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Almost Men: Penang Rocks

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

I got the squad tatted on me from my neck to my ankles Pressure from the man got us all in rebellion We gon' go to war, yeah, without failure

It’s the last year in the junior program and they are training for their final tournament. The program ends at 16 years old. And half these kids know they won’t be around next year. Where are they going? I don’t know but they have a lot to figure out. Continue pursuing their rugby passion, higher education or even take on a job. Tough. Half a child and half a man.

Do it for the fam, dog, ten toes down, dog Love and the loyalty that's what we stand for

Early in the year, their head coach had to take leave because of illness. So, At 15/16 years old, they were a pack of wolves that just went directionless without their grizzled wolf veteran. They kept together as best they could but slowly, the pack was drifting apart. Unsure of the details, but I shuffled in to coach. Some stability kicked in but it took some work. They needed to believe if I was really there for them.

Commitment goes both ways. These boys were ready to commit but they needed someone to commit to them too.

Alienated by society, all this pressure give me anxiety Walk slow through the fire Like, who gon' try us? Feeling the world go against us So we put the world on our shoulders

Ain’t easy being on the Cobrats U16 team. The Black and Gold Jersey is not an easy jersey to wear. Cobra is an established rugby name and teams get pumped to put "I beat Cobra" to their Instagram. Tougher still when you are not as good as your club might suggest. They have struggled throughout the year with inconsistent coaching, poor player attendances and personal issues. When a tournament comes, the result is often the team is fighting for that 'moral' victory. We may say winning isn't everything but losing every time, sucks.

Joshua Too, did not play a single minute. But he repped his team all the way through without complaint. I did not do him justice. I regret that.

Even from within the club, they feel it when the younger age groups get all the kudos and attention. Not easy because I could feel what they feel. When you’ve spent some time with them, body language tells everything.

But they took ownership. Rallied the team to come together. So they train as best as they could. They support each as best as they could. Rely on themselves and not others. Step up or Step Aside. Hope for the best.

Saturday Morning session at Cobra. As much as they trained hard, their insta game was cool too. That was a team slowly coming together.

Hold up take a step back, when we roll up, cause I know what We been loyal, we been fam, we the ones you trust in Won't hesitate to go straight to your head like a concussion I know I been bustin', no discussion for my family

The club has been another home for me. I found a family here. So for these boys, I had to step my game and show them what family means. The Intangible Treasure. Also, I had to accelerate their training and the route was to play tough competition and learn. That means they had to play against the Cobra Blacks. The senior team. Tough Family Love. Oh. Acceleration Indeed.

Altaf, talent and charisma on/off the field. Alip, second to Liam when it comes to speed. Sultan (right), Grit and Grind, the mirror to Altaf. Only Sultan made the trip north. The other 2 missed out to injury and family commitments.

And only Lord knows when I'm coming to the crossroads So I don't fear shit but tomorrow

As a team and as rugby players, they have done what they can. BUT As a young man, the journey has not been as straightforward. It’s easy to be derailed (even unintentionally) by parents or other influences in your life. To meet an expectation of making decisions that can affect the rest of your life. Tough call. Heck all of that, the last tournament of the year in Penang is up! Let’s make it good!

Bird (left), unofficial leader like the Winter Soldier. Zul aka Timun, big big potential. Amar, nobody loved tackling like he does. Brian (right), probably his 4th month of rugby, and a starter, rare like the Unicorn. Pic credits to Tuan Azley Kassim.

And I'm a sucker for pain, it ain't nothing but pain You just f-in' complain, you ain't tough as you claim Just stay up in your lane, just don't f--- with Lil Wayne I'mma jump from a plane or stand in front of a train Cause I'm a sucker for pain

The Penang 10s tournament is not an easy tournament to play in. Every team is looking to finish the year strong and will stack their teams with the best players possible. That’s also when most teams tend to be at their best with time to train and rest. Let’s add to the drama, the Cobra U16 team were definitely not the most talented.

Aiman Chu Chu. Played hurt. Did his best to hide it but I kept a watchful eye to pull him out for his sake. Bobby (Head gear), Jack of all trades.

Liam Yew. No one was faster at the tournament. He was beating defenses despite being man marked. The talisman of the team got himself hurt in the opening minutes of the knockout game. No one was upset more than he was.

Used to doing bad, now we feel like we just now getting it Ain't got no other way so we started and finished it No pain, no gain Never stand down, made our own way Never going slow, we pick up the pace This is what we wanted from a young age

They took it upon themselves to be responsible for their team and held each other accountable. I didn’t have to lead warm up at times.

When they played, Heart, Mind and Soul all left on the field. Gave me nor themselves any excuses. They even hid injuries from me because they didn’t want to let their team down. Even one of the Penang Cobrats Boy, stepped up. Ice it, strap it, go play.

They did enough in the pool stages to reach the final 8. Something they've never achieved before in previous tournaments. However, things were not meant to be in the Knock out stages. They looked good to win but 3 injuries in game was enough to knock the momentum out. That was it. Blow to the stomach.

Liam, man marked right after scoring his 1st try. No catching him once in flight. No slouch is his running mate in grey leggings, Iqmal. he stands next to Liam in pic below. Pic credits to Shootlen

I torture you Take my hand through the flames I torture you I'm just a sucker for pain

What sucked was knowing that we could've done better. I felt these boys deserved so much more. Looking back, there were a few things I could've done better. Looking back, I think what was achieved was a miracle enough. It's up to them to learn and make good of the road ahead. As much as our weakness was presented to us, I also discovered potential. Potential not just a great rugby player but also as a great human being. Almost Men.

Post game. Worked out a smile out of them after a long post game talk.

Cobrats U16 2017. Not Team. Family.

Under short notice, I decided to coach the U16 Cobrats for Penang 10s in 2017. It was not easy as I had a short period for this team to be competitive for the tournament. But thanks to the players and some of the parents, the tournament was a memorable one.

I missed out quite a few players that were part of the experience. Apologies for that. But Special mention to Lionel and Coach Bob, who helped step my game up.

Lyrics: Sucker for Pain - Suicide Squad OST

The story of the Almost Men.


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