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The ‘what if’ moments of 2013

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Kurtley Beale of the Wallabies contemplates a kick on goal. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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    The hypotheticals of 2013. An interesting exercise, as the right question can almost certainly change your thinking of crucial events.

    So ponder these, Roarers, if you will…

    What if the Australian Crime Commission found no links to athletes?
    For one thing, the Melbourne and Sydney sport media would’ve had quieter years!

    Think about it. If the ACC’s investigations into organised crime and outlaw motorcycle gangs found no links at all to sports supplements, or the people involved in their distribution and the administration of these supplements and substances to AFL and NRL clubs and players, we’d be none the wiser.

    It might mean that more clubs and more players became interested in the workings of the alleged masterminds of the whole sordid mess, it might also mean clubs did more research and conducted their due diligence to a point where nothing was certain as to which substances work, and particularly which ones were legal or not.

    However, it might also mean that we know nothing. It might mean the codes, and all the relevant bodies, including ASADA and even WADA, still have no idea that this sort of thing went on, or worse, was still going on undetected.

    There could well have been players winning major individual accolades and representative selections, and teams going deep into finals series and even winning premierships with some degree of knowledge that what they were doing behind closed doors was really pushing the envelope.

    Worst-case scenario would be those that conducted such activity knowing full well they were breaking the rules, and maybe even the law.

    Of course, while we know a fair amount of what went on at Cronulla and Essendon, there might still be plenty more – and maybe even more clubs or players – yet to be released or discovered.

    If the ACC never found the links to start with, would we ever know what went on, even if the clubs themselves did put a stop to the activities? If clubs put a stop to something they thought might be illegal, they’d hardly volunteer that informant, would they?

    Then Justice Minister, Jason Clare, described the now slightly infamous press conference as “a dark day in Australian sport”. How much darker might it all be, if those ACC links were never found in the first place?

    What if Kurtley Beale’s foot didn’t slip in Brisbane?
    This was the curly one Uncle Argyle posed on the Let’s Talk Rugby episode, and though we never really had the chance to go deeply into it, it bears pondering on a wider scale.

    The obvious answer is that Beale kicks the penalty, and the Wallabies win the first Test against the British and Irish Lions. He might still have missed, of course, but that kick is one Beale would land eight or nine times out of ten.

    Suddenly, the Wallabies take the momentum into the second Test in Melbourne, which they did win anyway. With Beale winning the game in Brisbane, this Melbourne win would’ve decided the series.

    Obviously, if you introduce the variable of Beale making that kick in Brisbane, you’re heading into ‘butterfly effect’ territory, but it still makes for an interesting situation.

    With a Lions Series victory, irrespective of style, does Robbie Deans still stand down? If the Lions Series win was the deliverable required of Deans by the ARU, could they really have moved him on?

    Could you really set a benchmark, and then make change anyway after that benchmark was met?

    Push that even further. Where do the Wallabies finish in The Rugby Championship?

    How well or how poorly do they play throughout? Is James O’Connor still the incumbent Wallabies No.10?

    Did O’Connor and Beale still go to Hungry Jacks?

    What about the Spring Tour? Still four wins from five? Do the Wallabies still score nearly as many tries in the five games as in the ten before the tour?

    And what about Ewen McKenzie? He is still employed in Australia now?

    What if everyone handed their homework in on time in India?
    This is the big for me, the one I’ve been thinking about since Australia wrapped up The Ashes on Tuesday afternoon.

    For starters, if all the homework went in on time between the Second and Third Tests in India, and the team discovered and acted on some home truths, do they still lose the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 4-0?

    Does Darren Lehmann instead just go home after the Australia A tour, and Mickey Arthur continue at the helm? Would 3-0 still have been the Ashes result, or might it actually have been worse?

    And that’s all well before we contemplate what the scoreline might now read in the home series.

    More importantly, for mine, it’s interesting to wonder about the makeup of the team.

    Australia has used the same XI in these three Ashes Tests at home, and nine of them played the last Test at The Oval in August. Would this still have been the case?

    Would the team be anywhere near as united as it most certainly appears now? Would the Clarke-Watson relationship be as workable as it appears to be, or would we still be talking about factions within?

    The Ashes Series win has capped a remarkable turnaround within the Australian cricket team, of that there can be no denying. But how similar would the picture look, had everyone followed Mickey Arthur’s direction, and the ‘Mohali Four’ were just four other forward-thinking members of the squad?

    With this one event, back in March, Australian cricket could look very, very different right now.

    So what do you think, Roarers? How different might the sporting year have been but for these moments? And what other ‘what if’ moments are out there?

    Thanks to ‘Uncle Argyle’ for the prompt to this piece, put to me during the marathon recording of the final Let’s Talk Rugby episode of the year a fortnight ago.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (143)

    • Roar Guru

      December 20th 2013 @ 5:10am
      biltongbek said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:10am | ! Report

      What if Bismarck didn’t tackle Dan Carter?

      What if the Springboks scored a fourth try in Capetown?

      I guess in every match there is a what if moment that could have changed the course of a match, tournament, season etc.

      Most of the times those what if moments we think back on can do more harm than good, so perhaps it isn’t such a good idea to ponder them, when I start thinking what if, I inevitably think what if ……. During the RWC QF against OZ, and then I reach for the Minora blades. 😀

      • December 20th 2013 @ 5:42am
        Billy Bob said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:42am | ! Report

        Oh boy, Brett. The worms will be marching out of this can today.

        What if Kieran Read, top bloke that he is, had been correctly sin -binned for his blatantly cynical offside to suffocate the Wallaby attack in Bled II?
        Would the unbroken run of NZ victories have ended?
        (Sorry Brett, I java a feeble hope that this one might not sidetrack the thread. Are the Kiwis on holidays, yet? Apologies in advance)

        What if Australia had a mindset of – ‘There is always a way to win – let’s find it!’ As NZ do?

        What if the English fullback had been detected in touch?
        What if Stephen Moore’s claim for a try had been scrutinised with the question- “is there any reason to NOT award a try?”, like so many are.

        What if Link had been hired 6 months earlier?

        What if John ONiell had not guillotined the ARC all those years

        • December 20th 2013 @ 5:55am
          Jerry said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:55am | ! Report


          “What if Kieran Read, top bloke that he is, had been correctly sin -binned for his blatantly cynical offside to suffocate the Wallaby attack in Bled II?”

          It would have been a completely inconsistent call as the ref hadn’t sin binned Rob Simmons for an even more cynical offside in similar circumstances to suffocate the AB attack about 5 minutes earlier.

          I’ve watched that Stephen Moore one a bunch of times and I’m still not sure it wasn’t a try. The ref seems to have called it back cause he’s said Moore was offside when he picked the ball up which is possibly technically correct but you see the same thing happen multiple times in every match.

          • December 20th 2013 @ 6:56am
            mania said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:56am | ! Report

            moore scored that try. mightve made a difference but i doubt it. in the end the luckier team won….and u make your luck

          • December 20th 2013 @ 7:53am
            soapit said | December 20th 2013 @ 7:53am | ! Report

            i’m still yet to understand how you can be offside in a pick and drive from your own ruck. could be me though

            • December 20th 2013 @ 10:20am
              Jerry said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:20am | ! Report

              I’m not sure if Moore was in front, but it’s not exactly rocket science, if you’re in front of the hindmost foot you can’t pick the ball up. The offside line applies to both teams.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 11:51am
                soapit said | December 20th 2013 @ 11:51am | ! Report

                would have thought halfbacks regularly pick the ball up with at least one foot in front of the hindmost feet. same as for a standard pick and drive.

                dont start getting distracted thinking about rocket science tangents. i think i ‘ll need you to focus and be at your best on this one.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 12:06pm
                Jerry said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

                Yeah, halfbacks do it all the time which is technically illegal but then it’s also technically illegal for a halfback to stick his hands into the ruck to get the ball out.

                I guess the difference between a pick and go and the halfback doing it is that the guy doing the pick and go gets an extra step/half step closer to the gainline by virtue of being offside so he’s seen as getting an advantage from it swhereas the halfback doing it is ignored as it’s deemed necessary to keep the game flowing.

                Basically, I’ve seen a fair few people called for picking the ball up from an offside position for a pick and go* but have never seen a halfback pinged for doing it.

                *generally close to the line as in the Moore incident. Like the ‘double movement’ penalties for playing the ball on the deck, refs seem to pay more attention to it closer to the line where inches can decide matches.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 10:45pm
                soapit said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

                is it actually in the rulebook for the attacking team? only time ive seen anyone pinged for it in any context

              • December 21st 2013 @ 10:14am
                Jerry said | December 21st 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

                Of course it does –

                16.5 (a) (a) The offside line. There are two offside lines parallel to the goal lines, one for each team. Each offside line runs through the hindmost foot of the hindmost player in the ruck.

                I’ve seen tries disallowed for this a few times.

          • December 21st 2013 @ 5:51am
            Billy Bob said | December 21st 2013 @ 5:51am | ! Report

            Okay Jerry, if I can accept that both were legally equivalent (I haven’t yet) what if both Simmons AND Reid were sent to the bin?
            NZ would’ve lost more than Australia. World’s best player vs occasional second rower?

            • December 21st 2013 @ 7:51am
              Jerry said | December 21st 2013 @ 7:51am | ! Report

              Nope, butterfly effect and sh*t. If Simmons got binned, the Wallabies don’t make that break and Read doesn’t infringe.

            • December 23rd 2013 @ 12:23am
              Tane Mahuta said | December 23rd 2013 @ 12:23am | ! Report

              Billy Bob.
              There are dozens of instances in a game where the wrong call is made.
              Im not saying it was the wrong call but you are picking one call out of dozens made and dozens missed and asking “what if”.
              You may aswell just ask “what if Australia were better and had won?”

        • Roar Guru

          December 20th 2013 @ 7:14am
          jeznez said | December 20th 2013 @ 7:14am | ! Report

          Billy Bob, a more appropriate one on the AB run is probably what if Sexton hadn’t missed his kick with about 10 to play. That was a kick that Johnny S normally makes and would have extended the Irish lead above 7 points.

        • Columnist

          December 20th 2013 @ 10:00am
          Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          All good questions, BB. Entirely the point of the exercise..

          • December 23rd 2013 @ 12:16am
            Tane Mahuta said | December 23rd 2013 @ 12:16am | ! Report

            But what if the earth exploded?

      • December 21st 2013 @ 6:16am
        chann wee said | December 21st 2013 @ 6:16am | ! Report

        @ biltongbek :

        what if JDV decided a replacement hooker shud be the one on team sheet 😛

        and in general, what if the TMOs do a better job and the refs give them due responsibility without leading the witness 😀

    • December 20th 2013 @ 5:30am
      moaman said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:30am | ! Report

      Just want to take this opportunity to wish Brett,BB and all you Roarers a good,fun and safe holiday period. What if we have a good break from rugby matters and come back all sage and refreshed?

      • Roar Guru

        December 20th 2013 @ 5:50am
        biltongbek said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:50am | ! Report

        How does one take a break from rugby? 😉

        • December 20th 2013 @ 6:06am
          Emric said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:06am | ! Report

          One does not take a break from Rugby.

        • December 20th 2013 @ 6:06am
          Dexter The Hamster said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:06am | ! Report

          Exactly. Six nations kicking off soon…..

          Well, 5 nations and Italy.

          • December 20th 2013 @ 8:36am
            Rob9 said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:36am | ! Report

            The Azzuri did finish 4th in 2013 and are they won the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy (they beat France).

        • Columnist

          December 20th 2013 @ 10:01am
          Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          I immerse myself in cricket 🙂

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2013 @ 10:00am
        Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Cheers, Moa, all the best for you and yours, too..

    • December 20th 2013 @ 5:38am
      Dexter The Hamster said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:38am | ! Report

      Brett you make a good point with the whole homework saga.

      If that didn’t happen, perhaps Uncle Mickey would still be in charge, and we may not be up 3-0 in the ashes. Had never thought of it that way. The butterfly effect perhaps….

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2013 @ 10:02am
        Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        It makes you think, doesn’t it Dexter? It’s impossible to know, of course, but how different might things be right now..

        • December 20th 2013 @ 12:53pm
          Dexter The Hamster said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

          Exactly, impossible to know what might have happened, however loved the “what ifs” you proposed. Nice to think about these things….

    • Roar Guru

      December 20th 2013 @ 5:56am
      no show said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:56am | ! Report

      The last ashes threw up a lot of what if’s but a big one was:

      – What if Warner didn’t punch Root? – I think we are better of that he did

      A big one for me now is – What if I didn’t have to got to work today?

      • December 20th 2013 @ 6:04am
        Dexter The Hamster said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:04am | ! Report

        Warner’s not the first aussie to hit up a Root at a walkabout at 2am…..

        Now I feel like a 70’s comedian, with a bit of Warne influence, and a bit of “we did that joke 6 months ago….”


        • December 20th 2013 @ 6:17am
          Gurudoright said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:17am | ! Report

          Dexter, you just wrapped up my 2 years in London with that one joke. Oh the memories. Lol

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2013 @ 10:03am
        Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        You have permission to put the feet up at work, Craig, we’ll all back you up…

      • December 20th 2013 @ 8:52pm
        wardad said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

        What if Trinh Duc had kicked that penalty ? would the anti ABS mob still be castigating your namesake ?

    • December 20th 2013 @ 6:00am
      Popeye said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      What if Sonny Bill came back to rugby in 2014 instead of 2015?

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2013 @ 10:03am
        Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        He is now coming back in 2015, confirmed this morning…

        • December 20th 2013 @ 5:24pm
          Wozza said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

          Popye, if that were the case, comments about SBW would be relevant instead of mind numbingly nauseatingQ

    • Roar Guru

      December 20th 2013 @ 6:21am
      Who Needs Melon said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      Some cracker hypotheticals there Brett! Makes me wonder if sometimes those shocking, awful things don’t end up being the best things that could have happened. I’ll never ‘death ride’ the Wallabies or any other national Australian sporting team but sometimes afterwards you look on the bright side and say to yourself at least now the lipstick has been wiped off the pig.

      • Columnist

        December 20th 2013 @ 10:05am
        Brett McKay said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Yeah, and that’s often the common denominator in these moments, Melon. The very worst of times can ultimately produce the turnaround that leads to the very best of times..

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