The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up scenarios which would have tested even the most imaginative fiction writer.
The impact on sport has been well documented but the curveball it presented to former Brumbies winger James Dargaville is worth detailing.
Dargaville played more than 30 games for the Brumbies until the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season. He was then recruited by the Japanese team, the Sunwolves, for the 2020 season.
At 28 years of age, it was an opportunity the equivalent of a Super Rugby swan song, with the Sunwolves scheduled to exit the competition at the end of the 2020 season.
In many respects, it may have also been Dargaville’s final opportunity to play Super Rugby.
But COVID-19 cut short his season with the Sunwolves. After just six games, he was forced to return home.
Attempts to have the team play in a revamped Australian Super Rugby season starting in July failed to materialise and the Sunwolves have been officially disbanded.
It left Dargaville assessing his options. He has opted for settling down in Canberra with his partner.
Armed with a civil engineering degree and a Masters of Applied Finance, Dargaville has secured employment and is back playing in the grassroots competition in Canberra.
Having played for the Gungahlin Eagles during his time at the Brumbies, Dargaville has opted to return to play with the club for the revamped six-team ACT Premier Rugby competition, which starts next month.
“I played quite a few games with the Eagles over the years while I was with the Brumbies,” says James. “It’s a great club and I was keen to get back.”
Coach, former Wallabies hooker Marco Caputo, will be hoping Dargaville’s experience in 2019 will be replicated this season.
Last year, after playing in Japan for the Wild Knights on a short-term contract, he returned to take a key role in Sydney University’s premiership-winning run in the Shute Shield.
For Caputo, Dargaville’s decision to play for the Eagles this season is a significant boost.
“It’s great to have a player the calibre of James Dargaville returning to play with our club. His playing ability and experience will be invaluable.”
Dargaville’s keen to be a mentor on and off the field for a club that boasts a plethora of talented young players.
“I am more than happy to help if I can,” he says.
As to where he will play this season, given he has played everywhere along the backline from inside-centre to fullback, he says it’s just a matter of fitting in.
The upcoming ACT Premier Rugby season, the John I Dent Cup, is shaping to be one of the more intriguing in recent years.
It will be a shorter season with clubs starting to get back to normal in terms of training next week.
It will be vital to get off to a flying start. Easts won’t be there, Wests and Queanbeyan have new coaches and there’s a chance Brumbies players will appear en masse once the Super Rugby season finishes.
The appearance of players such as James Dargaville will add a new dimension to the competition.
Tim Gavel is a co-manager of the Gungahlin Eagles first-grade team.