Rugby nicknames are a rich, humorous and sometimes mildly obscene part of the game. From the ubiquitous ‘big’ or adding ‘ers’ to the end of the surname, at the other end of the scale you have the more ingenious examples, such as English centre Billy Twelvetrees being called ‘36’ after one of his Irish clubmates pointed out that in his accent ‘twelve trees’ total that number.
Australian legend John Eales, a goal-kicking, twice World Cup-winning lock, was called ‘Nobody’ because “Nobody’s perfect”. Another favourite is former Wales winger Chris Czekaj, who was nicknamed 28 by his teammates at Cardiff. Why? Well that’s how many points you would get in Scrabble for his surname!
In writing Hard Men of Rugby a new book featuring 20 of the toughest players to ever play the game, from pre-WWI firebrands to modern day YouTube sensations I uncovered the most had at least one nickname so today we run down five of the best …
Brian Lima AKA ‘The Chiropractor’
Despite having no formal medical training the Samoan great gained his reputation for his bone-crunching tackling that lit up five world cups. Speaking to me for this book, he recalls its origins: “I got it in 1996, which was my first Super 12 year with the Otago Highlanders. John Leslie, the captain of the Highlanders at the time, and the other boys started calling me ‘the Chiropractor’ so I asked John why and he told me that a chiropractor is a doctor who can click bones, literally. They said that every time I connected a tackle, they could hear ‘bones clicking’! Hence, the nickname! I am not sure I liked it at first but after all these years I don’t mind being called it.” Few players who had an unscheduled appointment with the Chiropractor would forget it!