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Hard truths: I’m still in rugby limbo

Brad Thorn has copped some criticism, but the Reds look a better side in 2018 (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)
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17th July, 2018
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The Reds vs Sunwolves game shaped as a perfect way to test my wavering faith in rugby.

I’d spent winter to-ing and fro-ing over whether to unshackle myself from worried brow-furrowings over the state of the game or just end it all and continue down the path to casual fandom.

So I was looking for something from this game to break the tie and settle the issue once and for all.

But, if anything, I am even less sure of my position than before the game.

I’ll start with the good. Suncorp Stadium (and surrounds) is excellent and the standard of rugby was good too, with not many dropped balls and plenty of tries.

The Reds’ set pieces were contested well, and the backs finally seemed to click together, albeit against a depleted Sunwolves who were courageous in the circumstances and provided worthy opposition.

To temper the good we also had the lacklustre crowd – officially 11,000, but poor nonetheless – and some refereeing ‘deciding’ the outcome.

George Smith’s final game probably deserved a little more fanfare and hype, but he was roundly applauded as he was shown onscreen towards the end of proceedings – and I would assume he was consulted on this.

George Smith training with Stade Francais in 2012

George Smith (Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons)

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It was the last game of the season for both teams, and at times it showed, but all up pretty good.

So, why am I still left undecided?

It’s a strange feeling to have seen your team win back-to-back matches pretty handsomely and not really engage. I’m sure the team feels settled and building nicely for a good season next year, but that’s them, not me.

I feel left out, and I can’t seem to find my way back into the Reds.

It might be part of my greater malaise, but I feel a lack of connection to the game and players, and I’m not sure why.

The dead rubber certainly didn’t help. Maybe it’s general sporting fatigue setting in after watching the FIFA World Cup. Either way, I will continue seeking answers to these questions.

[latest_videos_strip category=”rugby” name=”Rugby”]

In other news, the weekend saw the group stage of Super Rugby wrap up for the minority of teams taking part in the competition. While the abacuses were slowly being worn out to determine the chances of certain teams making the finals, things fell the way they did, as only the rugby gods decide.

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How unfortunate for the Rebels it was, but honestly, they were never going to win the competition. In fairness, I will eat my hat if the Sharks get the title too – not because they aren’t good teams, but it’s just the other teams look better.

Also, by having more than half the teams make the final, it is poor form to blame anyone else for not making the finals.

One thing that I do feel certain of is that the change to the three conference system feels more balanced going into the finals. I hope they continue with this in future, rather than going back to the two-division-four-conference system of the last couple of seasons.

I wish we had some sort of data on the ‘unfairness’ factor facing some teams, but I’m sure the Hurricanes would feel it is ‘fairer’ this season than it was last.

So, another week of rugby passes and the malaise hasn’t passed… I can only hope the pointy end of the season embiggens the fever lying dormant within.

If you would like to hear more Reds and rugby discussion, check out the podcast ‘What the ruck’ which has a special guest this week: me!