Rugby

The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

We had a bit of a break, but now we’re back full of enthusiasm and optimism. Hands up who enjoyed the rugby on Sunday afternoon!

via GIPHY

It was pretty good, wasn’t it! Well in this edition of the Tuesday Top 5 we recap some of our thoughts in the lead up to, and during the game. We also take a quick look at the numbers from the game, make of them what you will!

What is going on?

It is post Bledisloe game 1 and one of my biggest takeaways was how different the experience was from past years. It maybe because of COVID and different timing. But in the lead up to the game things were missing, different, normal. When the squad was named the selections were pretty much as expected, no surprises, no “seriously? Why is he still there!”; so that was new.  We didn’t hear any of the usual idiotic egotistic dribble of the past emanating from Camp Wallaby. That’s new. Then the team selection, not much of a surprise. Decent balance, selection on form aligning with players usual positions…….hang on!

Where’s the outrage, the debate, the frustration; the please shut up Cheika and Co feelings I had in the past?

But what was I expecting in the lead up? It’s hard to say. I am so used to having a feeling of disappointment in the game overall compliments of RA (but I still secretly hang on to a glimmer of hope for it to succeed despite all of the RA’s boards efforts -past and presently in parts) and that of the previous coaching regime. I didn’t even have that suppressed feeling of secretly wanting the Wallabies to fail to help force change. Can I still blame the Tahs?

Maybe SRAU had given me false optimism? I thought our teams have played at a pretty high standard giving us some really good rugby at times. But how could I measure it without having the Kiwis involved? To be honest, I really enjoyed it just being about us, the Aussie players and teams. Seeing both the teams and players develop and play off against each other was really fantastic. Aside from the increased rivalry, it was good to see them directly competing against each other and being able to compare them side by side. Would a domestic centric build-up be good enough to make them competitive or had I been watching a lower standard game through rose coloured glasses and we would get a reality check once we went up against the Kiwis? But why did I feel a level of confidence, of hope, optimism and excitement?

What is going on? Maybe this is the start of a renewal of the Wallabies. Do I dare subscribe, get invested?  Where is all the overdone rhetoric, the hyperbole? I want to get on-board but it’s hard to shake the past baggage and build up my hopes. The quiet, the subdued build up and quiet confidence is confusing me. But I like it!

Wallabies Coach Dave Rennie will be making his home in Queensland

Wallabies Coach Dave Rennie will be making his home in Queensland

Game day:

So here’s the thing, I’m watching the Wallabies and they are going through phases and it strikes me; why I am not expectantly waiting for them to drop the ball as per usual? This is new. But how? Can it simply be that we are watching players in form who have performed well recently who I have seen play well? That they are playing the way I expect them to play? (side note – did you hear Rennie mention in his post-game interview that SRAU might have been beneficial to our players leading up to this game?) The other interesting part of this was that when the Wallabies did make errors I didn’t feel the same level of frustration as in the past. Why is that? The errors seemed to be from positive play and were no different to the errors the Kiwi’s seem to be making. Had I lowered the bar? Actually I think I had higher expectations. Has Aussie rugby all of a sudden learned the fundamental skills of rugby or have we cleared house of a generation of players with poor fundamentals?

Or maybe, even more significantly, has the psychology of the past, which was the real issue, been wiped away and in combination with a new coaching regime and COVID forcing us to use far more younger (cheaper!) players and actually focusing on Aussie rugby (domestic) rather that what the Kiwis or South Africans are doing, are we seeing what we are capable of?

As I watched I also realised another difference. These players were playing like a team. Considering the lack of time together, a lot of new faces and combinations, they had more cohesion than any of the Wallabies teams I have seen in years. Again, what was the difference? From my perspective the egos, the individuals, the reputations didn’t seem to be apparent. These were players playing their game in positions that were relatively familiar but doing their job in a team. They all seemed settled, no real nerves and nobody overplaying. They were just playing their game; not to an ill-conceived poorly conducted, over engineered script.

But there was even more to this messing with the psychology of this Wallabies supporter. I had set the bar low like many, hoping we would give it a good shake and end up at least close to the Kiwis. But then I was struck by something new; but not new. JoC 2.0 playing 10 like I had seen most of the season. Koroibete and Daugunu as threatening as we had seen all year, Banks secure at the back like he has been all year, Wilson bringing his physicality and skills.……players playing with the form we have seen and what we all expected. Just like we had seen them playing all year. This led me to a very disturbing and a difficult question I am yet to answer. If they are playing to the standard I had seen in SRAU, how can that standard be producing this type of performance against the All Blacks?

Whatever has happened isn’t it refreshing? But with it brings a challenge. Aussie rugby has shown it has been held back, mainly by itself. It’s clear we have the players, skills and ability. What we seem to have an issue with is the psychology that in the past we have coveted, but somehow we have recently shed. Maybe it’s as simple as the players just being happy to be playing rather than looking at what’s in it for them (take the hint RA and RU administrators!). I can’t wait for the next game and to see more players get a shot and the team evolve. I expect it will be a bumpy ride in parts, but it’s an exciting ride that I want to get on.

Wallabies fans celebrate a try. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Wallabies fans celebrate a try. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Can we ride the wave?

What a dream marketing outcome. Just when Aussie rugby needs some good PR we get a cracking game that shows off a new Wallabies team and introduces some new names and provides a great platform to build on for the next few games. We needed a good showing, a bit of hype and it was awesome to see reporting about the game at the top of the page in the mainstream media. I am not sure if that would have pleased certain broadcasters as good PR might tend to push the value up.

SRAU appears to have been a really positive factor in the success Rugby is having this year. The SRAU ratings were decent all things considered, it has allowed us to bring in fresh blood, up the standard and renew interest in the game. As Rennie mentioned, he believes it provided the opportunity for Aussie Rugby players to develop and focus on themselves and Aussie rugby, not what the Kiwis or others are doing.

COVID forced the changes that have turned out to be beneficial to Aussie rugby. Fingers crossed the Rusted on, RA, state unions and influential pundits can read the room, tea leaves, writing on the wall, and ride this wave. But we are already seeing the risks and shortfall of our current planning. The NRC that had been platform that has been providing these new players appears to have no future. Not only will that hurt us in the development stakes it also hurts us in value. SRAU is a good product, but is limited due to the number of teams so is a short duration competition. We can’t expand on that without adding teams which then compromises concepts such as competition with international partners such a Trans –Tasman (TT) competition.

Right now our Rugby diet is being fed by the Kiwi Mitre 10, the SARU domestic competition and European games. Without some at minimum, semi-professional or above Aussie rugby on our screens we run the risk of irrelevancy due to absence. If it can’t be seen it doesn’t exist. And let’s face it, against what’s available club Rugby really isn’t going to attract a new audience. The NRC may be an option to fill the gap and if we dare to dream we could have a NRC that leads in to a SRAU, that then leads in to a TT concept, and even a team or two in the Global Rapid Rugby where we can also develop talent. A step under SR level.

The weekends game may also have helped with some of the politics and perceptions. The Wallabies on the weekend sent a clear message; Aussie rugby is on par with the Kiwi’s. It’s not the substandard product those over the ditch may have assumed it is, and RA tend to treat it as.

bledisloe

Justice for #SIMMONS

Before you say it, hold on and let me present the case. If it wasn’t for Simmons the Wallabies would have lost on the weekend. Seriously!  Let’s just step back and look at what transpired and consider the facts.

So, with the game in the balance, the All Blacks hot on attack, a try would have put the Wallabies behind, a converted try would have essentially put it out of reach. Even if you defend as well as you can, there is always a risk that they will get the better of you. So what do you do? If only you could tempt them to take the least damaging option that keeps you in the game.

Now, sometime it takes a villain, that maligned but brave soul to make the difference. At that time many will want to prosecute that player for what they did. Oh, and the Twitterarti certainly did; naively. But in time, with maturity and careful study you come to discover that in fact it was the act of a calculated master villain!

I really admire Rob, to come on at that point, to be in the middle of a maul, game in the balance, and to have the genius and bravery to manipulate the script, to commit the offence that lures the Kiwis into taking a penalty to draw the score!  Consider it a moment. The All Blacks, at risk of losing on home soil, finally on attack in the Wallaby half, back end of the game. All Blacks don’t compromise, they are winners. But they did. Rob’s lure of the easy points to avoid the loss as a trade-off to get them off attack and the risk of them scoring a try to win the game was a masterstroke. It saved the game for the Wallabies. Singlehandedly!

His worth and influence is undeniable. We struggled with the line out with him not on the field. Yes, it is hard to admit it, you don’t like Rob. But his lineout expertise is unquestionable. Thinking back now, how valuable would it have been if we had won a few more if our lineouts?  It’s also undeniable that once on the field we finally disrupted the Kiwi line out. Thank you Rob!

Rob; the hero villain, the maligned saviour. Misunderstood, unappreciated, but his penalty; that brave genius act was the difference between the Wallabies getting the draw and losing the game. A true hero.

To those that slandered him, bow your heads in shame!

Justice for #SIMMONS

Rob Simmons (did he call anyone else?)

Rob Simmons (did he call anyone else?)

By the numbers

These are just the basic stats from the weekend. No analysis, no chatter, just some numbers for you to look through and interpret as you wish.

All Blacks Wallabies
Tries 2 2
Metres 473 564
Defenders Beaten 21 24
Clean Breaks 10 10
Passes 131 203
Offloads 3 10
Turnovers Conceded 21 12
Tackles 188 119
Missed Tackles 24 21
Kicks In Play 31 24
Penalties Conceded 7 14
Possession % 39% 61%
Territory % 39% 61%

 

Rugby

Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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