In honour of Father’s Day, the former Western Province prop forward shares some heart-warming childhood memories and anecdotes about Fatherhood exclusively with CommanderHQ. Andrew “Tank” Lanning, the rugby-loving digital media guru and the founder of Front Row Grunt, is the quintessential sports-mad Mr. Nice Guy. He is also a doting, proud Dad, a role he tackles with good humour and passion.
Rugby is an amazing sport that teaches you about much more than just passing or kicking a rugby ball, it also gives fathers the most awesome platform for those special real dad moments.
At the start of my season in the Sweet Valley U13A team, way back when WP players still got their match fees in brown “Koevertijies” hidden under their match jersey, my old man promised me R1 for every try I scored that season. Now given that one of his mottos in life is “Economy in itself, is a source of revenue”, he had obviously done the maths, and knowing that his jelly tot swilling son was going to be stuck in a scrum as the tighthead prop for most of the game, this offer was never going to break the bank.
But at 112kg’s, even though most of it wobbled rather than rippled, there were a good few times when U13 defences would part like the proverbial Red Sea rather than take on this giant, and I managed to take a few bucks off the old man. It is one of the many awesome memories that come to mind as we ease toward Father’s Day. From sorting out supporter’s jerseys for all the parents on our school tour to the Eastern Cape, to making the trips from where ever my mom and dad were to where ever I was playing, to now giving me stick when my weekly predictions go awry, which sadly, is pretty damn often!
And it is amazing how rugby has already created a few of these moments for me and my little guy, now 9 years old and having emerged from his first ever game of contact rugby wanting to be the guy “That everyone is scared to tackle”.
I would love him to carry on playing rugby – it is an incredible sport that teaches you about much more than just passing or kicking a rugby ball – things like teamwork, leadership, tolerance, getting joy from other people’s success, life lasting friendship, and plain old “Gees” - but that is for him to decide. Thus far, though, it does look like it runs in his blood.
From sidling up next to me on the couch to watch a Saturday morning game with coffee and rusk in hand, to physically scrumming against each other in the kitchen before mom comes down (I think he said “Crouch, bind set” before he said mama or dada), to practising our kicking and sidesteps in the garden, or just passing the ball to each other in silence as we take our pug Coleman for a walk, this oval ball just seems to create a language that we both understand.
Seeing his excitement and enthusiasm grow in the build up to his first real U9 game this year was pure joy for me as we talked more and more about the game. Putting out his jersey and gum guard the night before was probably more fun for me than it was for him, but he played along. I got quite emotional on the trip to the game, remembering all the great times I had playing for the same school a million years ago, realising that Joe now had the same opportunity. Obviously one plays it cool alongside the other dads, but my oath, was I proud to see him trot out for that U9A side for the first time.
And then it was both our turns to settle down, him into the feisty little open side flank he looks destined to be, and me into the enthusiastic fan all these little guys deserve. He’s already had the stitches in the forehead, the mouthful of grass from the big dive for the line, the grass burn that went with it, the first steal at the breakdown, and that all important first try. Now we just need to get through that first axing or non-selection.
Not to worry my boy, dad’s shoulders are big!
Tank currently heads up All Out Rugby for content marketing agency New Media, where he looks after the digital product development. His Blog, Front Row Grunt, is an award winning one, while his Tweets from @frontrowgrunt are known to get South Africa’s rugby community talking.
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