Hey Cobbers and welcome to episode 33 of the Chewsday Chew.
Well, I hope you all had your fill of rugby over the weekend just passed. The smorgasbord of rugby already on offer from the Women’s World Cup has only been added to by the annual November test series coming back on-line. But as you guys have probably worked out by now, I’m not one for doing the news. So for a sound roll-up of the weekend’s events, I point you towards Charlie’s effort here.
And while it grates me to the very cockles of my heart, maybe below the cockles, maybe in the sub cockle area, maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidneys, maybe even in the colon (I don’t know), I must pay credit to the English Roses. Their winning streak, their professionalism, their across-field cohesion and the dominance of their play is unrivalled at the moment. Within that, I also acknowledge the most -obvious of things in that of course their powerhouse outfit and performance has absolutely nothing to do with their professional status. I don’t mean that to take away from the English performance, or the gutsy efforts of our own women in lining up against them last weekend. But if ever you needed a lesson in hard-nosed professionalism grinding over the top of enthusiastic amateurs, well there you had it on the weekend. In technicolour.
So to that end RA, it’s well and truly ‘your ball’ regarding the women’s game in Australia as ever it was, but like it never has been before. You have less than 5 yrs before the fruits of your investment in the immediate future will be displayed on Aussie domestic TV screens for all to see.
Best you crack on or we’ll be left behind further. Be clear that if not addressed, we will serve up another squad of well-meaning amateurs and part-timers again, destined to be gutsy, but ultimately little other than training park cannon fodder for the ‘big girls’ teams come the quarter finals if we’re lucky. And in doing so, you will reduce our own women’s game further (if such be possible) to truly being nowt but a convenient talent identification, training and development centre of excellence for women’s rugby league.
However, that isn’t what has me stirred up tonight. No. Something much more insidious has my hackles up after an incident in the Wobbly/Scots match on Sunday morning left me seeing blood boiling red. No, it wasn’t the leading shoulder cleanout on Tate McDermott. And it wasn’t the near red card Foley earned himself with his heads-up cover tackle on
South Africa’s Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe. Nor was it Taniela Tupou again demonstrating his inability to learn a bloody thing from past behaviours by giving away the last minute penalty shot to the Scots on fire No10 Blair Kinghorn. And nor was it the incessant arguing of every gold-wearing man and his dog with damn near everyone and anything that even looked like a match official.
No, what drove me to vent a series of expletives at the screen in my otherwise sleeping house early on Sunday morning was a largely ignored event at a es that have surfaced in rugby over the last few years.
Now, let’s set the scene: it’s about the 25th minute mark and the Scots have been building pressure worryingly. As the Scots attack the posts, they pick up another penalty advantage (another f%$king offside) and Kinghorn floats an Aussie sphincter-tightening pass nearly 20 metres to an unmarked Tuipulotu on the touchline only for it to bounce off his chest! That’s a Scots try gone begging only for poor handling rather than any good defence from the Australians. More pressure from the Scots then sees a wagon-load of short passes and Piggy carries leading inexorably to what must surely be a Scots try, only for Lady Luck to again shine on the Aussies with the try being ruled ‘Held Up’.
After two streams of possession that really should each have seen Scotland score, we see a dropout and there is a ruck set comfortably inside the Australian half and inside the left side 15m lineout line – so a perfect place to pull a penalty and kick 3 points if it be on offer. So, as the clock ticks 29min, up steps local favourite
South African Scottish No1 Pierre Schoeman and with what can only be described as a try scorer’s dive – except he was some 35 metres short of the try line itself – Schoeman hurled himself up and over James Slippers chop tackle. Thank the good Lord above Slipper missed his tackle and Schoeman was subsequently penalised by Luke Pearce for “Deliberately leaving his feet” (which I think was only correct by application of Law 6.5.A).
And here is my flash-point because what Schoeman did was a dog act of humongous proportions that got missed in the moment. And the only reason Schoeman’s cunning plan didn’t come to fruition and another Wobbly was sent home, was because Slipper missed falling into the trap.
See, I believe Schoeman dived in that manner hoping that an Aussie defender (logically Slipper) would react late/poorly to his unexpected yet deliberate gymnastics and so clip his legs in mid-air. Such contact would either flat-spin Schoeman or, more dramatically, front-pivot him head first into the turf. Such a contact, and the resulting head-first contact with the ground, would no doubt be accompanied by NIDAesque histrionics, a full medical team dispatch, multiple replays on big screens by helpful local TV production teams and plenty of player temple holding to milk not just a penalty, but also most surely see a card (surely red) for the defender who dared befoul poor Pierre in such a dastardly manner. And so home goes another Wobbly.
But the whole thing was a sham. It was Schoeman himself who created the whole shebang in the first place. Be really clear about it: what Schoeman did was a deliberate act, designed to not just milk a penalty, but to get an opponent carded and likely suspended. And that to me warrants a statement be made and a suspension issued by World Rugby.
That may seem harsh but in the modern environment of hyper-sensitivity to all things connected with high contact, this behaviour is, to me, beyond gamesmanship. This to me is gutless. To me, this ranks right up there with that other South African-originated tendency of recent times of leaving a lifted jumper, be it a lineout jumper or kick-off catcher, high in the air for an extended period of time, hoping that an opponent will chop out their legs. And that sort of deliberate, premeditated, trained cynicism warrants a suspension for those involved far beyond anything Brodie Retallick is going to face for taking his Japanese opponent at his worth and dealing with the situation he was faced with. At least Brodie Retallick took an opponent head on, directly, in open view with no connivance. Comparatively, his was straight-on, honest, rugby contact.
But what Schoeman and Co are doing (and developing) within our game is creating an air of complicit conspiracy, leveraging a part of the game everyone is hugely sensitive about, to potentially put their own players in wilful danger if it potentially brings an advantage to their own. In both situations, Schoeman’s diving and ‘delayed lifting’, the players (surely under coaching instructions) are deliberately and knowingly contriving a dangerous situation by putting their own man at risk in the hope of not just milking a penalty, but to get an opponent carded out of the resulting impact and likely suspended.
This is different to diving. Diving is an instant reaction, a bad choice in the moment. But that said, I despise ‘diving’ as well. The Antony Jalonch dive to get Marika Koroibete red-carded will live in rugby infamy forever just as much as Nic White’s dive will live on for its sheer ridiculousness. But diving isn’t new, just ask any Welshman of a certain vintage and they will howl at the mere mention of Andy Haden after the All Black connived a match-clinching penalty with a dive from a last minute lineout in a manner more reminiscent of soccer than our game.
But this behaviour is far more appalling than diving because it’s premeditated; it’s practised, planned and prepared for. That makes it multiple times more dangerous to the fabric of our game than any limp-wristed dive. To me, this leveraging of the fear factor around head safety (which is unquestioned as an existential threat to our very game) is straight up un-rugby and thus that needs to be stamped out hard. This ranks right up there with the Harlequins bloodgate fiasco for sheer dishonesty in my opinion. And the bad faith inherent in such duplicity is anathema to the spirit of the game I have spent over 40 years playing.
I call on World Rugby to see this sort of connivance for what it is and act now with open sanction and suspension for Schoeman and anyone else who deliberately participates in this sort of premeditated erosion of traditional rugby values. Set the example now, publicly and on high, before as is frequently the case, the uncontrolled ramifications of such tolerated $hitbaggery crystalises at its worst in the very place most ill-equipped to handle it – the community game.
Or am I wrong?