Posts Tagged ‘David Pocock’

Wallaby jersey descends further into the yellow abyss

There’s always a little, immature butterfly that flutters in a man-boy’s stomach when something is given a new skin.

Like when a snake slithers out of its former scales, looking all slimy and nubile, to grow a new, more prominently coloured batch of decorations.

Just like when you unlock the camo version of the MP40 on the latest Call of Duty game.

Or like when your EPL club wears a colour that the founding fathers would eat, spit out, eat again, digest and deposit, then burn as it is a disgrace to everything they stood for, damn it!

So when the Wallabies don their new regalia and show it off on a prominent Australian media website, I do tend to giddy up just a fraction.

I’m not talking anything untoward. No inappropriate questions need to be asked about my trousers after I’ve gazed for hours at Will Genia wearing that particularly fetching shade of yellow. I just like to look, summarise, think that it’s not the worst thing in the world, then wait for the geezers to come out of the woodwork again and tell us of the days when the gold jersey was just that: gold. And only gold. And we couldn’t afford truffles or Playstations or ‘extra virgin’ olive oil and we were better for it!

But no, as Quade Cooper reminded us all to candidly last year, undermining both his and his team’s proclaimed heritage, the Wallabies journey has slipped further and further into the yellow abyss. The national team has seen the light, and only a World Cup victory will see us reaching back to what was (though ironically our last World Cup victory was almost achieved in those butt-ugly jerseys with green and white flashes down the shoulder. Yuck!).

“And we’ll be better for it!”

Sorry, sorry. That old geezer somehow got a hold of the keyboard for a second.

I am slightly quizzical about the folks they chose to display the new strip though.

Genia fronts the lot. No worries there. He’s the boss of Aussie rugby right now, the only one who, according to many scribes and armchair critics, would walk into a hypothetical World XV tomorrow. Not only does he turn Quade Cooper from shuddering nancy boy to a veritable rugby Baryshnikov, but he apparently has eerie powers over forwards he commands. He’s like an overlord for piggies, herding them this way and that so the people with brains in the backline can work out a way to transcend the try line.

But that’s where the ‘Wallaby’ stops and the ‘Why is he there?’ begins.

There’s Berrick Barnes, full time moustache-wearer and ball-kicker-awayer just over Will’s right shoulder. Now, far be it from me to question a Wallaby with over 50 caps, but he’s barely in calculations to start for the Waratahs right now. He’s no certainty for the Wallaby 22, and will only be there to add an element of “He doesn’t screw things up as bad as Quade Cooper, but doesn’t do things as well as him either” to the Wallaby side.

Add to that the tache he’s been sporting for the last six months and I think what’s actually going on with the jersey promo is that they are tapping into the hipster crowd.

That would explain why Scott Higginbotham’s there I guess. Far from a shoe-in for any Wallaby team, the lushly bearded, latte sipping, Kurtley Beale-fist-avoiding Melbournian must have impressed somebody in the ARU PR department with his facial growth. His rugby hasn’t warranted him wearing the coveted ‘yellow’ jersey on posters all over the interweb.

No David Pocock? I know he’s injured, but his guns can’t have dissipated that badly yet! No Radike Samo? He’s got an afro that goes all the way into tomorrow! No Ben Mowen? Oh, that’s right, no Ben Mowen, ever.

Then, most confusingly, Drew Mitchell stands there, snugly behind Will.

How does Drew, fine player that he is, warrant a jersey promo over chaps who’ve worn gold for the last three years while Drew’s been having God-know-how-many terrible and unfortunate injuries tended to? He’s not a guy people would associate with the jersey for the past three years, so why’s he there?

What about Ioane? Or Adam Ashley Cooper?

If you haven’t realised my point by now, I’ll cut to the chase.

Who the hell is going to be in the Wallaby team when the Lions rock up on our shores in three months? It’s vastly unclear to me, and it seems the same goes for the PR folks at the ARU.

If the PR people have to trod out these folks on the basis of what they promised to do five years ago but never quite did, or the fact that their facial hair grows denser and more attractively than the horribly patchy Nick Phipps, then hell, get The Beards in on that promo.

I think some work needs to be done people. Super Rugby must be watched, dissected and discussed with great vigour over the next few weeks. Facial hair must be analysed. Work must be laid to one side. There’s rugby afoot.

The Lions tour is a big deal (so I’m told) and I’ll be damned if I’m not a part of the conversation that is largely ignored about who should be selected!

You stay classy, Robbie Deans

Every day I open up the Herald, or the Roar, or Fox Sports and someone else has lined up and had a crack at Robbie Deans.

Possibly for good reason, I don’t know, but inevitably after reading their rant about how this guy can’t pass and that guy shouldn’t be selected, my loins start to get a bit hot, my collar tight, and I’m tempted to yell something about New Zealanders sabotaging our rugby.

I bite, and buy into the furore over the coach’s job, something that I have a fair bit of skepticism (read: cynicism) about due to protracted hours spent trawling Fox Sports comments calling for coaches’ heads after a 50-4 victory.

“The try we let in spoke of a soft defence, which is the coach’s fault. He must go now!” a commenter would say, having clearly not watched his side run in 15 unanswered tries only to shut up shop for five minutes to allow their opposition to take one positive thing out the fixture.

But I digress into pet-hatery and cheap shots. I sincerely apologise, dear reader. And it’s not like the Wallabies are running in 15 tries.

The day after X former Aussie rugby player/overly zealous footy journo spruiks a new coach, or says Robbie is the worst thing since seeded watermelons (who thought of those?), Robbie hits the headlines again, deftly deflecting the criticism with the nonchalance Michael Clarke deflected wayward Dale Steyn deliveries to fine leg last week. And I feel bad.

Robbie, why do you have to have the consummate media ease of Anthony Mundine, the temperament of Jacques Kallis and the humble nature of Pip’s surrogate father Joseph? (I’ve decided literature shall become part of this blog now)

He makes me feel so terrible for constructing and burning those effigies of him in my bathroom, for bashing at my keyboard in patterns that decry his coaching credentials, and for yelling wildly at Norwegians in my local supermarket about how “the Wallabies are a disgrace!” When these tall, attractive Scandinavians say nothing back, clearly befuddled by what must seem like a scene in a nightmare, I only yell louder, telling them about the death of a once-proud rugby nation, the poor service from halfback and the fact that online streams don’t offer Marto, Kearnsy and the gang in commentary.

Robbie makes me hang my head in shame, trudge down to the shop of coach criticism, and hand them my middle finger and my receipt. The clerk who serves me is not angry, he’s just disappointed.

Robbie’s just so classy. I wonder if he’s actually guilt tripping emotional suckers like me?

Or maybe he’s just a really good bloke, and the rest of us are terrible blokes.

The question for me now is not whether Robbie is a poor coach, it is whether he should keep being such a professional in the face of a constant barrage of media abuse. If I were him, I would have told everyone to take a hike quite some time ago, then taken a hike myself back to the cushy Crusaders job and a blank cheque.

Instead, he continues to attempt to rebuild a team that is injury afflicted, low on confidence and stacked with players who will never go down as Wallaby greats, with a few exceptions of course.

Why does he accept criticism with such good grace? Why does Robbie invite Campo back any time after being treated with a vitriolic spray about why he is actually the worst person who ever lived? Let’s not forget hat Campo has form in this regard, having had more than a few bad words to say about Robbie on more than a few occasions.

In fact, much of Campo’s criticisms, if you read them, involve how his under 10’s team can pass and run better than the Wallabies. To be fair, I’m pretty sure most of the guys in gold can do that better than your charges Campo, and that the ‘simple’ solutions everyone is touting have probably been gone over a nauseum by a national side clearly searching for answers.

Realistically, this is a poor Wallabies side.

With James O’Connor, Quade Cooper, Steven Moore, James Horwill, Will Genia, David Pocock and possibly a few others back that may change, but at the moment the best Australian XV is poor by international standards, and I really don’t expect too much from them in the upcoming games.

If they show a bit of courage and a bit of intent in the next game against the Poms I will be a happy boy. If they at least hang in there and do the tough stuff like tackle well, run hard and dive on the ball when it’s on the deck I will give them a pass mark.

But the coach can’t teach you this stuff lads, it has to come from your own desire to win.

Wallabies fail to thrill; Cricketers pick up the scraps

In sport, there are ways to do things and ways not to do things.

In the two biggest international games this weekend, we’ve seen one Australian team play with a bit of self belief and impose themselves on a side that is fancied as the best in the world. The Wallabies also played.

By my count, the sessions won in the Test match being played at the Gabba would be five for the Saffas and the Aussies four. The three sessions played today, however, were won more emphatically than any of the three that belonged to the Proteas on day one, as well as the session before lunch on day three.

1/376 in today’s play, a throwback to scoring rates of ten years ago when the Aussies were in their pomp. Hayden and Langer would thrash boundaries at will to the delight of the crowd, and if they gave way the stands could look forward to Punter, Gilly and whoever was in form at the time.

Granted, today was a longer day, having to make up for the first entire day lost at the Gabba since 1990, but it was still good scoring.

I could only imagine my Dad watching Ed Cowan ton up earlier in the day. He would have called all and sundry to let them know what he good player he was. I know he certainly told me what’s where and who’s what about Ed Cowan on Skype yesterday, all with a wry grin on his face; a grin that comes from the success of a player one has picked for greatness. Love you Dad.

I managed to catch the final session, and saw Hussey and Clarke playing attractively and aggressively. Huss compiled his 86* swiftly, though not without its foibles. He looked to be sorted out by Morne Morkel on multiple occasions.

More intemperate batsmen would have lashed out in frustration, edging the big quick to slip or some such rashness. But the Huss forgot the delivery as soon as he missed, and often followed it up by dispatching Morkel to the boundary. Slats was more than correct to point out the difficulty of refocusing after four straight plays-and-misses, to then follow them up with an elegant cover drive for four biscuits.

Clarke played some sumptuous, breakfast delaying shots. I had to wait until 9am, cricket’s end in Norway, to begin grilling my Kneipp. By then I’d watched Clarke play one of the best cover drives I’ve seen, and possibly the best straight drive, again off Morkel. He offered the full face, didn’t play it with any big effort, saw it onto the juicy section of the bat and watched it flow to the boundary.

Kneipp: A delicious way to start the day

The side-on angle of this shot was the most telling thing about it. The frame of his body was textbook. His arms and shoulders and torso formed a perfect square that didn’t alter in shape as he raised his left elbow in the playing of the shot. His front foot was forward, more than just a forward press, which allowed him perfect balance in stroking the cherry to the fence.

A thing of beauty, people.

Which is perhaps a pertinent segue to the thing that was not of beauty: the Wallabies on Saturday night Norway time.

I’ve previously written of the proverbial merde that has been heaped in, around, and on the Wallabies in the past. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like a father of a forty-year-old uni-dropout working at Subway. I’m just disappointed, that’s all.

That is very, very unfair of course, considering the terrible amount of injuries sustained within the squad. Given a fully fit Wallabies side I think the contest would have been much closer than the abysmally one-sided 33-6 event I watched over two bottles of homebrew.

I think all of this writing off of Quade Cooper will be short lived. Sure, what he said was dumb, but I think he is a player who, when in form, can lead a side to great things, just as he did with the Reds.

The forgotten man in all of this is James Horwill, who was one of the biggest inspirations of the Reds’ win in 2011. He led a forward pack that dominated the best packs in Super Rugby. They didn’t do that because they were the best eight, but because they played like filthy animals.

Beau Robinson looked like a world beating seven, outplaying Schalk Burger in their clash with the Stormers and matching the great Richie; Scott Higginbothan had his breakout season and Ben Daley got through more work than a contractor with a blank cheque.

When Kevvy gets back one would expect him to rev up the boys in a different way to the myriad of captains we’ve had in his absence. For this reason I think Horwill, and not Genia or Pocock, is the best captain in a fully fit Wallabies side.

Whatever happens in the next few games, we must at least admit that the Wallabies are just not there yet as a team. The lack of attacking flair is a problem, whatever people say about scoring tries. We must remember that Robbie Deans saying tries aren’t everything was take dramatically out of context by the Rugby scribes, but in an Australian market who love runs, wickets, goals, tries and everything else, it was probably not the ideal thing to say at the time.

The Reds in 2011 weren’t all about scoring tries, but they were damn good to watch. It’s the best rugby I’ve seen played by an Australian side in five years. Let’s hope we can channel some of it in the games to come.

And if we can’t, flick over to the cricket, because some of the shotmaking today was quite special.

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.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair