Does dissecting games make you a bad fan?

Zakaia Cvitanovich Roar Rookie

By Zakaia Cvitanovich, Zakaia Cvitanovich is a Roar Rookie

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    So the mighty All Blacks have fallen and the world has continued to spin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t like it when the All Blacks lose.

    I must admit, however, that when it comes to losing I prefer it when we’ve played out of our skins, and that wasn’t the case on Saturday night. As cliche as it sounds, a loss provides opportunity for learning, and based on that performance there’s certainly a bit to work on. However, the expectation that some have of every game being a victory just isn’t realistic.

    I feel flat tonight – it’s not the result I expected or wanted. I knew it would be a tough match; I did not subscribe to the ‘we’ll annihilate them’ brigade at all. Australia have been improving with every game, and if I’m being brutally honest, I can’t really say that about the All Blacks.

    There’s been more handling errors in the RC than I care to remember. However, even with thinking that I admit I did expect us to win. Even during the last moments of the game I expected a last-minute try to be scored, as has been the case on a fair few occasions. But it wasn’t to be. We lost, Australia won, and good on them.

    The pressure the All Blacks are under is no secret. Colin Meads once described an All Blacks defeat as “a national tragedy”, which was often followed by verbal abuse and, worse, scorn. Brian Williams likened the changing room to “a morgue” after a loss, saying that not only were there feelings of having let yourself and your family down but also feeling of letting “your country down”. Meads believed that the fear of letting your country down was even stronger than the fear of losing itself.

    According to Conrad Smith, “The public expectation is tough to deal with”, and if you’re a member of one of the many New Zealand rugby social media groups, this will hardly be news. Smith conceded that the level of support is awesome “when things go well” and left it at that. There was no need to elaborate.

    (Image: AP Photo/Mark Baker)

    After the move to France in 2015 to play for Pau, Conrad Smith felt revitalised. “My wife, after wanting me to retire the whole time I was in New Zealand, doesn’t want me to stop now,” he said. The important thing for Smith is that he’s “home a lot more than [he] was in New Zealand”, which is how he now wants to live his life. He stressed the importance of finding a way “to take your mind off the game and to distance yourself from the pressure and scrutiny”, which he did through golf, diving, gardening and cooking.

    I don’t think we should underestimate the toll travelling and playing rugby at the highest level has on a player. Smith played 94 tests over 12 seasons for the All Blacks. While I don’t know how much travelling that would have entailed, it’s obviously a lot. The only example I’ve been able to find is that of Wayne Smith who spent “170 to 200 days each year away from home, travelling locally and globally” in his role as assistant cCoach. So being involved with the All Blacks requires a lot of time away from home.

    Beauden Barrett has also spoken of the very high expectations of the New Zealand public, which he feels is not a particularly bad thing per se. He believes “the end of the world” reaction to a loss is because the public are used to the All Blacks winning and it has therefore “become the norm”. And thanks to social media, a new norm has reared it’s ugly head. Bear with me…

    I love post-match analysis. I like reading what other people made of the game and I like contributing. But what I don’t like is the way social media has provided a platform for ignorance – and arrogance, but that’s another blog!. I do not like the use of blanket statements – yes, I’m talking about generalisations here – rendering an entire nation down to one.

    (Image: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

    First of all, generalisations make no sense. How can 4.5 million New Zealanders all be this or all be that? Secondly, again connected to the absence of sensibility, they’re absolutely impossible to substantiate. Tonight I have defended myself three times because by making a generalisation about Kiwis you’re actually insulting me, and my goodness I will defend myself!

    Here’s an example of one: apparently Kiwis are “cry babies” for congratulating Australia and analyzing our team on our supporter groups. I just love the audacity of that one. Apparently we’re disgusting for questioning selections and when the bench was used. So it’s okay to comment on games we win, but not games we lose? It’s okay to discuss players strengths but not their weaknesses?

    I find that a bizarre concept. I’m not talking about character assassinations here – which I think are completely unacceptable – I’m talking about analysis and critiquing the game. As a passionate rugby fan I think it’s my right to do so as long – as I do it respectfully of course.

    The bottom line is the better team won at the weekend. End of story. Sure, we had guys missing, but that shouldn’t matter. The team needs to have a plan B and plan C. Do we remember the 2011 Rugby World Cup? Players aren’t indispensable – or, rather, players shouldn’t be indispensable. The second or third guy should be able to slot in with no hiccups. Of course pivotal players have an impact, but it’s not wise to be too dependent on certain players.

    I get that we all have our favourites – mine is Beauden Barrett, my 80-year old aunty likes Kieran Reid and my sister likes Ben Smith – but we’re fully capable of dissecting their game without getting defensive, insulting or profane.

    (Image: AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    There’s been a lot said about selections and use of the bench. I have questions myself. Why was Mo’unga not on the bench? Why wasn’t Alb used? Why did TJ and Ardie come on so late? But my questions don’t diminish the trust I have in the selection panel and coaches to make the decisions.

    Should a fan blindly follow and not ask questions? I think not. I have a brain and I fully intend to use it. Questioning does not make me any less of an All Blacks supporter – in fact I think the opposite; I think my curiosity makes me more of a fan. I also think joining in with others to discuss the game makes me what I like to call a ‘thinking fan’. The All Blacks are not a cult; we’re allowed to think for ourselves and have opinions.

    The All Blacks lost, and we all survived. It was not the best day for New Zealand rugby, but it was certainly not the worst, and chances are it won’t be our only loss in the foreseeable future. But I have a sneaking suspicion it will make the guys hungrier on the end of year tour up north. And to me, that’s a good thing.

    So it was not a good day for us, but it was a good day for Australian rugby, and after everything that’s been happening in Australia recently, they needed something to celebrate. What’s good for the Wallabies is good for southern hemisphere rugby, and what’s good for southern hemisphere rugby is ultimately good for us.

    Kia kaha and tūtira mai ngā iwi. All Blacks forever.

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    The Crowd Says (41)

    • October 23rd 2017 @ 4:43am
      mad mick said | October 23rd 2017 @ 4:43am | ! Report

      Excellent sentiments. You do have every right to expect that those who live with the responsibility of selecting and preparing the NZ rugby team do so in a fair and non arrogant way. There are some magnificent rugby players across NZ most of whom will never wear the Black jersey but many are good enough to if given the chance. There are some magnificent coaches and wonderful supporters who understand the game. Finally there are a multitude of fans who pay their pay TV subscriptions who deserve to have the best All Black side take the field for two reasons 1 because the ABs should be the culmination of representation of all those players who try their guts out every week across the Mitre 10 cup and club rugby and 2 the All Blacks are paid by the massive amount of money generated through pay television subs of the average punter and the selections should be current and not based on favorites or how many caps you have. When a new star is out there , or an old star for that matter the NZ rugby public deserve for him to be given a chance.Regrettably this is not happening. There is too much BS about psychological profile to be a good All Black etc. There is too much influence and manipulation by the press and those journalist who want to stay in good with the AB hierarchy Things have gone over the top. It time for Fox, Foster to move on. Its time the ABs were picked on form and not on reputation.

    • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:55am
      Taylorman said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      My impression is that AB fans have taken this loss rather well, at least here on the ROAR. If anything, most of the post match analysis continues to be the make up of the oz side, often with a heavy digestion of the merits of Foley…again.

      But as a rule, the fans arent playing so their time and energy goes into discussing the match and social media provides the perfect platform for that.

      After Ireland and Oz losses I dont find Im too concerned at all when we lost. We are usually due a loss and fans of other side experience that far more than we do. Ive found its just too hard to keep winning this game and a loss acts as a pressure valve release for both the squad and its fans if we are being honest.

      A loss provides the ABs a new avenue for improvement and getting excited again, and us as fans get to see fans of other sides in a more bouyant mood after in some cases a long period of misery for want of a better word.

      Its a mellowing I know…ABs must always win mantra not being followed to the letter here but I dont care…you cant win em all?

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 6:07am
        Fionn said | October 23rd 2017 @ 6:07am | ! Report

        I agree, the overwhelming majority of the comments from the Kiwis on Stuff are super humble and complimentary to the Wallabies also.

        • Roar Guru

          October 23rd 2017 @ 8:33am
          PeterK said | October 23rd 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          agree the majority of ab fans have been very gracious

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 3:44pm
          cuw said | October 23rd 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

          probably becoz the loss was more or less something they contemplated ( given the make up of the side).

          i think they go nuts when they think the side is good and have a shocker.

          guess it is the same for anyone 🙂

          anyway the loss would have been massaged by the cricket team beating India in India . that was neat.

          • October 23rd 2017 @ 4:21pm
            Taylorman said | October 23rd 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

            Yes thats true, I was prepared for a loss this time, there were enough signs from both sides to suggest it.

            I guess that makes our Lions loss worse than this.

            We wanted that one more as ultimately it decided the series. If I could pick which Id prefer to win, that one hands down. Just the way the season went.

            • October 23rd 2017 @ 5:56pm
              cuw said | October 23rd 2017 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

              Lions in reality overachieved. of course aided by circumstances.

              NZ underachieved , they could have won despite circumstances.

              what people shud realize from this season is that skills are not a substitute for experience.

              come 2019 , the most experienced side will have the best chance of winning the cup.

            • October 24th 2017 @ 12:21am
              Rugby Tragic said | October 24th 2017 @ 12:21am | ! Report

              Mate, I’m never ‘prepared for a loss’ but often not as confident as my outward personna , so to speak. I did sense the AB’s were possibly a little vulnerable for the match at Suncorp and so it turned out.

              Then at 13-7, even with the handling errors I arrogantly felt it was ‘only a matter of time’ …. the game ebbed and flowed and slowly as the Wallabies persistent line speed and spot on defence basically put the game on level pegging when Folau’s try just before half time had them trailing by the narrowest of margins … It was a very good performance by the Wallabies, particularly in the 2nd half outplaying the AB’s for a very deserved victory.

              Saturday’s game was the fifth AB test I attended this year, to witness, 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw … a live 50/50 … that hasn’t happened to me for a long time for me … if ever that I recall for matches I had attended live.

              I attended all 3 Bledisloe games and the last 2 were crackers .. I had resigned to defeat in Dunedin after KB scored with just a few minutes to go and was already looking forward to ‘the decider’. We all know what happened then.

              I thought the quality of the game in Dunedin, under the roof was superior to last weekends by both teams but a lot of that had to do with the weather and the roof, but I sensed then that the Wallabies were well on their way back… I think that game gave their long suffering fans some hope. Last weekend, the players crystallised that hope.. so “Welcome Back Aussies!”

              The Wallabies have some good players but the moment they stopped relying on just one or two, they became more competitive.

              • October 24th 2017 @ 3:03pm
                cuw said | October 24th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                maybe u shud stop going to matches … just saying 😛

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:21pm
        MH01 said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:21pm | ! Report

        its the wins that are the problem. @taylorman, remember your posts after the RWC 2015? If there is something worse than a bad looser, and that is bad winner. Sorry mate, will not forget those rants in a hurry.

    • October 23rd 2017 @ 6:29am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | October 23rd 2017 @ 6:29am | ! Report

      Excellent article. And I agree with your point Tman that the vast majority of the Roar’s Kiwi posters have been informed, intelligent and gracious about the last game.
      A couple of Aussie chest beaters I hope haven’t spoilt the ‘fun’?

      The point of the article is a worthy one- Introspection in the land of unique rugby excellence.
      Excellence, passion to be the best, hatred of loss, are all good and noble things but they can come with a social cost.

      I have close ties to NZ. It is a wonderful country with wonderful people but sometimes I think that some NZers might be a wee bit hard on themselves (and occasionally others, like their sunburnt brother to the west).
      I never forget Sam Neill’s comment once ‘we’re a miserable lot’. Might have been referring to the practice of making Sth Island farm dogs sleep outside in the snow. (I hope now that no one is sharpening a knife for Sam’s tall poppy?)

      Anyway, I’m not going to weigh into this conversation too deeply. I don’t like it when folks from a well meaning nation cross the ditch to offer their sage advice on ‘our stuff’. But I am grateful for the fact that the conversation has been posted. Well done.
      And thank you to all All Black fans who have enjoyed with us our long awaited moment of success.

      • Roar Guru

        October 23rd 2017 @ 10:20am
        Wal said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Nice Post Ken
        Wallabies thoroughly deserved the win on Sat, in fact if the AB’s had snatched it in the final minutes I think all but the most one-eyed Kiwi fans might have felt it wasn’t the right result.
        For a bit of light entertainment follow Sam Neill’s Twitter feed, very dry but humorous responses to random meaning of life questions.

    • October 23rd 2017 @ 8:27am
      Morsie said | October 23rd 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      I hope you lot across the ditch get to feel the pain of losses far more frequently than has been the norm for the past decade. I know it will also compound. Remembering back to the Eales era there were kids (and players) in NZed who almost thought that losing to Australia in rugby was the natural order of things. How I long for those days to return.

    • October 23rd 2017 @ 9:35am
      Pinetree said | October 23rd 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      I agree that generalizing a nation is poor form, but it is not something I get upset about. It appears to be human nature in a broad sense, that there will always be generalization done from every nation from certain fans. However, I write on these forums like The Roar, because most fans just want to talk rugby, and are mostly respectful of others. The generalizations stem from the usual suspects, sometimes deliberate bait, and are easily ignored.

      Great win from Aus in the weekend, Mick Byrne seems to be having an effect in the Wallabies with the execution of basic skills under extreme pressure. Do the ABs miss him already? The loss of experience in the ABs is making it hard for players to play under pressure situations, from the lack of senior players to take guidance from. Hopefully the ABs are building for the right experience at the RWC.

      You have to wonder if SBW is the vision for the 2019 RWC. It seems that Crotty has been the best 12 in the world this year when he plays there, and ALB has played very well at 13 IMO. I would of thought bonding Crotty/ALB for the future would be vital for experience, and time has been wasted playing SBW. I guess the question is, is SBW a starting option for the next RWC? If not, why are we starting with him, and playing Crotty in what I consider is a weaker position at 13, compared to 12.

      Sopoaga is under pressure for 2nd option after last game. Worst I have seen him play in Black. Hope he bounces back. Some question marks still looming over Mckenzie as well, re his tackling, and making the right decisions under high pressure situations, and keeping your cool to execute basic skills.

      Really looking forward to the Wallabies in the EOYT, I think they will be a great asset to join us in the fight for SH pride against the NH assault. Great to see the fans getting excited too!!

      • Roar Guru

        October 23rd 2017 @ 10:23am
        PeterK said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        I think far too much is made of McKenzie not stopping Koroibete. IMO there is no chance Dagg could have , and I much doubt Smith would have either. Look at how low to the ground Koroibete was when near the line , how fast he is and the little distance he had to travel.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 10:50am
          Pinetree said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          It is the positional defence of Mckenzie I am concerned about, particularly when he is under pressure, I feel his composure to make correct decisions is compromised. This is the reason for basic errors, and making good percentage calls as well. Can’t blame Mckenzie for his effort on Koroibete, it was a good try, and you certainly cannot be critical of Mckenzie for the heart and commitment to the tackle for a guy who is light in weight for rugby.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:25am
          Taylorman said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

          Agree with that, and in terms of Dagg he had a similar go at Savea in the same situation and Dagg just got thrown away like a fly. Its one thing getting to the player, another preventing five points. He did the first, but Koro had too many things on his side, momentum, size, power.

          No chance bar a fluke scraggle on the ball or a drop etc would have stopped that. That try was scored well before that engagement.

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 10:51am
        Rugby Tragic said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Agree with most of your comments Pinetree but add… we have plenty of depth in the midfield, perhaps a little light on experience but that will come. SBW, I thought played well on Saturday but like yourself ‘wonder’ how Hansen sees him. The RWC is now only two years away.

        Crotty has been generally great (and keeps proving me wrong) but was average against the rush defence on Saturday at 13.. I prefer ALB and a smokey in young Goodhue at 13 but the latter in particular will need game time at this level. The EOYT might see his ‘coming out’. Obviously ALB is there for the long haul and perhaps to be challenged by Goodhue. That’s the way I lean anyhow.

        My thoughts on 12 though is not so clear cut. We have SBW, Laumapi and Crotty, even guys like Moala. I think a case can be made for any of them. To stick my neck out, I think I’d go for Crotty (as he can play 13 in the event of injuries to OC) with Laumapi, not SBW to provide impact from the bench in 2019. I am actually a SBW fan but by 2019 he will be that much older … so at some point Hansen has to bite the bullet … we will see.

        Macca is an excitement machine ……. at SR level. A bit on the small side for me but in Capetown, he had me just about converted .. but sorry, I think the ship has sailed for mine. We have Ben Smith back next year as well as Jordie and Dagg. Looking at the versatility of these players… can Hansen find a place for MacKenzie? Hmm regretfully I can’t.

        The AB’s need to develop props which we are a bit light on and of course another lock. Big Patrick Tuipulotu has the potential to take the second row position if he can get back to his 2015/16 form .. he is still relatively young and if he can rediscover that form I think will be a better prospect than Barrett…

        Time will tell

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:06am
          Pinetree said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Hard to argue with much that you wrote RT. I will push back a little on Crotty being crucial for the ABs at 12. For me, you need senior players who have leadership qualities, and experience to steady the ship when it goes off course. For me, Crotty is vital in the mix, and Crotty was missed in he BIL for this reason. I don’t think the wider defence channel of 13 suits Crotty though.

          Agree that with the other options at FB, with J Barrett/Dagg/Smith, that Mckenzie is over shadowed. J Barrett has more potential to unfold, and the experience of Dagg/Smith is invaluable.

          ALB looks the choice at 13, but agree that other like Goodhue are pressuring that position as well. Agree that Tuipolotu has more potential than Barrett at lock. Do you see A Ioane as a shot at 6 in the future?

          • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:29am
            Taylorman said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

            One of the problems I think is there are too many options for the midfield, and they chop and change too much.

            Nonu and C Smith took years to become the worlds best pairing and part of that was about making a lot of mistakes. By chopping and changing, for whatever reason, they dont get that continuity.

            Crotty, SBW, Laumape, and ALB have all looked the goods at some point…’thats the one’ …people have said about all four at some point.

            And still we are not convinced. How much round and around on these guys do we have to go till we sort it?

            • October 23rd 2017 @ 11:45am
              Pinetree said | October 23rd 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

              TM – I don;t see SBW as a player for 2019 RWC. I think Crotty has to play 12, which pushes Laumape out as a starter for me. I think we need to roll with Crotty 12/ALB 13, and other players will have to prove to be better to displace them. As you say, combinations have to be made, and it takes time to settle, as you point out with the Smith/Nonu combo. As I pointed out in the post above, I feel time has been wasted playing SBW instead of ALB, as the bond of Crotty and ALB has not had time to develop.

        • October 23rd 2017 @ 3:54pm
          cuw said | October 23rd 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

          u shud consider little Barrett and Goodhue as the long term centers. dont forget both of them played in centers at under 20 world cups.

          i think HAvili is the heir apparent to 15 jersey. he has already taken over from Dagg at crusaders. he shud take over from Smith for NZ.

          I think Crotty is the best defensive center in NZ and Ngatai is the best tactician – BUT – both have injuries and concussions over their heads.

          NZ in recent past have preferred the big-center , small center combination. that is where guys like SBW , Laumape , Moala fit in at 12.

          the thing is both ALB and Goodhue are also big guys – like 95kgs. so size is not going to be an issue.

          also dont forget Ioane was in centers before he was put on the wing. there is no reason he cannot come in again.

          i am waiting to see if any super team will get hold of Levi Aumua of Tasman – the commentary said he is 116kg !!! played like 2 -3 games and has been impressive in both attack and defence.

          • October 24th 2017 @ 12:35am
            Rugby Tragic said | October 24th 2017 @ 12:35am | ! Report

            cuw, if Charlie Ngatai was not so prone to injury, I reckon, the No 12 debate would be a non event … a bit like Richard Kahui I suppose. CN has not been chosen for the EOYT so one would think his ship has sailed. Bloody unfortunate.

            As for Reiko did not play a lot of games at centre that I recall .. I know Hansen originally looked at his as a potential OC but I think his value on the wing will make it difficult for the selectors to shift him in…

            • October 24th 2017 @ 3:08pm
              cuw said | October 24th 2017 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

              CN played very little miter 10 becoz he got head knocks early season.

              for the latter part he has been coming off the bench , but did play in the semi.

              Reiko was in centers and right wing – with under 20 , 7S and even Blues. its NZ that put him on left.

              all these guys who come with express pace tend to slow down soon. Sivi , Rocko , Jane , now Savea.

              its good to have alternate strings to ur bow. that is how Umanga survived.

              even Breydon Ennor was a center at u20 , tho now a wing. he can only come in as the pace goes 🙂

    • October 23rd 2017 @ 10:15am
      Harry said | October 23rd 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      Nice article!
      Taking into account test, SR, Under 20, Womens and Schoolboys this year reads New Zealand 31 wins, Australia 1. And from memory your 7’s teams did a lot better than both of ours.
      You need to lose the Bledisloe or get beaten by England to experience some real disappointment.

      • October 23rd 2017 @ 12:33pm
        Canetragic said | October 23rd 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        It has been a pretty solid year all round. Like others I think the WBs deserved that win. The ABs were the lesser side on the night. I had a feeling at the first intercept try to Hodge and I think I burst out “oh no not again”. That might have been cleaned up a bit 🙂 Still the sun did come up and we move on. The WBs have the task of building on that result, and the ABs learning from it. I think the ABs will do that better – but I might be biased 🙂

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