At least we won the Netball

At least we won the Netball
Sharelle McMahon secures lineout possession

Sharelle McMahon secures lineout possession

Diamonds by name, Diamonds by nature. What a credit to Australia our netball chicks are. When the going got tough in the far reaches of Outer Invercargill yesterday the Diamonds got going in a tense series decider.

Each time the Silver Ferns came back into the game and threatened to overtake Australia they stepped up the pressure and returned with a counter. It ended 47-46 and won them the series 3-1, with a dead rubber to play. It’s a pity the Wallabies aren’t made from the same stuff. 

The Wallabies were wearing the same green and gold uniform as the Diamonds, except the gold could best be described as yellow as they meekly surrended to an All Black side that had recently been called the weakest in years.

The All Blacks performance on Saturday night was certainly not weak, it was outstanding and they delivered the sort of backs to the wall effort you expect from champions. For the All Blacks it was in fact outstandingly easy.

I have not seen such a poor effort in recent memory by the Wallabies, and there have been plenty of them over the last few years. This display was spineless. The Wallabies had shown glimpses of improvement in their losing Tri-Nations games and certainly some substance against the Springboks a week or so ago. There was also a couple of reasonable efforts against the Italians and French early in the season. 

The expectation was rising that they would finally put together back to back wins. You thought they had the potential to win this match. You’d also think they’d be going hammer and tongs to prove how far they had come this season under Robbie Deans and be hungry to defeat the All Blacks in NZ for the first time since 2001 – eight long years!

Forest Gump said life was like a box of chocolates and that certainly seems to be the case with these Wallabies, of the soft centred variety. I was actually not expecting a Wallaby win on Saturday although I thought it could have been within them. I was expecting commitment, effort, toughness and some degree of capability. We got none of that (apart from a couple like TPN and Rocky). Nah, bugger it…let someone else do the heavy lifting. We’re still getting paid our retainer and bonuses so what does it matter!

Like you, I have been utterly let down by the kak they served up and the waving of the white flag. It was un-Australian. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!

You know, it’s all about expectations. Graeme Henry and Co have copped a hammering this season because everyone expects the All Blacks to be firing and winning, and when they’re not it is just not acceptable. They are successful year after year because rugby is their national game, their depth is tremendous in the provinces and their competitions are top notch. They are physical and abrasive people on the rugby park also in part due to their polynesian and rural heritage. They are the benchmark which everybody (Springboks included) judges their rugby status. 

In 2009 the All Blacks have been ordinary against the Italians, French, Wallabies in some matches and of course the Springboks. This is not how it is supposed to be. Our expectations of the Wallabies are of course a lot lower. We don’t usually beat the All Blacks and very rarely at their place. However, we have delusions of grandeur which a couple of RWC wins have contributed to clouding our vision. We get a sniff of success and incessently talk it up in the media only to be disappointed when we fail miserably to live up to those raised expectations. And it seems that it is acceptable in Australian rugby to lose regularly. 

What does all this say about our rugby system? It says we are frequently mentally soft, take the easy options and when the pressure’s on we fold. It says we are unable to deliver a consistent dominant physical performance apart from the odd exception – Twickers last year for example. One Kiwi paper called us ‘pampered poodles’ and, you know, they may not be too far from the truth. In the NZ Herald team of the Tri-Nations we had one player selected, Adam Ashley-Cooper.

They are laughing at our weakness and think there’s no way we’ll pose a threat at the next RWC. That’s too early to call but in reality our rugby this year is in the doldrums from Super 14 to Tri-Nations. It would have been nice to have that win on Saturday to confirm our growing potential. All it did was confirm our vulnerabilities. Players promoted beyond their years and others sitting on the bench or not selected who would have been far better occupied fighting in the trenches.   

Kiwi view

Kiwi view

Graeme Henry and Co were one loss away from catastrophe. There would have been a huge clamour for his head, or those of his assistants, and the NZRU would probably have had to act. Today he has been reprieved and is basking in glory. The good news may be that Henry and team are still there. It is possible that wins over a weak Wallaby side mist the problems that have beset the All Blacks this year and help to exclude renewal. That may be one of our only means of redemption.

Until we increase our depth via more widespread and quality competitions; until we start consistently earning our inflated salaries; until we dump the hair gel; and until we start selecting players with fire in their belly (if we can find any) I fear that Wallabies matches like Saturday’s will continue to bedevil us. 

It will be interesting to see when Deans announces his 40 man Spring tour training squad this week whether he dumps any of those he holds responsible for Saturday’s outrage.  

And I wonder how Sharelle McMahon would go on Mitchell’s wing?

PS: This rant is cathartic and has made me feel better……..


Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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