Friday, 21 December 2007

Flogging a Dead ARC

The demise of the Australian Rugby Championships has resulted in many questions. They are:

1. If the ARC was going to lose in two years the equivalent of Lote Tuquiri’s salary wouldn’t it have just been easier to sack Lote Tuquiri and let the ARC continue?

2. What will happen to the jerseys of the former teams? Are they worth anything on eBay? Will they be donated to subbies teams?

3. Does the Central Coast now have the right to proclaim itself to be the greatest Rugby region in Australia forever?

4. Can the Central Coast display the trophy forever (and more to the point, where is it displayed and can anybody see it?)

5. Does Kurtley Beale need to hand back the Mazda that he can’t drive?

6. What were the Melbourne Rebels rebelling against and did it work?

7. Are the antics of Fava and co recently considered to be part of the Perth Spirit and if not would Perth have changed the name of the team to something more appropriate if the competition was to continue (see here)

8. Should Easts, Randwick and Sydney University feel justified and vindicated in their opposition to the competition or were they part of the problem? Would their support have made any difference?

9. Was the ARU's plan all along only to run the ARC for one year to give the Australian Super 14 teams a head start in using the new Rugby laws?

10. Does the Rolling Maul have bragging rights having attended both the first and last ARC matches ever (and a couple in between)?

The Rolling Maul doesn't pretend to be any sort of Oracle when it comes to Rugby - the World Cup predictions are more than ample evidence for that. These questions are only stated to indicate to the ARC and other interested Rugby stakeholders that a lot of people, and not just players and administrators, had embraced the ARC and feel more than a little dirty.

The ARC was our bit on the side - flashy, young and above all else different from what we were used to. To have it taken away after just one season is like being told that you really are too old for such stuff and that you should go home and make the most of what you have. It's hard to argue with the logic but that doesn't mean you like it.

The ARU promises that something will be established to replace the ARC. But will it get the juices flowing in the same way or will it just be something to watch on the internet for a small monthly fee in the privacy of your own home?

Monday, 17 December 2007

Merry Christmas Mr O'Neill

Santa visited John O’Neill early this year and it is no surprise. Little Johnny has been whispering in his ear since before the World Cup and if he hadn’t delivered Robbie Deans there would have been a tantrum loud enough to be heard across the Tasman.

But like all Christmas presents little Johnny needs to understand that a pet such as Robbie Deans is not just for Christmas but for life (life in Rugby being equivalent to one Rugby World Cup cycle). Too many children get over the novelty of their new presents well before their use-by dates so that the child's major stakeholders (Mum and Dad) who ultimately control the household finances, adopt out the pet to a rich relative living in Japan or even worse the animal hospital in Italy.

Fortunately Robbie Deans is less of a pet and more of a Cabbage Patch kid (and this analogy has nothing to do with the ears of Rugby forwards). He comes from that great Rugby nursery that is New Zealand, although admittedly Cabbage Patch kids, like All Blacks Rugby, were probably at their most popular and most successful (in terms of World Cups) in the late 1980s.

To stretch the analogy even thinner, every Cabbage Patch coach from New Zealand comes with his (are any Rugby coaches female? – a topic for another posting perhaps) own identity. Deans is considered to be fairly cuddly as far as Cabbage Patch coaches are concerned and especially compared to Graham Henry who by reputation and in public comes across as having been left out on the porch during a thunderstorm or two before being chewed by the dog and buried in the backyard over winter.

Robbie Deans’ value to the Wallabies will certainly not be as a mascot – they already have one of those and it did Berrick Barnes no favours during the World Cup – not on the field anyway. In order to earn the respect of the Wallabies the Cabbage Patch Robbie Deans will need to ingratiate himself with the new kids (Holmes, Turner, Beale, Barnes etc) and spend lots of time playing with them. The older kids may be too set in their ways to accept a new and different type of toy, and if that proves to be the case then they may need to be told to find their own sandpit.

How Robbie Deans integrates the older kids with the newer kids will be crucial to ensuring that everyone plays successfully together. Certainly Little Johnny realised that some of the older kids with their older toys needed a good whack around the ears to get them into shape. Whether Robbie Deans is man, err toy, enough to do this only time will tell. Certainly Little Johnny is just hoping that the novelty value of his present doesn’t wear out.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Ultimate Humilation

As sweet as it was to see the All Blacks go down to France at the Rugby World Cup there would only be one thing sweeter; for the coach that the All Blacks rejected guiding their arch enemy the Wallabies to victory in a World Cup in New Zealand.

That possibility is very real, and will only happen if a number of planets align.

The first planets already have aligned. The next World Cup is in New Zealand and Robbie Deans was rejected by the NZRFU in favour of Graham Henry, a coach with a record at international level of success followed by abject failure (Wales, 11 consecutive victories followed by record defeat to Ireland; and the recent All Blacks winning 42 out of 48 and 19 out of their last 20 matches before their worst ever performance at a World Cup) or outright failure (British Lions losing a series to the Wallabies for the first time).

That the NZRFU re-hired Henry could go down as the greatest balls up in New Zealand Rugby history since Henry rested most of the All Blacks during the first half of the Super 14 before rotating his squad to ensure no players had enough game time in the lead up to the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Robbie Deans, bitter, twisted and humiliated at his treatment by the NZRFU is seeking revenge, and how better to do that than by coaching the Wallabies to Bledisloe and World Cup glory.

The next coach of the Wallabies should be not only the best coach available but the most motivated coach available. For all of Alan Jones’ and Ewen McKenzie’s bleatings about a fresh crop of passionate youngsters ready to exploit new rules and inspire a running game that harks back to earlier triumphant eras, Robbie Deans has a much more recent history of triumph and inspiring players to run or play tough when needed. And best of all he’s motivated by revenge, a dish best served cold – and it’s very cold in New Zealand in winter.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

What the Quok is Going On?

The cricket season is usually a dead zone in Australia when it comes to Rugby coverage. Fair enough too as there are no games being played and players, administrators, coaches and spectators need to regroup and sharpen their swords for another tilt at a season of vitriol and backstabbing. There's also the small matter of putting in some hard yards on the training paddock. For the Rolling Maul this usually entails hours of sitting on the couch watching small ball games - especially tennis and cricket.

Fortunately this off season is like no other. The international cricket season has had a mid-season siesta though in all honesty no-one really noticed the season had started so nondescript and irrelevant were the Sri Lankans. It took Marvan Attapatu to compare Sri Lankan selectors to muppets for it to get any attention at all, and even that lasted for all of about a day.

The lull has ensured that sports journalists with deadlines to keep and nothing to write about cast their net far and wide and what they've trawled from the depths of the sporting ocean is that good old sperm whale himself Alan Jones and a truck load of oceanic slime in the shape of Scott Fava and his Western Force cohorts. The Quokka Shocker on Rottnest and other Force "accounting transgressions" have ensured that the "Us" (Eastern States rejects and mercenaries) vs "Them" (everyone left behind) chip on the shoulder ("It's the media's /ARU's / Brumbies' / Waratahs' / Reds' fault") remains as the prime motivator on the Rugby field for the Western Force, dollars and alcohol being the motivation off it.

Alan Jones and the Western Force are problems and something needs to be done about both of them. At least the Western Force are far enough away from the rest of the country that their damage is limited to a small island off the coast of Perth and South Africa.

Alan Jones, however, is very much established in Sydney and it would take something monumental (or politically embarrassing) to make him leave. His application and associated public campaign to coach the Wallabies have been impressive in delivery if not content and obviously a place for him must be found in the Australian Rugby Community - but not as coach of the Wallabies.

With the Western Force imploding and requiring strong discipline from a hard taskmaster, Alan Jones is the perfect man to whip these boys into shape. And certainly Perth needs Alan Jones to instill colour and pizazz and whip up an orgasmic frenzy of Rugby debate and interest. There is no one better positioned than Alan Jones to manage the future of Australian Rugby - the eager and willing schoolboys of Perth.

And finally, as if the Alan Jones and Quokka sagas weren't enough to satisfy a Rugby blog's thirst for scandal during a sleepy summer, news that Owen Finegan is to return to the Brumbies as a lineout coach and mentor for young players was greeted with disbelief and trepidation. Finegan was last seen by the Rolling Maul held up by a bunch of equally drunk mates while he held up the Heiniken tent at Sydney's Olympic Park after the opening ceremony of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Finegan, the world's drunkest man at that point in time, it should be noted, was a member of the Wallabies World Cup shadow squad.

The Brumbie's youngsters couldn't hope for a finer mentor. Let this be a lesson to the Force that Scott Fava should immediately be installed as the mentor for Perth's up and coming Rugby talent - though he may need to compete with Alan Jones for the cute ones.