Posts Tagged ‘Rugby Union’

Leading with the chin on Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper has quit rugby, according to Danny Weidler and other such reputable sources of news.

Many, many people will disagree with me on this one. I know it, and feel free to comment with your well considered thoughts/petulant rants below should you inevitably not find this opinion to be the same as your own.

I’ve always been a big fan of Quade Cooper as a rugby player. Many Australians hate him, and with a baffling degree of hostility in my view.

When it comes to Quade Cooper, everyone is a Daily Telegraph journalist. You’re either a a “Cooper supporter” or you’re not. Things that Quade does on and off the field not only become things that those who oppose the Reds fly half use against Quade, but they use them against people who are “on his side.”

If you willingly put yourself in the “Cooper Camp,” you too become an object of scrutiny. When Quade kicks the ball out on the full, so to do you kick the ball out on the full. When the Wallabies’ hopes at the World Cup live and die on Quade, the Wallabies’ hopes also rest on you, a Quade supporter, because you happened to like watching a talented though enigmatic footballer.

When Quade steals a laptop, you should be put in prison for saying he’s good at footy. When he says the Wallabies’ environment is toxic or some such daftness, you are lumped in with him and throttled for his stupidity.

Friends of mine who are smarter than I have censured, berated and at times even hated me for wanting Quade Cooper to succeed. I have never seen a more divisive rugby player. Not even Sonny Bill Williams, who is more uniformly written off as a mercenary.

It is the most senseless case of fans hating one of their own I know of.

I say all this not to whine about my mates getting up me because Quade played poorly (which still baffles me) but because the guy could actually play football. He was good, and provided exactly what the rugby public in Australia yearn for: entertaining, bold and incredibly skilful play.

And for some reason that I will never understand, the fans and the ARU hung him out to dry.

So, for perhaps the last time, I’ll lead with the chin on Quade Cooper.

Quade Cooper leaving rugby is a big loss.

He made the Reds the best team to watch in the comp. He was at the helm when they won the 2011 Super Rugby competition, and inspired the Reds of 2010 to believe, and play well above their weight all year.

Forwardplay and backplay are the yin and yang of Rugby Football, and that year James Horwill and Quade were the leaders of their respective cohort, with Will Genia bridging the gap.

Horwill inspired the big men to punch it up, make metres, and do it for eighty minutes, game after game; while Quade dared his backs to dream, and produced the best highlight reel a Super Rugby team has ever made over just one season. The atmosphere around the Reds games was immense, better than any Wallaby game in the past five years.

Then apparently Quade, and he alone, lost the Wallabies the World Cup. He subsequently broke his leg in a dead rubber, the third place playoff against Wales, something no one in their right mind wishes on any footballer.

“Serves you right,” said many resentful and petty Wallabies fans. I’ve never heard people so glad that a player got injured.

Quade screwed it all up this year by calling the Wallabies’ environment “toxic.” Said sorry, fined $40,000, no insubstantial amount of money.

The ARU then offered Quade, who had already signed with the Reds, a signal of his intent to stay in rugby, an incentives only contract for 2013. He helped the Wallabies win the Tri-Nations in 2011, and the Reds the Super Rugby trophy in the same year.

He, of anyone in Super Rugby, offers the most marketable commodity in our currently stale setup. Even if he never plays for the Wallabies again, he will make back whatever the ARU offer him twice over simply by turning out for the Reds. People buy memberships and fill stadiums to watch this guy play.

He makes rugby entertaining, something Waratah and Wallaby supporters will know is no easy task.

People may thing Campo has lost his marbles, but he’s spot on when he says people like to watch tries being scored.¬†Looking at the Wallabies right now and you will see that no tries are being scored.

Apparently, after the match against England, the Wallabies “are back in try scoring form.”

Guess how many tries it takes to be in form? One. Nick Cummins poked his bushy head over the white strip and apparently the Wallabies are good to watch again.

They’ve scored one try in their last three games, and an average of one per game for the whole year. Tries aren’t everything, and the team’s been hammered by injuries, I know, but when you’re only averaging one try a game you ain’t in try scoring form.

It’s a sad indictment on a nation that has a reputation for adventurous back play and great ball skills.

An in-form Cooper could have helped. He, James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Will Genia could have been a formidable attacking foursome for the next five years at least.

Now it’s lost. And for what?

I’m not in camp Quade or in any such nonsense. I just thought he was a good footy player and I liked watching him play.

I’ll miss that. Australian Rugby might miss him too.

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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.

Dead rats aplenty in Australian rugby

A dead rat

You’ve probably all got two questions for me.

The answer to the first one is yes, I definitely think it was my blog post that forced John O’Neill’s hand and made him call it a day as ARU CEO. I kid, but indulge me for a second on one of my favourite topics.

Being a sports administrator in Australia sucks. I think that, generally speaking, they are incredibly hard working, intelligent people who are honestly trying to do their best for the sport, but people who have no idea what they are talking about still blame them for every problem they don’t understand due to their lack of comprehension of things that are fundamental to being a reasonable human being. David Gallop did the same as JON, quitting the sport he had worked so hard for with no thanks from the fans or journalists who didn’t realise exactly what he had been doing for the ten years that was possibly the best in the game’s histroy. So I suppose some sort of thanks should be in order for John’s work and his putting up with being covered in shit for so long.

As for the second question, I just don’t know. I don’t know what the previous record for the most uses of the word “shit” in a blog post is so I can’t comment. I know many of you might find that “disappointing,” but there you have it.

Begin aiming handfuls of shit at me.

And to further preface this post, I want to explore two more phrases sporting people in the media like to say. The first is “can’t comment,” which is extremely frustrating mostly because the utterer is inevitably pretending they’re harbouring national security secrets in those pea brains when really they’re only not saying what’s written on their wrist tape: “Run hard at player with x on their back.”

The second one is “accountability.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from sports media it’s that everyone has a different definition of accountability for every situation and will use it against people with a different, in their view flawed, view of accountability. The other thing is that everyone except the person who actually should be accountable is responsible for the mistakes of others.

As for this post, well, what’s it about? It can’t be about shit, I’ve done that one to death.

No, this one is going to flesh out one of the things I hinted at in the last article, and that is people blaming the Waratahs for everything that’s terrible in the world. Are they really “accountable” for the Wallabies terrible play?

I know they weren’t terribly impressive this year. The fans weren’t happy with their performances, which was reflected in the crowd numbers. But Sydney has always been a fickle market and when a team ain’t winning on the field, chances are they’re probably not packing out their horribly located venue.

As usual, journalists thought the Waratahs were the worst thing that ever happened to society, and once again we have a change in coach, change in CEO, fan forums, the works. It almost seems to me like the Waratahs are being accountable, but I can’t really comment on that. I know that might be disappointing for you to hear.

In fact, it is hard to tell with journos exactly whose fault it is. Is it everyone’s favourite person to hate, the head administrator? Michael Foley copped a lot of stick this year, so maybe it was the coach? Perhaps it’s the players? No, what was I thinking? It’s never the players’ fault for playing badly. How silly of me!

In the case of the Waratahs it seems to be some sort of joint venture of all three ‘camps’ (pet peeve alert), which honestly doesn’t help when you’re trying to write a snappy headline.

“Combination of poor administration, bad coaching and terrible play cited as reason for Horrortah season by Waratah CEO,” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Fire the NRL refs.” Rugby League journos just have it made, what with everything being in black and white and all.

But one very well thought of rugby scribe went on record after John O’Neill retired saying that the Wallabies were on struggle street not for the reasons that Quade “Toxic Environment” Cooper was rabbiting on about.

There’s nothing wrong with the ARU, he says, or the Wallabies’ management or coaching structure or gameplan or any such thing like that which would make sense in the context of the Wallabies playing poorly. These people are and have been accountable for their errors according to this journalist, and it was an entirely separate entity bringing down the house.

It was in fact the Waratahs, from beyond the Super Rugby grave, making the men in yellowy-gold play badly. He said that the Waratahs players are so brainwashed by an inept administration (recently fired and replaced) and coaching setup (ditto) and playing poorly themselves (never really the players’ faults though) that they can’t possibly hope to play well ever again, even under another structure like Deans’ (which happens to be excellent). All along, it was the bloody Waratahs are screwing it up for the rest of us.

Sorry, but do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

Let me just savour it for a moment. Hmm. Yes. It has strong notes of Warnie blaming mum for taking diuretics, with a background palate of Bulldogs players not yelling at the media, but in fact at each other. But how are the legs? Sadly they are shithouse.

Let’s humour this man for a second. Let’s pretend that the Waratahs do objectively suck, and could never play football after being cursed by donning the sky blue jersey. Could we compare the inept organisation at the Waratahs to, say, what must be a terrible culture at the Lions? This is a team that has hardly competed with other teams, let alone won a game, in Super Rugby since its inception.

Do people blame the Lions for South Africa losing to Australia, or drawing with Argentina? No. But the Saffas sure as hell don’t pick as many Lions’ players as they do Stormers or Bulls.

And yet this current batch of Wallabies is proverbially heaving with Worrytahs, or Horrortahs, or Wobbletahs, or some other terrible pun on the state flower. Why is that?

Well, it’s either they are good players, deserving of playing for the Wallabies, or that the Australian selectors are mistaken in selecting them. Notice how neither of these two reasons involves a problem created by the Waratahs franchise. In fact, one would even involve some kudos for the Tahs, directly contradicting the point that Waratah players can’t catch, pass or run (we all know they can kick).

I know it’s sometimes confusing separating the Waratahs problems from the Wallabies, what with both teams start with the same letter and all, but the jersey is a different colour for one, and the coach of the team in gold is a New Zealander.

There’s just no way we can or we should blame the Tahs for problems that aren’t theirs. For me, it’s “disappointing” that people try to pass the buck of “accountability” onto the younger brother when bigger brother has a shocker, but maybe I shouldn’t comment on that.

My dad has a saying: if it looks like dead rat, and smells like dead rat, then it’s probably dead rat. To me, it looks and smells like there is more than one dead rat, and to pass off two dead rats as one, well, that’s just disrespectful to the other dead rat.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair