What a year that was. With the extended Super season, the Lions tour, The Rugby Championship and a Grand Slam tour it felt like two, if not three seasons rolled into one.
It was mostly a year of pain for Aussie rugby, with a fair few ‘nearlies’ and some light on the horizon thrown in.
The pain was obvious; at the end of this season our trophy cabinet is about as bare as it can get of major trophies. The biggest loss was no doubt the once-every-twelve-years Lions series defeat. Having suffered that we just managed to avoid the wooden spoon in The Rugby Championship – quite the kick in the nuts when hope was so high on the back of a coaching change. Even among the rusted-ons, this has been one of the darkest seasons for Australian rugby for 30 or more years.
This pain was amplified by the closeness of some key losses. The Brumbies losing the Super Rugby final in Hamilton by just five points. The Wallabies missing the first Lions Test by a slipped kick on the donger by Kurtley Beale and the Wallabies letting drop a Grand Slam through some joke officiating and poor tactical choices in a close Test against the Poms.
How different the season would have looked in the history books with just two of those defeats going the other way?
Regardless – and more importantly – is even amongst all this angst, there is a glimmer of a feeling of optimism out there. For a start the Wallabies are scoring tries; three per match under Link, versus one per match since the 2011 RWC. Not only are you unlikely to hold New Zealand or the current South Africa teams to one try per match, it’s also just in our Australian nature – we want more than just ‘being in the match’ out of our Wallabies.
It also finally feels like our player stocks and attitudes are headed in the right direction. From being blindly reliant on a few over-indulged X-factor players at the beginning of this year, to now having a situation where top players returning to the squad from injury will not be auto-selections. Clearly a lot of this comes down to the new Wallaby regime, but the Brumbies’ win over the Lions and changes at the Tahs and Rebels are indications of a hardening in the Aussie provincial approach.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the return of a National Championship, which may well have the most far reaching impact of all.
You’ve probably noticed that we’ve powered down a little here at G&GR Headquarters over the break, but that’s so we can be charged up better than ever come the 2014 season. Thanks to you for getting involved and to all those guys who do what they do here for nothing more than the love of the game and mateship; much appreciated.
As a bonus gift, here are
The top 10 articles on G&GR in 2013 by pageviews
Have a bonza new year everyone and see you in 2014.