The numerous reports of Aaron Cruden going out on the piss and missing the All Blacks flight to Argentina have filled column inches all over the rugby world and beyond – although I have absolutely no idea why it made the press in Pakistan. Some reports in New Zealand actually criticised the extent of the coverage in Australia and England, which is a bit rich from the media which delights in any misbehaviour from across the Tasman or by anyone wearing a white shirt. Actually that last bit is wrong, since England shirts these days tend to be designed by a bloke who works on ‘Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat’ or maybe Helen Keller.
Rugby players have to be more careful in a high tech age, especially with social media and with every idiot (including me) carrying a camera phone – although Aaron wasn’t dobbed in, he must have been so rat arsed that he forgot what his day job was. That would have been like me going on the piss on a long lunch hour at the office – something I never did, well rarely anyway, okay so maybe once a month, but never more than once a week- unless there was a Friday in it. Alright, you got me there – at Easter we went to the pub on the Thursday.
However, we tended to mostly be a tad more savvy than Aaron – we almost always went back to the office at some point, even if we did sport silly grins (and walks) as we slumped behind the desk. We also tried to make sure our ventures coincided with the boss being out of the office. In exceptional circumstances we had to take him with us and to have some rohypnol handy if he started to get stroppy. I suspect both of these wheezes were unavailable to Aaron – someone would probably have spotted that he was wasted had he made it as far as check-in and I guess Steve Hansen might well have been booked on the same flight.
One time we were at a sales’ conference out at Heathrow in the Skyline Hotel and I admit we were less than the epitome of good behaviour – I think Aaron would have fitted in really well. Being inconspicuous was a trifle difficult as there were 800 potential witnesses there (we had a big sales’ force). I was one of the speakers at the conference – probably presenting the new chimp ads or something, I can’t really remember. A number of us decided to celebrate at the black tie dinner in the evening (no idea what specifically, but then we rarely needed a reason). I was on a table with Airdy, Tony Pearce (former Bristol prop) and a couple of lunatics from one of the ad agencies. I know we played stupid drinking games during the entrée, dessert and MD’s speech – oh yeah and the cheese course as well. These involved forfeits and I seem to remember having to do a fast pint of something at one point but maybe I’m making that up – although I was always being asked to do that trick.
After the meal we headed for one of the bars – unfortunately so did the other 795 blokes there – so obviously they were all rammed. Fortunately the Skyline had a big pool with a bar in the middle where swimmers could paddle up and perch on slightly submerged stools Apart from a couple of late night Mark Spitz non look- a- likes, the place was empty and the bar open. Whilst Airdy went to the side to get a round in, one of the agency guys and I decided to fight a duel – armed with cardboard samurai swords (which had the menu printed on – the top sales’ prize that year was a trip to Tokyo). We approached each other warily across the wet stools. We didn’t get to tussle much above the waves – the stools being slippery we rapidly ended up slashing at each other with soggy swords in the deep end. I did a sophisticated dog paddle to the side and climbed out, thinking that the shop where I’d hired the DJ were going to be right fucking chuffed on Monday morning. Looking back I could see Brophy doing a couple of lengths before he climbed onto one of the stools and asked the rather surprised barman for a ‘rusty nail’. This turned out to be a cocktail and not what he needed in order to crucify me – I had, after all, only recently been walking on water, albeit not that successfully.
The night manager arrived and asked Broph what he thought he was doing – upon which he slipped off the stool and swam towards him replying “I think it’s called breast stroke, why don’t you come in, it’s really very nice”. Unimpressed the manager promptly had all the bars closed – this didn’t make him all that popular with the sales guys I can tell you. It was now about 3 am and Airdy and I got the munchies – we were more than a bit miffed to find that the kitchen was also closed, but fortunately unattended. Even luckier one of the fridges was unlocked and we found some eggs and cheese with which we knocked up a quite respectable giant omelette. Our technique, for those of you who are Master Chef fans, relied upon me tossing the eggs from about 10 feet and Airdy chopping them in mid-air with a steel spatula onto the griddle. To be frank this wasn’t as successful as it sounds and his DJ started to look somewhat less stylish than my wetsuit (which had started to dry out nicely but nevertheless was a bit wrinkled). Our audience had grown, although there didn’t seem to be that much interest in partaking of the repast – understandably as it was now looking more scrambled than omelette like.
Our new mate the Night Manager turned up again, turned red and then turned us out, although he didn’t make as much fuss as I expected. I imagine a conference with 800 blokes getting bladdered knocks out a healthy profit and he could stand a few broken eggs (which as the saying goes you end up with if you are intending to make an omelette).
My laboured point in all this is that a lot of blokes and rugby Doris’ frequently go off the rails (and stools) whilst at work – so let’s cut Aaron some slack. I know I did an ‘Aaron’ on more than a few occasions, although chronologically speaking he was technically doing a ‘Shutey’.
The most laughable thing about the whole incident (Aaron’s, not my night swimming) is that many of the journalists who are being so sanctimonious about Aaron probably spend more time in bars getting pissed than the whole All Black squad put together (although not more than the Askeans, obviously).
They should remember the old saying ‘People that live with a brass mouse shouldn’t grow scones’ – actually that doesn’t sound quite right, mind you I am a bit pissed right now!