A sneaking suspicion about our Wallabies
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Australia's Will Genia, right, hugs New Zealand's Aaron Cruden after the 22-0 defeat during the Bledisloe Cup rugby union test match at Eden Park (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)
I’m starting to get a weird feeling. A sneaking suspicion. A burgeoning hunch. I’m not sure about it, mind you, and it might be nothing, but I must confess I’m developing a growing impression that is getting harder and harder to ignore.
The fact is, I’m beginning to think that… maybe… just maybe… the All Blacks are better at rugby than the Wallabies.
Now I know what you’ll say. “He’s crazy!” you’ll cry. “Lock him away!” And I admit that this suspicion goes against all accepted wisdom and rational thought.
Nevertheless I just can’t shake the thought nagging away in the back of my head that in the game of rugby union, the players who make up the New Zealand team might actually be better suited to winning than the players who make up the Australian team.
I know – weird, right?
Look, I realise that it has long been accepted as an article of faith that nobody is better than the Wallabies at rugby. Oh sure, they lose – they lose all the time, and often pretty badly. But we all know it’s not because the other team is ever better, right?
It’s just because the players are lazy, and paid too much, and spend too much time signing sponsorship deals, and have no pride in their jumpers, or have no pride in their shorts, or in extreme cases have no pride in their mouthguards, or exert too much control over selection, or are Quade Cooper.
And most importantly and eternally, if the Wallabies lose it is always because of the coach, given the real tragedy of Australian rugby is that by sheer bad luck it has happened to employ a long succession of national coaches who are not only severely brain-damaged, but who simply hate Australia.
But it’s never because they’re not good enough. That would be absurd.
And yet I can’t shake this feeling… this bizarre doubt… this little voice whispering in my ear that maybe when the All Blacks dominate the ruck it’s because they’re better at rucking, and maybe when they dominate the scrum it’s because they’re better at scrummaging, and maybe when they grind the Wallabies into the fragrant Auckland dirt, it’s because they have fifteen men on the field who possess greater skills, on balance, than the fifteen men that the Wallabies have.
As unlikely as it seems, could it possibly be true? Could it be that the Wallabies are less like the Australian cricket team – which we all agree is actually better than everyone, it’s just they’re not trying hard enough – and more like the West Indies cricket team?
Could it be that our rugby heroes are not so much James Magnussen as John Steffensen?
It’s always a tragic day when illusions are shattered, when you find out your life’s greatest disappointments have been due to inability rather than wilful refusal to apply themselves. But sometimes we have to face hard facts in order to rectify problems.
Because if it’s true that the Australian rugby team is not as good as the New Zealand rugby team, we need to switch our strategy from the current one of continually demanding the sacking of the coach and calling all the players gutless bastards, to one of having better players.
From now on, perhaps the ARU should make “Let’s have good players” its motto, instead of the present motto, “Doing whatever it is we do”.
There are two ways to get better players of course: the first is to make the current players better. Yes, haha, very funny, moving on. The second way is, of course, to breed better players from scratch.
Will this be easy? No. Will this be a quick fix? No. Will this be a perversion of nature? Yes. But it has to be done. When you want a good racehorse, you selectively breed for one, and as far as I know racehorses and rugby players are basically the same.
To take one example, you might say that David Pocock and Berrick Barnes are pretty good players. But their powers combined…! Just imagine a Pocock-Barnes hybrid: a Poberrick, equally at home digging the ball out of the bottom of a ruck, sending raking kicks downfield, or sitting on the bench trying to keep his legs warm.
Yes, I know there is a challenge involved in convincing David Pocock and Berrick Barnes to mate, but surely not an insurmountable one? They are both patriots and they know what’s at stake. And really, we might as well bite the bullet and get it done now, because the real challenge will be getting John Eales and David Campese drunk enough to reproduce. To be honest I’m not even sure Campo is still of child-bearing age.
But then, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my nagging doubt is just paranoia brought on by seeing too many box-kicks. Yeah. I’m sure it is. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with Australian rugby that everyone pulling their fingers out and Robbie Deans being shot out of a cannon can’t fix.
Not good enough? Pshaw! This is AUSTRALIA, mate.
Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian writing weekly on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys the frolics of Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms. Ben is also the author of the books Surveying the Wreckage, Superchef, and his latest, The Book of Bloke, available from Momentum Books.
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