After a few coaching sessions and starting to understand the laws of the game, I realised he was referring to the area at the back of a ruck where players have to be aware of an imaginary line. This line, denotes the point beyond which if you are not already in ruck you are offside. Its usually marked by the back foot of the player furthest back in the ruck. The offside line runs at right angles to another imaginary line which forms a rectangle around the group of players competing for the ball.
The gate to which my rural referee was referring is the part of the offside line, between the two sides of the rectangle or box. Ah ha, so now, there's a box on the pitch? Confused? Effectively imagine a rectagle on the pitch with players inside it, touching the sides and the ends - the end of the box is the only area through which a player can join the play. The gate.
No wonder the breakdown area is seen as one of the games grey areas. It is ususally the zone in which mose penalties are conceeded. It's because the phases of play represent the "margins" of a game. Here players are right at the edge of a phase of play or following a tackle are at the formative stages of a new phase of play. Getting to grips with abstract concepts, imaginary lines and boxes can be the difference between retaining and conceeding possession.
I guess life has its margins too. The times when we are at the conclusion of something, or we are just starting out on a new venture. We follow similar patterns as we form or develop relationships. There are crucial points at every stage of our experience at which if we get it right we can build momentum. If we get it wrong, it can take us a long time to regain the ground we may have conceeded. It takes a lot longer to rebuild trust than the moments it takes to break it. There is it seems a great deal of wisdom in the concept of the gate - the right way to enter a conversation, a meeting, a relationship.
Using the gate to enter a ruck is not just a technical inconvenience - there are positive advantages to playing correctly:
- you can without hinderance or penalty add your weight and momentum to a forward drive
- you can do the same to halt an advancing drive by the opposition
- you can actually drive opposition players off the ball and back beyond the gain line to take ground
- your presence prevents opposition players "coming around the side" of the ruck once the ball is about to enter a new phase of play
I'm reminded of the man's man Jesus Christ when he said to the team gathered around him, "anyone who doesnt enter through the gate but climbs in some other way is up to no good". He was using the illustration of a gated pen, where the farming community kept the sheep, their livelihood safe.
But he wasn't only referring to protecting the livelihood of farmers. He went on to point out the importance of protecting what is valuable to us as individuals; having security for our thoughts, our emotions, the real you, the real me. He then said something unusual - "I am the gate" - whoever uses me as a gate in life, will be safe. Who wouldn't want to safeguard their thinking and actions - oh how often I let my thoughts run riot and then let them motivate my actions. I for one am glad that the man's man offers us a right way to enter life.
I think my rural referee was spot on with his call: you can only enter life properly through "the" gate. Maybe there is some merit in learning the wisdom of the gate?