Hello Cobbers. I hope we are all well, fed, watered and perhaps even a little hungover.
What’s happening in our lives today? We have our stronger Super fanchises generally holding their own in the land of the long white Speight’s (and in doing so yet again putting our perennial strugglers from the south and the west in the spotlight), we have club rugby now well back underway around the countryside with all sorts of folk battered, bashed and black-eyed on Monday morning teams/Zzom calls, we have a long-coming interest rate hike finally arrived and all that just in-time for an election where we get to line up McShonky alongside McShoddy and decide which one makes me regurgitate semi-digested pablum comparatively less… fun times.
Before launching into this week’s chew, I would like to draw some attention and make some comment on the fledgling and continually spluttering female game in Oz.
In short, and paraphrasing my comments from Monday’s News chat, we need to do better with the women’s game. Now I know our RA Masters and Commanders aren’t exactly flush with cash or resources, and I will say again that I recognise that no one at RA would be getting up in the morning and saying into the mirror “Mirror Mirror on the wall, how can I screw up our game today?” But we need to do more and do it better.
Because any semi-intelligent sports pundit can see we have a war coming regarding the survival of community level contact sports. And I believe that over the next 15-20yrs, a few sports alive and kicking well-enough today will not survive because of dwindling appetite of the middle-classes to play them in the first place, increasing minimum physical requirements to participate in them competitively, and above all, being able to find a way to fund the cost of the insurance that is going to accompany them.
Now each of those three reasons is a PhD in their own right and I won’t be tackling them to the depth they need or deserve here today. But I will make one small comment about the first reason – grass-roots survivability and sustainability.
To be clear, we are really missing the boat by not pushing the women’s game harder.
We were pace-setters in the women’s game back in the 90s and the 00s. Then we got complacent and let it slip. It got to the point in 2017 that BuildCorp even pulled their Tim Tams off the table because of our open and blatant inaction around the women’s game. And the game in this country damn near hemorrhaged and died because of that loss of such a major sponsor for completely avoidable reasons. I don’t think many folk realise just how close to the edge of financial oblivion our game in this country came to as a result of that arrogant ineptitude. For the sake of clarity, let’s not forget, Josephine Sukkar, Principal, co-founder of Buildcorp and president of Australian Women’s Rugby at the time, was brutally clear to the ARU that they were to have a women’s comp running in-tandem with the NRC. But typical SRU/NSWRU myopia meant that when they strangled the NRC, they also killed the goose that laid their golden eggs. Once it was incontrovertibly clear that the ARU had failed to deliver a women’s competition to the standard expected as was a condition of their sponsorship, BuildCorp yanked their money. And remember, BuildCorp had basically been underwriting SRU/NSWRU since 1992 at that time. And also to be fair, Lion Nathan and BMW also yanked their sponsorship for the same reasons. So it was a FUBAR ‘own goal’ of astronomical proportions.
Leaving that aside, now the other body-contact codes have not only caught on, but caught up and gone past us at something approximating Warp6. Call it what it is, the AFLW is a class product and getting better with every game they play. The Mungo is undoubtedly behind them, but still well in front of us. Christ On His Stick, we are so far behind with the women’s game that there are SuperW teams where they don’t even cover the girls physio and injury recovery. No wonder they all went to the AON 7s programme. And thus now we have a game that is trailing badly despite having the absolute drawcards the others can only dream they had; both a successful international competition and Olympic status to pin popularity on.
Just to point out the obvious about investing in the women’s game, besides being worthy product in their own right, the women’s game currently represents massive ROI (largely because coming off such a low base), they have none of the risks regarding scandal that perennially attach to the men (basically because they have nothing to spend anyway I guess) and to be REALLY blunt about my main point, they are the pathway into the hearts and minds of the rugby mums of tomorrow. Herein lies the route to the current and next wave of secondary and tertiary educated women, nationwide, who will point the kids heads and spend the shekels that will decide, in large part, which codes survive and which don’t. I’m not saying anything controversial or earthshaking here. Make no bones about that. The days of surviving by just relying on the good ‘ol boys are done. But the golden era of women looking favourably on sports THEY played at uni – and having the cash to back up those memories – is only just dawning. And mark my words, it will be the sports with the most inclusive and broad-based offering and appeal that will survive. And this is one massive way to take a huge piece of that pie for OUR game. As the Chinese say “Women hold up half the sky.” So get on it. Or die a completely foreseeable death.
Welcome to Episode 8 of the Chewsday Chew. The purpose herein is not to write something overly sagacious, complicated or mesmerising, but rather to pose a simple observation, question or proposition and let the good readers of this esteemed site share their opinions thereafter. Call it the lazy man’s attempt to fill a void by poking our collective bear of rugby knowledge to share their reflections and lift the average beyond the humdrum.
In terms of the oddities of our game that make it what it is, we saw some really interesting stuff over the weekend. And much that gave me food for thought. We saw goal-kicking competitions. We saw forwards chipping and chasing again (let’s not get carried away Valetini). We saw some fantastic ball movement and we saw some beautiful tries … disallowed. All good stuff for a weekly chew.
However, me being me, and this being all about me, what made me a little excited, flushed, intemperate and reaching for tissues with which to mop my brow (calm down Hoss) was the scrummaging on display when Toulouse defeated Munster in the Euro Cup quarter finals.
History will record that, following being 24-all after 100min of rugby, it came down to a penalty shoot-out with the Frenchies pinching the choccies. However what many of the pundits failed to recognise in their assessments of the game was the quality of the scrum work from Occitania lads. It was sheer beauty and it broke the Munstermen bodies and hearts apart. Wrap your eyeballs around some of this:
Credit where due. And despite my Irish sympathies, Neti, Marchand and Aldegheri (notably with Aussie’s own Rory Arnold behind them) and then Mauvaka, Baille and Ainu’u fairly took apart Archer, Scannell and Wycherley to the point where I would bet Barron, Loughman and Ryan would have rathered staying on the pine.
And as a loud and proud Never-Was-So-Can’t-Be-A-Has-Been Frontie, it got me to thinking of some of the great scrum battles I’ve been part of and also watched over the years.
For me, an absolute favourite was the 1984 Wobbly Walkover over the much-vaunted Welsh pack at Cardiff. It still gives me goosebumps all these years later as Topo, Tommy Lawton and McIntyre just churned and burned (go to about 4:15 if you lack patience). And for all you getting pants in a wad over Tupou boring-in, get a load of Andy McIntyre’s body shape at Tighthead:
More recently, we must remember that our current reigning world champions South Africa (aka The Catholics – because the hate the pill) are largely the Guardians of Bill (for now) because they systematically dismantled the English at the scrum. I found this bit of quite good analytical work poodling around U-Chube. I don’t agree 100% with their commentary, but it is pretty good and it certainly gives any student of the game – maybe even a back – a good insight into how the Catholics chewed the Queen’s Finest up at the same time as illuminating a little about what’s going on up front in the Pie Lovers’ Convention:
And finally, every now and again I just like to watch p0rn, especially the one at 1:37;
So come one and come all. A shilling for a go and a pound or two for a round or two if you can only stand your ground. Share with us the scrums that quicken your heart, that make you get a bit flushed and get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up loud and proud… and yes, parochialism is allowed. But as ever, the more obscure and/or aged, the more cred.