By Bill McHugh
Member of Lions Hall of Fame, Founder of Lion Kings.
17 years ago [the HK Football Club] lost the captain of our rugby team, we lost the guy that made us warm up so much we couldn’t play the game, we lost the scrum half who could never keep a phone, we lost our scottish line out caller (yeah, that worked well), we lost our transplant from the sequins, we lost the man that ordered our kit (and always ruined his jersey from the way he held his pint), we lost a crazy South Afrikaner that was on the piss every friday, we lost a really big newcomer to rugby (ex 2 time all American from Univ Nebraska). We also lost Annika, Bettina and Shane. Luckily we didn’t lose Polly. I wrote the below piece in 2015 but the message is basic. You’ve got friends and you never know when you will lose them – live life, with them, to the fullest!
(Reposted from https://medium.com/@PromotingGHL/friends-are-friends-16017f6c2b1b)
The following was written in my blog back in 2010. As we approach the anniversary of the Bali bombing, I wanted to re-post, in its original form (all typos or bad grammar exist as they did then), my story of these special people, teammates, our Band Of Brothers. This is not a diatribe about terrorism, this is simply a remembrance of these friends that died and how they have changed my life forever. I’ll blame this on a lifestyle born of Rugby. There’s a code, it’s bonding with teammates, but the camaraderie, competition and respect that occurs in rugby is like nothing else. This story tries to explain this. The Boys are up in the SkyBar and there have been a few others that have since joined them. Tonight I’ll don the Bali jacket and head out with a friend who was there that day. We’ll be wearing our Jackets in memory of those Boys. There will be plenty of people that will stare and wonder at the beauty of our really loud and obnoxious jackets. And we will wear them proudly. So raise your glass, to the Boys In The Sky Bar — gone but never forgotten!
(originally posted 18 May, 2010 — http://rugbyhubby.blogspot.com/2010/05/friends-are-friends.html)
First — I did get up on Monday and did a fairly weak set of pushups and situps. But the point here is I DID get up! I guarantee you I will NOT be getting up to do the same tomorrow (or is it today).
Years ago, I played rugby in Hong Kong. I met the then captain of my team in a bar, in MidLevels with my Gran. Yes, with my Gran — who was working her one Diet Coke for the evening while I was drinking pints of Guinness due to the fact that a guy I didn’t know was leaving back to India tomorrow. However, Richie, made me an offer (at 130am, while continuing w/ my Guinness while my Gran STILL had her one diet coke — a lesson learned there) to play rugby for Select the next morning at 1130. I showed up (hungover) and was the only, of a group of about 10 second rows, that played that match. And we beat Sequins (our inner-club rivalry) for the first time in 12 matches. There’s a story in that but that’s for another day.
Bottom line, in that one game, even after irrevocably pissing off the other second rowers that had played w/ the team for years, I was welcomed, quite warmly, into the Select crew. If you have played rugby, you know what this means. If you haven’t, ring me up and we’ll discuss, better, meet at a Pub here in the city and we’ll discuss in-depth. I met my wife through the rugby team in NY and in HK I immediately had a group fo 60 friends/family. The guys I met that day, to this day, even though I’ve not seen some of them in years, will remain some of the best friends I’ve met in my life. Sweetie (Pete Record) who conveniently carried his beer wrapped around his wrist and balanced against his chest, which led to the inevitalble stain over the right breast on every jersey he owned. Clive Walton, Esq (who wasn’t actually a lawyer, rather, he worked for DHL, but he DID carry himself like an esquire) who could combine any group of people for a night out, including those people who unfortunately were stuck in the Curry House (Shaffi’s in Causeway Bay) where 25 of us showed up one Saturday Night. Clive “introduced” us to every single patron in the restaurant by inviting the entire club to have a beer w/ the patron. Clive was also known for the ability to consume his own perishables, much to the chagrin of a bunch of Kiwi girls who were ‘offended’ by his action in the south stands of the HK Rugby Sevens many years ago. But hell, it was a long way to the pisser….
Include Tom, Dan, Ed (who put his tooth thru the headgear of Jake), Jake (who received the tooth, and then proceeded to play three more matches with breaks while he replaced the butterfly bandage to help stem the bleeding), Stevie (who was Scottish, hooker, can couldnt’ be understood from any side of the pitch). Then there was Charlie, who joined the same day I did, who ALWAY was out on the piss Friday night and ended up vomiting on the sidelines 5 minutes into the game, but then proceeded to just blow away the competition (having relieved the internal pressures!)
All of these mates were sorely loss in the bombing in Bali in 2002. I, luckily, was in Barbados for my Brother’s wedding. Having said that, when I heard what had happened, I was devastated. The same person that had called me on Sept 11, 2001 had called me after the bombing to tell me of the loss of so many of my mates. All of these guys had taken me in (a Yank — how can a Yank know how to play rugby!) It was a group of gentleman that, for me, has never been matched. Two weeks prior to Bali we had lost miserably to a local team in HK (yes, Pat, it was Valley Mustangs). After Bali, having lost a core component of our team, we met the same team and came back to win, devastatingly! That day, we pulled it together for the boys up in the Sky Bar — to show them The MIghty Select would not be beaten! And we ended up winning the Grand Finals that year — playing the same team that we had beaten my very first match with Select. For me, it was my crowning glory!
Over the time, the wounds have healed — what was drastically taken from us in that mess that was Bali, has scabbed over and, though still hurt, live goes on — as the boys would want. But what brings me to this point is the friends that still exist, over thousands of miles and dollars of phone calls. Luckily brought together (at least for some of them) through FaceBook. As an ExPat, keeping in touch with other ExPat friends is always tough due to changing emails, etc. I joined FBook solely for the purpose of staying in touch w/ these mates. And that’s paid off in the nines. Tonight, as usual, my friend Deansey showed up, texting me at 1030am, “I’m in from Dubai, you around in the next 24 hours?” It reminded me of the need to keep in touch w/ these close friends. He joined me, with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, etc., and we chatted till 0100 but though I see him, at best, once a year, he is someone that I wouldn’t miss no matter when he called. He was the one that got the team back together on a Forced Night Out (no excuses, everyone’s going out) after Bali happened. Beyond Deansey there’s Scarthy that calls once a month or so, “…out, just checking in, how are you doing mate?” as well as AliMac, via FBook, moving between India and HK just checking in to see what’s happening.
The last time we all met (was really the HK 7’s in 2003, the year of SARS when we all referred to it as Single Again and Running Stupid) was in Cambridge when Polly Miller, who was one of the survivors in Bali, had coordinated a rugby tourney in Cambridge to support Dan’s Fund For Burns. That weekend was a sevens tourney in the AM, followed by a 15’s match sporting Matt Dawson as well as Justin Leonard (for those Eng-el-land fans), then followed by a black-tie dinner at St John’s. That was then followed by an equally entertaining night out at an after-hours place in Cambridge. Bottom line, sitting with a mate and regurgitating these stories, much to the chagrin of my wife, reminded me what it means to have friends.
Now I’ve lived in a large number of places and can safely say I have a number of friends in many locations (whether they’d admit to that or not is yet to be said) but the point of this story (aside from the fact that today is Monday and I had my steroid dosage today and a vast number of beers) is that you can’t ever forget that group. No matter how long since you’ve last spoken/seen these people, if they were friends, they were FRIENDS. So to those boys in HK, Eng, Singapore, India, Thailand, Washington DC, Florida, wherever — hello and when can we next get a beer? And for those of you yet to be friends (people that are going through this same disease as me) when are we next getting together to have a beer (or perhaps a soda or water as I probably should be doing)? And, before I get in trouble, for those that aren’t boys but are the significant others (Arianne!) of some of the boys I played with, let’s also get together for a beverage or two. Friends are friends and life is too short not to remember to reach out and relive — the past is always best when celebrated with others — especially if some of those others can’t be there to enjoy it.
Cheers and good night (posting w/o proofing so deal w/ the mistakes!)