Archive for August, 2012

Why the All Blacks always win

There is little doubt in my mind that the Wallabies’ continued losses to the All Blacks are not because of a lack of will. Every year our players and our journos build our side up to be the best chance of reclaiming the Bledisloe since our dynasty over the trophy in the Rod McQueen years. Pretty much every year they let us down; or we let them down. Either way the “Orl Blecks” win.

Maybe it’s just a perception thing, and the things that I am about to say only appear to be true to Wallabies supporters as we watch the games unfold, resulting in piles of hair on the floor and a whole lot of vacuuming to do later. It could just be that the things the All Blacks do are due to them just being better than us, but I really doubt it. What I’m attempting to do is make a list of the things we notice in the game that the All Blacks do that the Wallabies don’t, or the things the Wallabies do that the All Blacks don’t, that give those boys from across the ditch the seemingly insurmountable and inevitable edge over the other team wearing poncy yellow. Maybe I just found our first problem.

The first one is really obvious to anyone who watched the game from tonight. The All Blacks relish being shitheads.

Remember the stick Quade Cooper copped from the New Zealand media after he pushed their poor defenceless captain Ritchie McCaw around a little. He gave him a nudge, maybe a stray knee, and had to endure weeks of torment from those black-eyed peanut journalists. Yet, we see Keiran Reid and Liam Messam take David Pocock out of the game all night (see: 0 pilfers on Pocock’s stat sheet) and it is barely acknowledged, and if it is it is seen as cunning strategy.

The truth is Quade actually stumbled upon a little secret the AB’s have been harbouring all these years that the Wallabies never caught up with. They love being dickheads to the other team. Did you see Ritchie take out Rob Horne to open up a massive gap for by Israel Dagg? Is that the same Ritchie who was being bullied by that big fat meanie, that nasty man in yellow, Quade Cooper? Is that the same Ritchie who loves being on the ground between the ballcarrier and the halfback every ruck he gets to, and the same Ritchie who himself loves bullying little Aussie backs whether he has the ball or not?

Quade needs to keep that mongrel, and teach it to the 15 who took the field tonight. Only then will the Wallabies actually be intimidating to play against.

The best example of this has to be the oft-criticised Bakkies Botha. The media complained endlessly about him being a cheat and a terrible person yada yada yada; but did Bakkies ever change his game once in response? Not the eye-gouging, face-mashing, off-the-ball-taking Bakkies I watched. And the Springboks thought he was a legend. Yet we chastise Quade because he has the guts to stick it to the bloke who loves sticking it to us. It needs to change.

Secondly we need forwards who can actually pass!

Think back to the number of overlaps the Wallabies had today but could not take advantage of because a big guy with number 1 through 8 plastered on his back doesn’t possess the first skill taught to everyone who has picked up an oval shaped inflatable object. Numbers 4 and 5 being the worst offenders. And while we’re there, our number 10 looked like he couldn’t pass today either.

Contrast this to the pride of the Commonwealth of New Zealand, whose second rowers by my count offloaded three times to put outside men (also often forwards) into space that meant linebreaks, metreage and quick ball. In Wallaby land, meanwhile, the ball is being suckled by a nurturing forward who is scared it will cry, until Genia stops worrying about how his sure-thing multi on the dishlickers at Wenty is going and decides pick it up. More passing drills are not the answer. A willingness to use one’s skill is.

Finally, break the rules.

The frustration and glory of rugby is, was, and always will be the interpretations offered by the men in the middle. It is a game where the audience, players, and referees embrace and respect the grey areas, not demand that the referees call them by their full name and tell them why they can’t take a piss into their whistle. Subtlety.

When 5 forwards in black are suddenly all fall to the ground on the gold side of the breakdown it’s probably not due to peer pressure. They know that referees, despite the protestations of the crowd, are not going to penalise them every time. It’s also obvious that in those messy rucks the ball does not magically go from being on the Wallabies side to the All Blacks side. There are a bunch of dudes in black who are rather adept at subterfuge, and are masters of using their hands and all that dastardly, All Black business. They understand they won’t always get away with it, but when they do it quickly turns to genius. We need to make this part of Wallaby business.

Turnover ball is dangerous. The Blecks understand this. The Wallabies, with their thirty second waiting time so Benn Robinson can do his shoelace before taking a hit up, probably do as well. They just don’t cheat hard enough to capitalise on it.

So please, please, for the sanity of the fans and probably the All Blacks, who must be sick of winning by now, cheat your heart out, use the skills you spend so long training and ruck some skulls, rub some faces behind the referees back, and do some other nefarious business (non-Hopoate related) that will make those fellas in black think twice about getting their head down the bottom of a pile of bodies again.

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Obituary for my favourite coach

When a true great of the game finally leaves, especially when he is pushed, there is bound to be controversy, backlash and puff pieces. In the case of Nathan Hindmarsh there can be comebacks before he has even retired. But it is not this Nathan we discuss today. In fact, we are not discussing a Nathan at all

It is with great sadness that I post this news… Matthew Primus, former coach of the Port Adelaide Power, has fallen victim to his own success and ingenuity.

Fondly known by followers of this blog (including my dog and a mate of mine who lives in a different country), Matthew “Optimus” Primus proved himself to be a trailblazer in not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not eight, but seven ways. All seven of these ways include appointing captains for a fixture. Seven captains, unsurprisingly.

Apparently the decision to boot the “The Transformer” was prompted by their loss to the Greater Western Sydney Giants, the Power board moved quickly to rid themselves of anything to do with the loss. The coach goes, the president goes, half the players will probably go, and the board remains safe. We all know, after all, that it is a board that makes a football club.

It seemed like a hasty move, in light of GWS coach Kevin Sheedy’s comments recently that they are the best AFL side ever to don a pair of short shorts and we-have-massive-ceps singlets, and that their poster boy Israel Folau is the best AFL player ever to pose for the camera.

In reality the move to decomission the leader of the Autobots proves only that the Power board should be unplugged. The lack of leadership for the Power will now come into question, with a distinct lack of candidates to replace the slayer of all them baddie robots.

We all know that Jazz was ripped apart by Megatron in the first movie and that Ironhide and Ratchet just don’t have it in them to lead a team back from the depths of failure. And don’t get me started on Shia Labeouf. The fact that Michael Bay expects me to believe that that puny little human can defeat Starscream single handedly is insulting to sports fans.

This does not beg the question as there is no argument where the question is being begged, but instead poses it: why was he fired? There is little doubt that Primus was the best coach in the AFL. He clearly had the best name, being the most akin to a popular brand of childrens’ toy. What’s more, the audacity he showed to name seven captains for one fixture is the most groundbreaking development in coaching since the clipboard. This decision led to some of the most read pieces of sports journalism in history. Such is the legacy.

The AFL is poorer for not having Primus among its coaching ranks. I’m not saying I ever watched a Port Adelaide game while he was in charge, or ever heard him talk, but I do know he will go down as the greatest, most successful and most handsome man ever to fill out a team sheet or run handpassing drills.

Vale Optimus, you and the potential for jokes about your name will be missed.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair