Still don’t think we need a national competition?
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In light of the of the Wallabies’ continuing woes, here’s another angle on a national competition. In the magnificent movie Zulu, commanding officer Rorke’s Drift Lt. Chard (Stanley Baker) instructs his 2IC Lt. Bromhead (Michael Caine) to form up a platoon of sharpshooters.
The principle is simple – the ‘mobile’ platoon will plug any breeches in the defensive perimeter wherever and whenever they occur.
A well constructed and organised national competition ought to work in a similar fashion. Good quality players come and go. Hopefully, when they retire, an equally good player can be immediately slotted into his position.
Sometimes, it may not work as well. Either too many players retire, or of too high calibre, and the replacements take a while longer to be effective. Looking at the history of NZ and SA rugby, more often than not, they can count bad eras in single years, not in batches of 5, or 10 years.
For Kiwis, 1986 was a disaster year, with the country and ABs both split over the rebel tour of South Africa. The ABs lost the Bledisloe Cup at home 1-2. The Cavaliers were crushed in SA 1-3. The year record was 4-6. Yet the following year – 1987 – the ABs spectacularly won the inaugural rugby world cup.
For Saffies of a slightly older vintage than myself, 1965 was a bad year for them. On tour in Australia and NZ, the Boks won just one test out of 6. Yet by their next test year – 1967 – they were back in the winner’s circle.
Here’s another example of the importance of a national competition. The first year i followed cricket was 1968. That very summer – 1968/69 – coincidentally, NSW finished last for the very first time in a 5 team competition in the Sheffield Shield.
Of the first 20 Sheffield Shields following WW2, NSW won a staggering 14, including 9 in a row 1953/54-1961/62. But by the late 60s, NSW cricket, the traditional stronghold of Australian cricket, was in a slump.
In the 70s, NSW recovered slightly to usually finish midfield. But they won no SSs between 1965/66 and 1982/83. While NSW was in a slump, the WA star was rising.
WA won the SS in 1967/68, then added a further 6 titles from 1971/72 to 80/81. Critically, WA had taken up the slack vacated by NSW.
Surely, the morale to the story must be clear!
Every sport in every country has its traditional strongholds. If the strongholds are struggling, then hopefully, the slack will be picked up elsewhere.
If both NSW and Queensland rugby are in a slump, who can we turn to for relief? Had Australian rugby maintained a powerful presence in Victoria, how different might the rugby union landscape be today?
How many more Weary Dunlops, Dave Cowpers, Nicky Barrs and Stan Bissetts might Victoria have produced in the past 60 years had Victoria remained strong? How much stronger might these types of players made the Wallabies?
In the future, if/when NSW and Queensland rugby is in a rut, then we might turn to WA or Victoria to pick up the slack. This is another importance of developing a national focus and national competition.
NSW, Queensland and ACT may be near saturation in the new players they can develop. But what opportunities await the game in WA, Victoria and SA?
A national competition is of prime importance not so much when things are going well, but when things turn pear-shaped. If the national competition is healthy, then the recovery of the national team will be quicker.
Not the current 5 year rut that the Wallabies have endured, and for which there is no immediate end in sight. Perhaps after another 5 years of drought, we will see the light?????
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