Sunday, 10 May 2009

Whatever happened to: the Mitre rugby ball?

Another in the very occasional series of ramblings about things that seem to have disappeared from rugby since I first started playing the game way back when...

Whatever happened, I ask you, to the old white leather Mitre rugby ball?

You know the one - white, leather, big black 'Mitre' logo and a very, very shiny layer to protect the ball from inclement weather. So shiny, in fact, that you pretty much had to be a world class player simply to be able to catch and pass one of those things.

Take a look at a modern rugby ball, made from super-grip rubber laminate with a bobble effect for extra grip and additional stickiness just in case you still can't catch it. And some players still resort to wearing gloves! Honestly, the modern day rugby ball should never, ever be dropped and passing on either hand really should be a doddle. (And yes, I do still manage to drop the ball with worrying frequency).

Compare the modern ball, however, to the old Mitre ball and it's like comparing chalk and cheese - only a lot more slippery. How often did that old ball spill from your grasp or squirt out of an attempted pass? How often were you simply unable to catch it? And remember - that was when the weather was dry. In the wet I honestly believe that a piglet greased in baby oil would have been far easier to catch.

Furthermore, much like Gilbert today, the Mitre ball was somehow ubiquitous throughout the UK. The company's marketing department must have been staffed by the most phenomenal of marketing gurus as it appeared that every school, college and club played with this impossible-to-catch ball. Little wonder then that the English rugby 'style' (much derided by southern hemisphere types) developed in the way it did. Up and down the land English schoolboys, college students and grassroots rugby players were busy trying to shove an over-sized white bar of soap up our jumpers as often as possible purely to ensure that it wasn't dropped. Letting those backs have the ball, while fine in principle, simply wasn't an option.

You may think that I'm exaggerating or that my memory might be playing tricks with me but I do know what I'm talking about here - you see, I still have a Mitre rugby ball from that era (pictured) and, believe me, it's near impossible to handle.

Rugby players of today - you don't know you're born.

1 comment:

Nursedude said...

The Mitre ball must have gone to the same place where Umbro Jersey's went. Back in the day, it seemed like most football clubs in the UK had Umbro Jerseys. Now? It's still the Jersey for England, but not so many clubs, and I don't think it's the mark for Scotland anymore, either.