians’s clubhouse (not the shortest distance known to man) and shared a drink with them. While it’s easy to do after a convincing win, given the weather, it would also have been easy to say to hell with it and disappeared into the night. Verulamians invited us to send a team up to theirs (unfortunately we were short of numbers) to celebrate Christmas, and we compete in the same leagues as all three of their teams – if we weren’t respectful we wouldn’t be invited to these things. Referees consistently praise the discipline in accepting decisions and the way we speak (or don’t speak) to them during games. Are we the finished article? No, and we can never be as the moment you think it’s done and dusted, you inevitably become less than totally respectful. And using Agboola as an example – how many of us treat each other within the club with total respect? This guy has played international rugby and just trained with two Premiership academies and could be forgiven for arriving and playing the big man and telling people how they should play… Does he? Not a bit of it… Maybe a lesson for us all…