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Time to channel the spirit of the late great Tony ‘Slaggy' Miller

Roar Guru
15th November, 2012
27

What happens when the body is battered and broken yet the competitor still has kilometres to run, rounds to box, runs to score and scrums to pack?

A simple decision is made from within the individual – press on no matter what; no matter the pain, no matter the critic and no matter the opposition because the thought of failure and letting your mate down is despicable.

That fuel to continue is spirit; it’s heart and it’s honest. It can’t lie because it has no sense of the word.

The Wallabies must be this honest and this determined if they are to defeat the English this weekend at hallowed Twickenham.

Make no mistake – the English can smell blood in the water and are lining up for a southern hemisphere scalp. Arguably their favourite.

The challenge now for Robbie Deans and the Wallabies is to win the game before it’s played. And that’s the mental game, the spirit game.

In attack the Wallabies have been as threatening as a slightly agitated sloth. I don’t anticipate these problems will be fixed come Saturday.

The game will not be won by what the Wallabies do with the ball, it will be won with a collective understanding to a man that each will die before defeat.

It’s simple as that. Our rugby skills won’t win, but our chance is by stepping up in spirit and refusing to step back.

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If the Wallabies are short on inspiration, they need to just walk around Twickenham and remember what has been achieved by Wallabies past at this most famous rugby arena.

The Wallabies of 84, the 91 World Cup, Bernie Larkham and his famous drop goal of 99 and the deeds of Al Baxter in 2008.

If that is not enough then remember the late great Tony ‘Slaggy’ Miller, who is one of the toughest to ever pull on a boot for Australia.

Miller, who made his debut for the Wallabies in 1952 as a number 8, went on the 1966-67 tour of the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Canada as 37 year old prop forward. This touring party also included props Roy Prosser, Jim Miller and John Thornett.

Leading up to the Test against England, Miller contracted a severe infection on one his big toes. He would have been well within his rights to withdraw from the team considering the quality of props on that tour. But that’s not Slaggy.

No, Miller didn’t think that way. He knew the English would expect the injury to rule him out. Miller won the mental battle, the spirit battle before kick-off.

He cut out the front of the relevant boot, leaving his infected toe exposed to the English winter and forward pack.

Could you imagine how cold it would have been and what the Poms must have been thinking? Here is a 37 year old war horse, his best rugby behind him, but he still wants to be here. He wants to take us on.

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With the English jumping on his infected foot at every opportunity, coupled with the bitterness of an English winter, the legend just ploughed on and with O’Gorman, Catchpole, Crittle and co. the Wallabies left the park as winners 23-11.

Slaggy Miller left the field unbeaten in spirit and further affirmed his reputation as being the hardest of the hard.

Come this weekend there is no doubt the English will be tough. To secure a famous win this weekend, the Wallabies just need to be tougher mentally and press on.

Like Ross Turnbull, himself another hard man of Australian rugby, said of the 78 Wallabies at Eden Park, “You just need to get on with it.” The rest is history.

The final factor and never to be underestimated is that the English generally look down upon Australians as ill-manned heathens and almost sense it is their right to beat us so things can return to their natural order.

I can only echo the comments and sentiments of the former Irish Flanker Stewart McKinney before the Irish took on the English at Twickenham, “They think we’re just a bunch of ignorant Paddies from the bog. Let’s not disappoint them.”

Stand up Australia. It’s Miller time!