It only seems like yesterday that we were wiping the sleep from our eyes, cranking up the laptops and watching the G&GR live blog from Kingsholme as the Dirties took on Glos?
And isn’t it still summer? Didn’t Punter and the boys clean up the Pakis earlier this week?
Well bugger me, its footy time again! A special version of footy that is, Trial time.
You know, Trials are a very interesting animal. They’re usually boring as batshit; as organised as an ARU board meeting and are full of people you’ve never heard of and are unlikely to hear of again.
Most franchises have about three Trial matches before the season proper. These are designed to:
- Make the young up and comers think that they’re an integral part of the playing group and have a real opportunity of selection but in reality they haven’t a hope in hell.
- Make the established players squirm a bit for a week or so when the odd youngster has a blinder but then its back to the natural order of things come the following Saturday.
- Give four teams a go on any one day to make it as difficult as possible for the odd spectator who may turn up to watch this rubbish a chance to identify any of the players (anonymity is the key).
There’s a certain order of precedence they follow with Trials and woe betide anyone that changes it.
Trial 1 always starts off with loads of academy types and the odd senior man on the bench or in a key position (for at least a generous 20 minutes or so).
Trial 2 is a combination of old heads and young hearts still maintaining a bit of false hope for the also-rans and allowing the established players to feel a little bit smug now they’re back on deck.
Trial 3 of course is the routine return to the usual suspects. I’ll bet you could all correctly name today 90% of the final Trial teams that will turn out for the franchises in a few weeks time.
There is only one exception to this rule of thumb. If they’re playing a Trial overseas or in a very far away place there’s no way they’re going to waste a wad of dosh on airfares for anyone that hasn’t a skerrick’s chance of making the squad.
For the established players the moral of the story is never give a sucker an even break ‘cos just very, very occasionally there might be a talent that rears it’s ugly head and actually supplants the incumbent, although that’s most unlikely.
The Trials are certainly not going to resolve the burning issues of the day like:
- Can the Reds successfully rebuild (again) using the same building blocks as last year?
- Is the Force spent with the departure of Gits?
- Are the Brumbies going to reach their undoubted potential and blitz all-comers?
- Are the Waratahs going to be an Ugly Betty again this year or a Sally Loane (whom I might say is a very stylish and attractive lady)?
On with the Trials and let’s get them over with as quickly and as painless as possible, especially from an injury perspective.
As you’ve read in Moses’ post the Waratahs take on the Reds in Lismore this Saturday.
They then travel to Orange to play the Fiji Warriors at Wade Park on Saturday, 30 January before their final Trial against the Brumbies at Viking Park, Tuggeranong on Thursday, 4 February.
It’ll be interesting to see how ‘Dud’, Anesi and Rory Sidey go for the Tahs and Hanson, Kingi and Daley for the Reds. I’d like to say Chambers as well but it looks like he’s out injured.
The Western Force are taking part in a Tri-Series in Cape Town against the Stormers and Sharks. The Stormer’s game is this Saturday and the Sharks on Tuesday.
The Stormers have a few big guns appearing like Bryan Habana, new signing Jacques Fourie and maybe Peter Grant. This will be an interesting clash with the Force fielding the usual suspects including some new signings like ‘the General’.
They complete their pre-season Trial phase when they return to WA and step out onto ME Bank Stadium for a meeting with the Reds on Friday, 5 February.
The Reds play their second Trial in Brisbane the week before v the Crusaders on Friday, 29 January at Ballymore.
The Brumbies have two Trial games. The first is on Friday, 29 January at Westpac Stadium v Wellington Hurricanes. The second is against the Waratahs as mentioned above.
I think this game will probably be the most interesting for the pundits with two potential Super 14 finalists meeting for an early stoush with probably the majority of their First Xvs on deck.
Trials might be boring and there’s a bit of baggage attached but you’d have to say they were a necessary evil. In terms of match fitness they’re probably the next best thing to a real game……..
I can’t post this blog without mentioning the passing of commentator Bill McLaren.
This man was the doyen of television commentators whose style, substance, enthusiasm, knowledge, brogue and ‘McLarenisms’ were without peer. And they still are to this day.
He’s the best commentator of the game I’ve ever heard in any medium. They certainly won’t be dancing in the streets of Hawick today.