You train every day with them. You share meals with them. Have conversations with them. Celebrate victories and commiserate losses with them.
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Then all of sudden they head off to a different team, looking for a new opportunity, a new challenge or just a change of scenery.

I’m talking about a teammate, but not just any teammate, I’m talking about a teammate that also happens to be a close friend.

They could be a friend that you’ve come through the pathway of rugby with, or a teammate that you instantly clicked with on a different level other than what lineout calls you’ll be running or plays you’ll be calling.

The nature of professional sport is that players move around all the time. You need to be open to playing for different teams because there are a multitude of factors that contribute to a successful career. Money, location, and opportunity are the big ones.

So when an opportunity does present itself that, all things considered, is a better proposition than your current situation, you’d be crazy not to take it.

But what about your teammates that you’ve forged genuine friendships with over the years?

How do they take it? More specifically, how are they going to enter the gladiatorial battlefield that is a game of rugby and play against you? Or you against them?

Granted, you’re not gong to get along with everyone in the team, that’s just human nature, and playing for a different club may be a great opportunity to take years of frustration out on a teammate that you haven’t exactly clicked with.

But the fact is by and large, depending on how long you’ve been at a particular club, you will have forged a multitude of enduring friendships that will last well beyond the bubble of rugby.

So the question must be asked, how do you play against a good mate?

The game this weekend against the new Japanese Super Rugby team, the Sunwolves, poses this exact dilemma.

Eddie Quirk, aka Big Red, was a mainstay in Queensland rugby for a number of years before deciding it was time for a change, linking up with the Tokyo-based club for this years competition. He’s been playing outstanding rugby and starting every week, and the move has been a great one for him.

As any teammate of Quirky’s will tell you, he’s a bloke you can’t help but get along with, and his humour, respect and loyalty as a friend off the field sets him apart from most.

He’s also great mates with a bloke named Liam Gill, and the breakdown duel between those two will be worth the price of admission alone.

You can’t get through a pre-season without your mates yelling words of encouragement beside you, you can’t get through a rugby tour without blokes you genuinely like, and you literally can’t get through a rugby career without friends you can call upon when times are tough.

Gilly and Quirky have endured countless instances of all three. And yet they’ll be lining up against each other looking to win for their respective teams.

So again, how do those two rip into each other with such a great friendship underpinning the success of their rugby careers thus far?

The answer to the question is this: once you step over that white line, there is an understanding that for 80 minutes, you’ll do anything to get the victory for your team. For those 80 minutes, the men opposite you are your enemy.

To be honest, you go a little bit harder at your mate, a few choice words at the bottom of a ruck are standard fare, and some rough arm tactics may be thrown in for good measure.

The reason: you know that bragging rights are on offer.

And no one likes to share a beer with someone when they aren’t the ones bragging.

But once that final whistle goes, you embrace your mate, catch up with them post match and talk about things completely separate from the game.

That’s the beauty of rugby.

That’s the beauty of sport.

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