Posts Tagged ‘Will Genia’

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!

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.

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.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair