7 Aug

Sydney — jam capital of the world
by Rick Boyd
7 Aug 2002

Yes, congratulations Wallabies, you’ve made your Guinness Book of Records appearance and you are now officially the luckiest sporting team in the history of sport.

I don’t suppose there’s any point in the usual histrionics, this pathetic farce is now into its third year and has become so predictable as to be utterly boring. The clash of the mediocre v the average has again resulted in a last minute penalty lottery and for the fourth game in a row the coin has landed Wallaby side up.

They should make a movie of it, the first scene being large red letters saying THIS IS A TRUE STORY. No scriptwriter would ever have the balls to invent a plot that sees four unbelievable Houdini acts in three consecutive years. Nobody would believe it for a second. Totally incredible, in the true meaning of the word.

Credit where its due, the Wallaby pack didn’t suffer by comparison to their opposite numbers in the All Blacks. The battle in the loose was fairly even, Robertson vanished back into his familiar role of obscurity. The Wallaby backs largely outpointed their opponents and looked more positive with the ball in hand. All in all, the Wallabies played their best game of the year.

The same cannot be said of the All Blacks. The forwards finally cleaned up the lineout but can’t come out of the game with much else to their credit. The backs again had moments of enterprise but with nothing like the pattern they should have, and let’s face it, New Zealand still doesn’t have a quality midfield — and the back three are not likely to put the fear of God into Tonga, much less Australia. The wind put paid to any kicking advantage New Zealand might have had.

I still think that the attitude and the consistency is improving.
Mitchell is on the right track but let’s be honest, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s arse, and this is only half a good All Black team.

None of which had much influence on the outcome, only on the mediocrity of play. The two big factors were once again New Zealand’s mistake rate, which was much higher than Australia’s and can’t be blamed on anyone but themselves (although true to form the Australians will all put it down to Australian pressure). And once again, the big decider, was the all too familiar ugly face of sheer, blind luck. And once again, for the fourth year in a row, the die rolled Australia’s
way. Two very cruel bounces of the ball that deprived the All Blacks of two dead cert tries. And the final ignominy, yet another totally unbelievable injury time penalty kick.

O’Neill said last year “You have to wonder how often these things can be scripted”. Well, like I said, you couldn’t script them because nobody would believe it.

Should we fall to our knees, like the endlessly suffering victim in a Greek tragedy, and scream at the heavens, “Oh stone-hearted Gods of Olympus, what have we done that you torture us so cruelly?

Is New Zealand cursed? What did we do? Isn’t it bad enough having half a good team to measure up to the deeds of the great teams of the past, without mocking us with these sadistic twists of fortune that elevate half a good Wallaby team to heights of which they are so richly undeserving?

Or is it that some terrible tragedy is about to befall Australia and this was but a morsel of good fortune to sweeten the hideous destiny that awaits them? The entire nation wiped out by a huge meteor perhaps? Right now I can only think that would be a great benefit to mankind, notwithstanding that I also live here in the home of the boastful and the land of the loudmouthed.

Yes, it will all begin again. How the Wallabies “won” the Bledisloe Cup (read: retained by yet another jammy, tin-arse escape act). How the Wallabies have “dominated” the Tri-Nations (read: another drawn series with the All Blacks but that’s as cose to dominating as we’re likely to get so we might as well claim it). Another mighty victory built on “composure”, “leadership” and “experience” (read: scraped home to another implausibly lucky one point win in injury time through the mistakes of our opponents but shit, we’re Australian, so we’re wonderful by definition).

All this toss about Australia’s culture of winning is media bollocks dreamt up by an optimistic Australian PR machine.

Look at the facts:
1998 – beaten by South Africa
1999 – drew with New Zealand
2000 – drew with New Zealand
2001 – beaten by South Africa
2002 – drew with New Zealand

Now if this is the sort of record a team with such a winning atiitude has then they’re welcome to it. The fact is that Australia have an average team at present, clinging on a bit past its use by date due to some unusually fortuitous finishes in close games, on the strength of having a couple of average teams to oppose them.

But quite frankly we need to take a look at the the whole tri-nations thing. In fact we need to do more than look at it, we need to take take it out, have it shot, stuffed, and mounted on the mantlepiece. Especially in view of the world cup debacle.

It is a concept only the brain-dead morons on the NZRFU could have approved.

It has become very tedious and the outcome is often some strange mixture of points that means bugger all, while the first and second team have drawn a series.

We need to go back to a proper tour every year. We should dump the Super 12, which was invented only to compete with league on the TV and have that function filled by putting the NPC at the start of the season, not the end.

This will also put an end to the extremely generous program of assisting the development of Australian rugby that the NZRFU has been gifting them with for far too long.

After the NPC the All Blacks can play a home test series against a couple of the minor nations and then a major series against one of the big five — Australia, South Africa, France or the Lions. Home one time, away the next. A proper tour with a month of provincial games, all of which would make good TV, followed by three tests, giving an actual winner. Then Australia wouldn’t be under the strange impression they have “won” the Bledsiloe Cup when they have only drawn a series but retain it because they won it some time in the past, when they might actually have deserved it. And New Zealand wouldn’t be under the equally strange impression they have “lost” the Cup when they have actually drawn a series but failed to bring home the silverware because they couldn’t manage a whitewash. The season could be finished off by a tour up north against the home nations. A year of top rugby and lots of variation, and real series with real results.

And lots more opportunities to grind Australia into the dust as they increasingly fall off the pace without the generous assistance of the NZRFU’s Australian player development program, or Super 12 as some peple call it.

Write to your provincial rugby council immediately and tell them to give some strict instructions to the new NZRFU board: take a break from tradition and make a common sense decision that will actually benefit New Zealand rugby.

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