Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Life Without Matt Dunning

As the Waratahs playing style goes from uglier to uglier with predictable results it has become clear that the vital ingredient missing from this year’s campaign is last year’s lynch pin, inspiration, mascot and frequent bench warmer Matt Dunning.

Dunning is the only player in the Waratahs squad who can challenge Phil Waugh in the ugly stakes. In 2008 they formed a potent partnership that ultimately led to Super 14 glory and disappointment. The Waratahs had a perfectly balanced attack in 2008, balanced between beauty and ugly. It was a classic fairytale with the princesses of the backline enjoying all the attention and the wicked sisters of the forward pack doing all the work.

With Dunning playing, the Waratahs threw the ball around searching for points. Sure this was mainly to make up for the points that he gave away with missed tackles, misguided field goals (and well guided field goals) and various other indiscretions, but it’s not important why a team attacks it’s just important that they are attacking.

Last year the Waratahs perfected the art of the quick ball out to Lote Tuquiri via a cut out pass, a necessary requirement to avoid putting it in the hands of Dunning who was usually out bludging in the centres. Same with the short chip and well aimed bomb that was such a vital and now missing component of Kurtley Beale’s game; look at the space on the open side of the field, realise if you spin the ball out that way Dunning is likely to do something stupid with it, kick to where Dunning isn’t.

Even with Dunning on the bench the mere threat of him running onto the field was enough to inspire dynamic backline movements as the team strove to ensure that the match was won before he had a chance to stuff things up.

With Dunning gone the Waratahs’ are rudderless. Every player wants to embrace the ball and do their own thing with it so by the time it makes it to the wing the cover defence has not only had time to get there but also to gather all their forwards together and set a scrum in anticipation of yet another Waratahs knock on while having a long winded talk to the touch judge about the ELVs.

It’s time to bring back Dunning. Even he just spends the whole match sitting on the bench or hobbling around in midfield his inspirational presence will be enough to ensure Waratah success.

Monday, 16 March 2009

All Aboard the Reds Bandwagon

The Rolling Maul is proud to announce that it has joined the Reds bandwagon. And in acknowledgement of this, the Rolling Maul has added large doses of Dark Red (not Maroon - that would be too much like that other Queensland team that plays that other code) to its colour palette.

Now sure that makes the result pretty ugly, but that's a nod to the Rolling Maul's first love, the Waratahs. If, in the unlikely event, the Waratahs start playing an entertaining, open, fast brand of Rugby built on a powerful and tough forward pack as effective at controlling the breakdown as they are the set pieces, then consideration may be given to leaving the Reds bandwagon and rejoining the Waratahs bandwagon.

Now it is true that this radical measure may open up the Rolling Maul to accusations of being a fair weather supporter. But posting after posting on this blog should be testament enough to the fact that the Rolling Maul has an enviable track record of supporting the Waratahs through think and thin, and there hasn't been a lot of thick.

And don't think that for a moment the Rolling Maul is abandoning the Waratahs completely. As tempting as that might be, the Waratahs are still ahead of the Reds on the Super 14 ladder, defeated the Reds the previous week, and have potentially a backline even more self-proclaimed explosive and entertaining than that self-proclaimed by the Reds (indeed after neither backline fired last week what is really needed here is a proper home-and-away national competition - the mooted John O'Neill conference system - to determine once and for all which team has the most potent try scorers - alas the answer is probably the Brumbies and certainly next year when Giteau returns).

So a few Lachie Turner jinks, the odd Lote Tuquiri length of the field burst, and the occasional dazzling try whereby the ball passes through 15 pairs of hands, and things will return to normal.

It could be a long wait.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Problem With The NSW Rugby Union

This posting is from regular reader, first time poster Mr Dis Gruntled.

Take it away Mr Gruntled...

Have you seen the Waratah advertising for the 23rd player? Basically it says that without the fans the team can't get across the line. The images of a bunch af Waratahs fans in Jersey 23 are coupled with quotes from players about how important the fans are. Great idea and I really do believe that the crowd can lift a side.

I got given membership for my Birthday last year and knowing I would not get to all games I selected a 'try pack' which gives me tickets to the Reds, Crusaders, Bulls and Force games. This was purchased and paid for in December. I wasn't that worried that my membership pack and tickets had not arrived until a few weeks ago.

For the past three weeks I have been in near daily attempted communication with NSW Rugby to follow up my tickets.

Unreturned emails, a phone system that forces you to leave voice mails that are then never returned. Out of 30 odd calls I have spoken to a real live person 3 times.

When eventually you do get through you are told there are problems with Australia Post and Ticketek. Is it a NSW rugby problem? No never.

"We sent the tickets out already. Twice".

That's funny I didn't get them. Twice.

"Ok, we will courier them out to you today".

Did they arrive? You bet your life they didn't.

It is now about 10 hours to kick off (last Friday - RM) and I still don't have my tickets. I guess they are going to miss out on my support tonight. Being a passionate Waratahs fan I hope they can get over the line without my support. And given how poorly I have been treated they are going to need get used to winning without my support at the ground.

I already pay through the nose for Foxtel for the privelige of watching my rugby team run around. With the current economic situation I will choose where my entertainment dollars go quite carefully in future. It is highly likely I will watch from the comfort of my couch and my live rugby will be limited to the Club matches at Woolhara.

I love the Waratahs but I hate NSW Rugby.

Footnote: The tickets did arrive a little past midday for Friday night only. Guess I will have to go through the same for the next game.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Better Heads on Beer

Chris Hickey, the Waratahs coach, was quoted last week as saying that "winning ugly is better than losing ugly" but what he fails to appreciate is that being ugly is better still.

As Phil Waugh, the ugliest of all Rugby players can testify, ugliness is to be worn as a badge of honour and his ugliness is a testment to the hard yards, the hard studs and the hard grounds that have left their mark on his career (and his face).

What Waugh also appreciates is that if you are really ugly then it doesn't matter if you win or lose because at the end of the day everyone will be distrated by your appearance.

Waugh has been placing his body, or more precisely his head, on the line the last few weeks. He's spilt a river of blood and had more stitches than a box full of Kookaburras. He's also made regular visits to planet Koozbain. As a result, the Waratahs have gone undefeated, their steady improvement in form in direct proportion to the increasing ugliness of their inspirational captain.

Meanwhile, the Force upset the Brumbies. It should come as no surprise, Nathan Sharpe has been looking particularly ugly of late. But even better than that he's angry, and with that combination great things are in store for the Force.

Compare this to the Brumbies who dropped Stirling Mortlock as captain, a man who admittedly wasn't born ugly but had ugliness thrust upon him (mainly by having his head shaved) with Stephen Hoiles, a nice guy and a decent player but if he ever approached you in a dark alley it would probably be just to give you your wallet after Nathan Sharpe and Phil Waugh gang tackled you, stole the wallet and left you for dead. He'd probably also replace any missing cash plus throw in some free tickets to the next Brumbies game. With a head like his the Brumbies are doomed to failure and attractive Men-Of-the ACT Calendars.

Berrick Barnes has been acting as the Reds captain of late and therein lies their problem. It's one thing to think of yourselves as the great entertainers because you put on a couple of showy trys in between all the knock-ons and fumbles, but without an inspirational ugly captain (and especially a forward) the Reds will never be more than flat track bullies capable of Purple nurpling and Chinese Burning the weaker kids but running home to mummy when the sixth graders show up.