Kiwis not enemies enough
New Zealand's Issac Luke is tackled by Australia's James Tamou. AAP Image/SNPA, David Rowland
I’ve always thought that playing a game of rugby league – a contest in which the participants get to bash each other’s brains out – is a strange way of celebrating something.
The ANZAC Test takes this strangeness to another level as it honours the great wartime comradeship between Australia and New Zealand by getting representative sides from these two countries to go at each other. Of course the AFL celebrates by having Australians, from just two suburbs, stick it to each other.
Test matches between the two countries leave me in a bit of a quandary. Despite the ferocity and competitiveness of the some of the contests, I don’t dislike our New Zealand neighbours enough to be totally enthralled. They all play with the Australian boys in the NRL, and for our own teams.
While desperately wanting Australia to win on Friday night, I found myself willing on the Storm’s Kiwi debutant Jesse Bromwich and hoping his club captain Cameron Smith didn’t hurt him in the tackles.
In the past I didn’t mind too much when the Melbourne forwards Adam Blair, Jeremy Smith and Sika Manu were wreaking havoc on our hapless pack. That’s not right.
Better to watch the loathed Englishmen’s forlorn attempts to beat us in front of their baying crowds at Wembley, and when they fail yet again to hear their commentators cry: “No, I’m sorry. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of seeing it year after year, time after time. I really am!”
The Australians looked a little nonchalant, I thought, when they ran on to Eden Park. It wouldn’t have been arrogance, as the recent ANZAC Tests have been close rugged affairs.
Certainly Cooper Cronk was taking it seriously as evidenced by the look of sheer dread on his face when a lazy pass was intercepted by Shaun Johnson for a length-of-the-ground try.
I think they just don’t hate the Kiwis either.
Also winning too often has brought a lack of fulfillment. During a pre-game press conference Cameron Smith said: “It would be a bigger news story if we lost than if we won. That’s the way it is for the Kangaroos.”
These test matches, for the Kiwis at least, have become more about the differences in our cultures, such as the irony of a traditional war dance being performed in front of a wartime ally.
It appears that the ANZAC Test may be scrapped so perhaps an alternative celebration or remembrance of our linked past could be organised such as a combined Australia-New Zealand outfit battling it out against an opponent comprising our former wartime enemies.
Or, we could play the English. Afterall they got us into World War 1 in the first place, and their generals got a lot of us killed.
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