Advance Australia Fair (or otherwise)
by Rick Boyd
27 Jul 2001
Living in Australia, as I do, is not without its moments of humour.
They’re not shy, the sons of convicts, and modesty is not a word printed in the Macquarie Dictionary. The philosophy is simple: if it’s Australian, it’s one rung above perfect; if it isn’t Australian, it’s shit, and that’s on a good day.
Take the All Blacks-Springboks test in Capetown to open the 2001 Tri-Nations. We all know as rugby goes, it was a tight and fierce encounter won 12-3 by the All Blacks with all points coming from penalty kicks, and a mistake rate that was not entirely excused by the heavy, wet conditions.
Not quite what we have come to expect in these heady days on a strict diet of champagne rugby, but a win is a win, and a win in South Africa is better than a win.
But enough about reality — how did those space cadets on Planet Journo see it?
“On a wet pitch and in drizzling rain it was a typically attritional meeting between the sides and try-scoring opportunities were rare,” said a neutral Daily Telegraph in Britain, “The Springboks dominated territorially, but one in which they were incapable of breaking down an excellent All Blacks defence.”
All well and good so far. You couldn’t argue with any of that.
“The defence of New Zealand was chilling in its intensity,” wrote the SA Sunday Times, with characteristic Japie reserve, “They were not as inventive or daring as the Boks, but then they did not need to be: they fed off South African errors.”
I don’t know that I’d call the Boks inventive or daring. Maybe that’s what “wooden and predictable” translates as in Afrikaans. Still, nothing you wouldn’t expect from a disgruntled losing side after a loss on penalty kicks.
“Grim defence and superb discipline were the hallmarks of an outstanding All Black victory at a rain-soaked Newlands this morning, New Zealand taking first blood in the Tri-Nations with a 12-3 victory over South Africa,” said the New Zealand Herald.
I wouldn’t have thought the discipline was that superb (not as superb as South Africa’s crappy kicking, for instance) and as for an outstanding victory, unless you would call any victory over South Africa in the Republic outstanding, it was not a word I would have chosen for the game. Still, perhaps it’s understandable enthusiasm for the home side after some pointedly mediocre performances since 1997.
But over the ditch in the West Island they were having none of that.
“In one of the worst, mistake-ridden Tri Nations matches ever played, a B-grade All Black outfit somehow overhauled a C-grade Springbok line-up,” wrote Australian “journalist” Greg Growden, the man with only one working eye, and that with a green and gold monocle in front of it.
But it’s not surprising. Growden has been telling us all sorts of fascinating things lately.
“In this golden age of Australian rugby, with the Wallabies having defeated everyone of note on the international stage,” he wrote in the Australian this week, touching on a theme dear to his heart — just how wonderful Australia is. He’s only mentioned it the four of five thousand times since winning the Tri Nations last year, and frequently alludes to the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup victories in 1999 and 2000 and their wins over the All Blacks. He usually adds that the current Wallabies are the greatest Australian team of them all.
They must have pretty low standards, that’s all I can say.
Those Bledisloe Cup “wins” were actually “retains” as both years the series were drawn 1 all. And the glorious Tri Nations title that capped it all off in 2000 was two last-minute, desperately lucky penalty kicks from being a glorious Tri Nations wooden spoon. Still, if that’s all it takes to be a greatest Wallaby team of all time, then fair enough. Thank God the All Blacks still consider a draw to be a loss.
Mind you, Growden is not having it all his own way. Former Queensland coach John Connolly is “writing” for the Sun-Herald these days and giving Growden an awful run for his money in shameless self-aggrandisement.
“The hardest part of the international season is over,” he tells his readers.
Australia having disposed of the British and Irish Lions (just), the sons of convicts can now safely praise them as tougher than South Africa or New Zealand, which makes the Wallabies automatically better than everybody. Naturally.
“New Zealand rugby is not what it used to be,” says the biggest man in Queenland rugby (around the waist, anyway), and he goes on to explain that the All Blacks have a crap lineout, no confidence, a dud captain and coach, and their complete failure in the Super 12 just points the way of things to come.
This sort of thing must be contagious. New Zealand-born Wallaby hooker Jeremy Paul points out modestly on Rugby Heaven this week, “the fact that there was no New Zealand side in the (Super 12) semi-finals shows how much stronger we are now.”
He goes on to reason that “the fact that South Africa put them under so much pressure could mean that they (South Africa) will be our main rivals for the title this year.”
Lots of facts seem to be coming Jeremy’s way. The fact that front rowers should not attempt to write anything other than an “x” on the bottom of their contract could be one worth pointing out to him as well.
It all makes for a jolly good wheeze for we expatriates on missionary work in the West Island. You couldn’t get humour this rich from an Australian comedy writer (if such a thing exists).
It almost makes it all worth while.