POLITICS is a tough and bruising business at the best of times.
Just ask the federal Small Business Minister and rural NSW Nationals MP Michael McCormack.
Mr McCormack was ordered off to hospital today where he was diagnosed with a slight case of concussion and whiplash along with a badly cut inner lip, following an incident this morning during what was supposed to be a friendly touch rugby match.
The game was being held as part of preparations leading into the Rugby League 2017 World Cup events - for men and women - that are due to start at the end of this month in Australia and NZ.
But as he sized an opportunity to head for glory and score a decisive try, and to run past one of the game’s biggest legends in Darren Lockyer on the sporting grounds adjacent to Parliament House in Canberra earlier this morning, the energetic and sports-man Riverina MP was shirtfronted by one of his own political allies.
And no, it wasn’t Tony Abbott concerned that his team-mate was exhibiting too much fresh natural energy for his liking.
Playing on the yellow team where Mr McCormack was accompanied by the likes of Australian Jillaroos captain Ruan Sims and other federal MPs and staffers, the Small Business Minister encountered the rugged and sizeable shoulder of larger-than-life Queensland Liberal MP Scott Buchholz.
While the video footage of the physical incident may be somewhat less dramatic, that didn’t stop Mr McCormack from adding a few additional points in recounting his own stunning version of events.
And what’s more, his take on the incident is even somewhat necessary, given his party leader and the Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce – playing on the other team on this occasion – made an untimely walk in front of the camera to block the winning shot from being captured for eternity’s viewing, in much the same way that Mr Buchholz inconveniently lunged, shoulder first, to thwart his rugby opponent’s run at the try line, for glory, to re-live a childhood dream.
“We were down by a try or two and they’d just dropped the ball and so we had it in our possession and we were on zero tackles,” Mr McCormack said.
“It was a tap and go situation and I said to myself, ‘if I can get past Darren Lockyer who is rugby league’s equivalent in terms of legendary status to what Tim Fischer or Barnaby Joyce are to the Nationals, there’s only daylight between me and the try line.”
“Lockyer was off-side and in rugby, just like politics, you have to back yourself so I tucked the ball under my arm and with nothing ahead of me blocking my run, I charged off down the flank towards the touch line to score in the corner.
“But there he was from out of virtually nowhere – the man mountain Scotty Buchholz.
“We may be Coalition colleagues in the world of politics but I’m sure he dropped his shoulder on me in the tackle.
“I’ve seen some big objects in my time - Uluru and the Snowy Mountains - but nothing quite as big as Scotty Buchholz coming towards me on the touch rugby ground.
“I could hear the crowd gasping as he hit me – and I’m pretty sure Barnaby Joyce didn’t see any of it.”
Mr McCormack didn’t hit the deck immediately but he spent time on the sidelines to assess and did take his injuries seriously.
“I thought I was all-right but when Barnaby Joyce was giving a speech after the game - and normally I like to listen when he’s speaking - my head started spinning,” he said.
“I was assisted back to my office by (Queensland Nationals MP) Keith Pitt which I greatly appreciated and then went to see my party colleague Dr David Gillespie who insisted I visit the nurse.
“I headed to hospital where they diagnosed me with a slight case of concussion and whiplash and a badly cut lip, on the inside.
“And for the record, Barnaby was also named player of the match which was another good win for the Nationals.”
Some say you should mix politics with sport and sport with politics when it comes to reporting on both; a point Mr McCormack as an ex-journalist would find hard to disagree with.
But he said the game was won and lost and played in good sporting spirits by those who turned up and had fun, while they enjoyed fresh air and exercise in serving a good cause.
Now he’s under doctor’s orders to rest and recover from his bruises but being a man used to operating a busy work-schedule, he’s not likely to miss question time today.
But are there any ill-feelings towards his Coalition colleague Scott Buchholz?
“We hugged it out after the game,” he said.
“He’s a good man and he’s a big man too and now we know Scotty Buchholz will stand up to anyone and anything to get the right result.”