Cannon gives ARU a dressing down, but the Force is not felt

185 Have your say

Popular article! 4,200 reads

    Of all the absurdities aired during the Western Force’s Super Rugby axing saga, Brendan Cannon’s dig at Australian Rugby Union chairman Cameron Clyne for not wearing a coat and tie at the announcement tops the list.

    “The perception, Cameron, is that you were disrespectfully underdressed for what was the most significant announcement in Australian rugby history,” Cannon wrote in a column for News Limited a few weeks ago.

    On Wednesday night on Fox Sports’ Kick & Chase, the former Wallabies hooker was all too willing to again bring up the sartorial subject – the kind of ridiculously fringe comment in complex and emotional times that gets the eyes rolling.

    “I do note that Cameron Clyne wore a tie today,” Cannon said of Clyne’s most recent media appearance.
    It was stated with the resentment of someone who would like to believe Clyne donned a pair of Okanuis and a Bintang singlet instead of a perfectly acceptable white collared shirt.

    “It’s all about perception,” Cannon continued.

    Cannon, I assume, has been Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s head of wardrobe over the past week, given how much he’s gone into bat for the Force. Twiggy looked splendid in a dark suit, white tie and yellow and black tie on Tuesday as he revealed how the Force may not be with you, in Australia. At least not with the ARU.

    My perception is that Force supporters seem willing to push the line that the game is thriving in the west, taking on the might of the AFL and making inroads.

    Rugby isn’t thriving in Western Australia. The Indian Premier League is thriving. The NBA is thriving. The English Premier League is thriving. Fans are rushing for more of those leagues, sponsors are pleading for a piece of the action and broadcasters are keen to throw millions at governing bodies.

    When the Force was established in 2006, the average crowd for Force home games in Perth was about 28,000. This season, they dropped below 10,000. Even as the Force were crying out to prove they were worth investing in, there was only a minor increase from 2016.

    The Force’s overall win rate is 32 per cent. They were bailed out less than two years ago. Twiggy walked in ready to buy everyone drinks and pay for the band at 11.58pm when the nightclub was set to close at midnight.

    Even though I believe the Melbourne Rebels should’ve been booted, my perception is that rugby isn’t the charging bull in Western Australia that some would have us believe. There’s no doubt been some growth and rugby has gotten some traction, but that hasn’t translated into a financially stable professional club.

    The cost savings can help address the imbalance between the money heading to the professional tier in Australia and the cash shortfall in grassroots investment.

    If we cast our minds forward to the post-2020 Super Rugby world, what’s to say the Force won’t return to the elite level? There’s a strong case that the South African teams will head to Europe and Australia will join New Zealand – and perhaps a few Asian and Pacific teams – in setting up a new competition, one that is less convoluted and fan-friendly.

    Pekahou Cowan Western Force Super Rugby Union 2017

    (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Moving to perceptions of the Wallabies as they prepare to take on the Springboks in Perth, some think the gutting loss in Dunedin was a turning point following the struggles since the 2015 World Cup. But I feel that it was a false dawn and the Wallabies are going to really struggle against the Boks. There were too many frailties that the Boks, steered around by a hard-edged forward pack, will be eager to exploit.

    The first is the scrum. It’s tough to envisage how the Wallabies, who got hammered in that area in Dunedin, will compete with the Boks. Sean McMahon did extremely well to shovel back a fair bit of ball from No.8 as the scrum was back-pedalling, but it’s difficult to see him being as effective again.

    South Africa might therefore be happy to roll the dice in attack with plenty of off-loads and risky passes, comfortable in the knowledge they can push the Wallabies off the ball even against the feed. The front five of Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Francois Mostert and Eben Etzebeth are set to go into bully mode.

    Australia missed 37 tackles in Dunedin. The Boks, with coach Allister Coetzee finally picking more Lions players, are a whole lot more potent in attack. The Boks have scored more tries already this year (21) than they scored in 12 Tests last year (20).

    Unfortunately, I think the Boks will grab their first win in Australia since 2013. They’ve got too much muscle that will give them the advantage, even though Will Genia, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau have lit up the Wallabies’ backline.

    There will be plenty of Springboks in the Perth crowd. Western Force fans have been told to consider wearing blue in support of the club or black for mourning.

    There may even be some Wallabies jerseys in the crowd. Dress appropriately. Brendan Cannon will be watching. At least turn up. Are we all united for the Wallabies? It’s all about perception.

    Will Knight
    Will Knight

    An AAP writer for more than a decade, Will Knight does his best to make sense of all things cricket, rugby union and rugby league, all while trying to have a laugh along the way. You can find him on Twitter @WKnightrider.

    This crunching tackle is the most viewed Club Roar video of all time! It's in the running to win a share of $10,000.
    Watch the full video here