Monday, 26 May 2008

It's The Right Thing To Do

If you had asked most Waratahs supporters at the beginning of the season would they have been happy at the end of it if the Waratahs finished runner up they would have said "yes". They also would have said "pigs might fly".

But now that they're here second isn't enough. And the reason for that is the Crusaders. They've played in 9 of the last 11 finals and won 6 of them. So now it's our bloody turn.

Enough is enough and for the sake of the game it is important that Robbie Deans gets his priorities sorted out and puts in place measures to ensure a Waratahs victory. A quick bout of food poisoning would do the trick or maybe hide all the team's boots underwater below a bridge somewhere in Christchurch. Or get in touch with Tah Man and see if his helicopter gun ship (the one he descended from at the Sydney Football Stadium) is available for hire. Nothing a good strafing can't fix.

This isn't only good for Rugby generally (going by the principle that what's good for the Waratahs is good for Australian Rugby and what's good for Australian Rugby is good for World Rugby) but Robbie Deans particularly. As the next Wallabies coach the lift that the Wallabies would receive from the Waratahs defeating the Crusaders is massive. It is in his interests as the Wallabies coach to ensure that he does everything he can to maximise Wallabies confidence in the lead in to the Tri-Nations and beyond.

Robbie Deans - the future of Rugby is in your hands. On behalf of Rugby supporters the World over, you know what the right thing is to do.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Torn Between Two Stadiums

The Rolling Maul found out this week that if the Waratahs make the final it will be played at the Olympic stadium. The Rolling Mail is torn. With reasonable pricing, the NSWRU could easily sell out the ground and make an even greater mockery of League's claim that State of Origin is the pinnacle of the oval ball games in this State.

Canny viewing of the State of Origin at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday revealed dozens of rows of empty nose bleed seats, and the official crowd was listed as only 67,620. Rugby League has a great history of artificially boosting its crowd figures and giving away tens of thousands of tickets to fill cavernous echoing stadiums, so you can figure the true crowd is closer to 50,000.

The real concern for Rugby League though has to be the Rugby League World Cup, where matches between minnows can't even hope to match the popularity of such RWC2003 clasics as Uruguay vs Romania which sold 30,000 tickets to the Sydney Football Stadium and USA vs Japan that sold out Gosford Stadium.

But back to the Waratahs. The Rolling Maul is torn because selling out the Olympic Stadium will be great for the game and make for as good an atmosphere as that white elephant can muster while giving Rugby the last laugh over its Mungo cousins, at least until the next round of club Rugby!

Of course none of this matters if the Waratahs don't beat the Sharks and the Hurricanes don't beat the Crusaders. Both aren't outside the realm of reality (and yes, this is the Rolling Maul talking down the Waratahs in a futile effort not to get our hopes up), but if the Rugby gods keep smiling on the Waratahs then it has to be noted that the Waratahs have never played at the Olympic Stadium, and while the Wallabies have a great record there the Waratahs aren't bulging with Wallabies, certainly not in the back row where the Hurricanes have a good sprinkling of All Blacks and the imposing presence of Ma'a Nonu who's in the form of his life.

So it comes down to one factor, what's best for Rugby? Well fortunately that's easy to answer. Success breeds success, boosts kiddie participation, and, in this town (Sydney) more than any other, breeds popularity and that means money (which is the same thing in this day and age). Is it too late to shift the match to the Football Stadium? Yes, I thought so.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Gods Must Be Crazy

In the great Pantheon of Rugby Gods (Shehadie, Brockhoff, Campese, Ella, Eales) is a gambling game called the Waratahs. Each year the Gods roll the Waratahs dice and each year they come up snake eyes, or 4 and 3 - whichever is worse - the Rolling Maul's game is Blackjack, not craps, and to say you've been dealt a 6 and a 7 is a feeble analogy.

If, alternatively such toying with the Waratahs is not by chance but deliberate policy, then the Gods must have a wicked sense of humour, though given the Queensland Reds and Matt Dunning this seems a likely scenario. As the Waratahs are always dealt dud hands then the deck is being stacked against them - injuries, coaching dramas, administration bungles, poor selection - a hand of twos if there ever was one (which admittedly is not that bad if you have four of them but is weird when you have five, especially if you're playing Blackjack).

Gods Policy is therfore to build a wave of Waratahs expectation heading towards the finals. Each year it flounders in disbelief when the Reds dash supporters hopes despite finishing second last.

But this year the Gods took their eyes off the ball (or the dice or the cards or whatever) and looked favourably upon the Waratahs. Matt Giteau, Schalk Burger, Chris Latham. The star players of each of their repective teams was injured for all or nearly all of their games against the Waratahs. It rained (or more precisely the Heavens opened) at opportune moments, limiting losses, ensuring draws against rampant South Africans and delivering tight wins against teams that like dry tracks. And if Waratahs were injured they were either inexperienced ex-League players, Rocky Elsom just as David Lyons came back from injury or Matt Dunning.

For whatever reason, New South Wales Rugby has finally been rewarded for supplying all the best players to all of the other Australian provinces who have reaped the rewards. Why these provinces even get a vote at the ARU table is a mystery. Surely for moving Bledisloe Tests to Melbourne their voting rights at the ARU table should be rescinded and in future they can have observer status only, and even then only if they shut up and watch the proceedings on closed circuit TV from the North Sydney Rugby club.

While the Gods look favourably at the Waratahs and the craziness continues it is time to reclaim the game for the true believers.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Rugby League World Thimble

This is an article about Rugby League. So if you think that this is just another opportunity for the Rolling Maul to go League bashing you'd be right.

I bring your attention to the Rugby League World Cup, launched amongst almost no fanfare earlier this week by a guy in a suit in front of 30 guys in shorts and a camera man from Channel 9.

You really have to wonder why they bother. If the 'historic' one-off Centenary Test can only sell 10,000 tickets then what hope have they got selling tickets to Ireland vs Tonga? And if you think the competition will be one-sided and Australia ware the hot favourites you'd be right again. Check out these odds:

SAMOA $101
FIJI $501
TONGA $501

The frightening thing is that it wasn't so long ago that France were a competitive outfit (sort of). And what happened to Papua New Guinea, the only country on the planet where Rugby League is the National sport and where Mal Meninga can draw a crowd?

Credit where credit's due though. The League version of the World Cup pre dates the Union version by 33 years, but in the 54 years since it was first played there have only been 12 World Cups including this year's. And of the 12 there have only ever been 2 winners, Australia 9 times and Great Britain, who don't compete anymore because of the need for more teams, 3 times.

Also, if you think Rugby Union spends too much time tinkering with its World Cup that's nothing compared to League. Gaps of 2, 4, 5 and 8 years. Anywhere between 4 and 16 teams. Pool systems, home and away matches, qualifying matches, super pools, groups of 3 and 4 in the same competition. You name it they've done it.

So what is the purpose of this post? Only to bash Rugby League of course. That and the desire to avoid dwelling on the plight of the Waratahs who don't have a B Plan and Sam Norton-Knight can't kick under pressure and should be dropped and...

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Waratahaholics Anonymous

Hello. My name is Rolling Maul and I support the Waratahs. I’ve been trying to give them up for 10 years now but although I know I shouldn’t I can’t help myself.

Mine is a typical tale of lost hope. Originally I was a Rugby League supporter. It was cheap, readily accessible, and simple. Still is. In 1989 my favourite team was the Balmain Tigers. I overdosed big time on the Balmain Tigers that year and paid the price. It all went to shit and after that Rugby League never seemed the same. The highs were never as high, not even close. Then Super League came along and that stuff was just rubbish.

That's when I found Rugby Union.
Sure it was more expensive and only those Eastern Suburbs and North Shore types were into it, but it was so subtle yet complex at the same time. And at the time of course Australian Rugby Union was the best in the World. And if that wasn't enough then Super strength Rugby was introduced. I was hooked for life.

For the last 10 years, every year I foolishly believe that this year the Waratahs will turn early season promise and mid-season form into Super Rugby triumph. I must be some sort of glutton for punishment. If only I were addicted to the Reds then at least I wouldn’t need to worry about potential success or anything even resembling form. But that would be too easy. The coward’s way perhaps.

Maybe I have a sadomasochistic streak. As much as I enjoy the pain I also inflict it on others by running a Super 14 tipping competition and keeping a blog about the very thing that causes me so much grief.

I’d like your help. Actually that’s a lie. It’s an addiction, but it’s my addiction. My greatest fear is that one-day the Waratahs will actually win the Super 14. What then? There will be no reason to exist. Gloating and chest thumping is completely contrary to my character. I take much greater satisfaction from ranting, raving and whingeing. And in any case it’s much funnier.

Thank you for coming here to listen to my story and thank you for your sympathy. But it won’t change anything. The Waratahs are still in South Africa, and they still could host a home semi-final. Did I mention they play the Reds in the final round? They have a good recent record against them and even a reasonable record against the Crusaders in Christchurch. This could be the year.