George Mason interviews Jordan Ayling OURLFC captain
Can you outline the basic diﬀerences of Rugby League from Rugby Union?
The most fundamental diﬀerences between the two codes stem from the breakdown. Not only is there a ﬁnite tackle limit in league but the ruck is not a competitive chance to recover the ball but a more restricted ‘play the ball’ where a player rolls it behind themselves with their foot to restart play. The other major diﬀerences include the number of players, with League ﬁelding only 13 compared to Union’s 15, and the scoring system where tries are worth four points and drop goals one point, compared to Union where tries are worth ﬁve points and drop goals three points.
How do you feel about this year’s squad and its chances in the Varsity match this year?
The Blues have had a particularly strong year, losing only one game in the league and an impressive cup run that has seen us progress to the quarter ﬁnals with hopes of going all the way. The consistency of performance at such a high level is revealing of the squad depth and talent in the player pool, which ultimately leaves me in little doubt as to the outcome of the Varsity match—it looks likely to be an all dark blue aﬀair.
If you could pick one player to watch out for and why, who would it be?
I think Marco Hiscox is one of the most exciting prospects of the club, Only joining us this season he has made a swift code transition from Union and has found himself a regular in the Blues squad this side of Christmas. Beyond being an all-round athlete, content to grind out the full 80 minutes with a negligible drop in performance, he has developed a real aptitude for ﬁnding the space around markers at the breakdown. Cambridge need to be particularly disciplined in that area come Varsity or he’ll be certain to break their line all game long, much as he has done all season.
What do you think the strengths of Cambridge’s team will be?
The Cambridge team have always been resilient in my experience. Their determination to maintain the ﬁght throughout the match is their biggest asset and one that we’d do
well to remember so as not to lose momentum at any point in the 80 minutes.
What do you think this year’s team must focus hard on to ensure success this year?
Domination of the contact area on the ﬂoor will be where we look to control the game—slowing Cambridge attacks whilst quickening the tempo of our own will be crucial to keeping the momentum swinging in Oxford’s favour.
What is your game-day choice of breakfast and why?
I’m without doubt a creature of habit, and albeit almost certainly a psychological eﬀect, I take great strength from an oversized bowl of porridge on game day, swiftly followed up by a banana.
What’s your highlight of the season so far?
My highlight of the season would have to be the last 16 ﬁxture of the cup against Northumbria 2nd XIII. Underdogs on the way in, the Blues ﬁ red out of the blocks taking a deserved 20-4 lead into the break, seemingly in control. A lapse in concentration however saw a delayed comeback from the northern side. Ominous signs afoot for the aspirations of an Oxford cup run, the Blues rallied together with an unmatched resilience that had us see the game out in a thrilling fashion with only one score to separate both sides. Edging a more experienced side in a gritty performance made the victory all the more sweet and one that I certainly won’t forget for a long time.
Why do you play rugby league, and why should prospective players get involved?
I was drawn to the club by what I believe is an unparalleled sense of brotherhood amongst the players—everyone trains and attends socials together, which builds a better togetherness and sees more eﬀective player improvement across the course of the season. All teams are as accessible to a newcomer as they are to the veterans of the club so the only limit to individual achievement is the amount of work you’re willing to put in. The ‘one club’ mentality of OURLFC is certainly the biggest draw for any prospective players looking to try their hand at a new sport.
If you could sum up Rugby League in three words, what would they be?
Exciting, punishing and rewarding.
Karl Frey interviews Chris Liang, Pembroke captain of boats
Did you row before you came to Oxford? What makes you so passionate about the sport?
Nope—started out as an ex-novice, and not a very good one at that. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better but that’s for everyone else to judge! The squad spirit definitely helps with enjoying the sports: the simple things like all eight guys training together in the boathouse then going out for a crew meal really make the early morning and the late evenings worth it. PCBC M1 was headship at Torpids last year.
How does this years first men’s boat differ from last year’s? Do you back the team to win again?
There have been a couple of changes in personnel to our M1 boat, but if anything the boat has gone from strength to strength in recent times. Our fitness has improved massively and we’re making some serious technical gains on the water. We’ve recently won medals at Henley fours and eights with some astounding times, and the crew has really come together this year.
What other boats in PCBC have good chances to do well at Torpids?
M2 are doing extremely well despite an almost complete overhaul of last year’s legendary crew. We definitely stand a fighting chance against everyone else’s M1 crews. M3 and M4 look in good shape to qualify this year following disappointing results last year, so they’ll be looking to put those memories to bed. On the women’s side, W1 are in a good position to challenge for Torpids, sitting at third on the river. W2 have a really strong crew this year, so blades isn’t out of the question, but we’ll take that one step at a time. W3 also have a really good crew, and W4 are coming along quite nicely, so those two crews should be able to qualify along with M3 and M4.
What has the team done in preparation for Seventh week?
Train, and train hard. Not giving anything else away though—can’t let the opposition know.
Who is the scariest cox you have witnessed in your time at Pembroke?
Not actually experienced any scary coxes as of yet. I hope I never have to.
What is the hardest part about being a boat club captain?
Sometimes you can end up spending days doing admin which really messes up your week. I haven’t done any work in the last 3 days. It’s less the actual admin itself, but more the unexpectedness of when it’ll turn up – you can find yourself
Who in the team has the best/worst banter?
Best: loudest jokers are probably Carl Gergs and Khalid Mohsen, but there are some sly ones out there like Andy Saul who are more than capable of holding their own. Kieran Wachsmuth doesn’t have the worst banter, but some of his chat is truly horrific. Sorry mate. Rowers need a lot of food to complement their many hours of training.
Who in the team has the greatest calorie intake?
Willem de Bruijn. He calls four pints of whole milk, a large triangle of brie, a pack of Babybels and a meal deal “a light snack”. I watched him eat all of it in 20 minutes. It was disgusting. What is your favourite cuisine? Steak. What’s your favorite song at the moment? Uptown Funk. Always the one that gets M2 going on the ergs.
Rowing chat. Yes or no?