RUGBY: RUPERT MERCER meets the new Blues captain, Rob Malaney. And develops a bit of a crush.
I’m a red-blooded, heterosexual man. I am, however, worried that Rob Malaney thinks I fancy him. The reason is simple – his muscles. A lot of guys his size look like their clothes don’t fit; Malaney looks like his skin came in a couple of sizes too small and trust me, it’s hard to look away.
For a man who could probably go toe to toe with a silverback gorilla, Malaney is surprisingly softly spoken. He talked intelligently about his disappointment at Twickenham in December and how it motivated him to apply for the post as well as reflecting on the all-conquering Durham side he skippered to BUCS league and cup glory last season.
Malaney triumphant with Durham
That Durham side has not lost since March 2010 and recently came and turned over a Blues side fresh form their Varsity chastening. So why did he decamp to the Light Blues?
“Education played a big part. I was really keen to continue my studies but obviously that had to be somewhere I could still keep up my rugby very seriously. Cambridge seemed the perfect option.”
Studying post-grad history at St. Edmund’s is clearly agreeing with Malaney but I wondered how perfect the decision must have felt as his old team-mates racked up a 22-point victory at Grange Road.
“Obviously I was disappointed. I knew most of the side and they give me some stick after but it wasn’t unexpected. Our season has reached its climax; we’re rebuilding now, whereas they’re in the middle of their BUCS campaign and obviously in top form
“It didn’t make me regret leaving. I’d achieved everything I had to achieve with Durham. This is a new challenge for me now and what happened at Twickenham is big motivation for next year.”
Tussling with the Dark Blues
Under Malaney things are in for big changes at Grange Road. Until now CURUFC has been run as a captain’s club, an anachronistic model placing all the logistical, financial and sporting responsibility on the captain.
“It was too old fashioned. We’ll be appointing a full time coach and I need my responsibility to be squarely on the field. When I captained Durham it was very much a democracy – I want anybody in the team to be able to voice their opinions and for us to try to come to decisions about how we play as a squad.”
So what of the Varsity Match? What was it that went so wrong?
“There’s not too much point in post-mortems now. I thought we matched them pretty well first half but they were just a bit too strong up front.
“Their captain, John Carter, had a great game. We looked better while he was off.”
I remind him that Carter only left the field after a highly cynical punch in the face at a ruck.
“I wish he could have stayed off longer,” comes the response, quick as a flash.
Carter has been elected Oxford’s captain again for 2012 so I wonder if Malaney is planning a repeat performance. Perhaps that’s what the muscles are for.