Monday, 21 March 2011

Australian Rugby - The Race to the Bottom

Only in Australia can Rugby teams fight to outdo each other in inconsistency, ineptitude, incompetence and incomprehensibility. A couple of the Super Rugby teams may have won on the weekend but the quality of the opposition gives no hope for optimism. Indeed the only real question is: Are Australian teams crawling over each other in a pathetic race to the bottom or are they there already?

Exhibit 1 - The Rebels
New teams tend to ride on emotion. But emotion is hard work and girls do it better. When men get emotional there's something pathetic about it. It's one thing to high-five a mate but crying is best left on the soccer field.

Emotion is also easiest in front of those you love. So while a bloke might show emotion to his wife or his best mate after 8 beers he'll never do it in front of the boss.

In sporting terms, think home team. Thousands of your best mates and family all willing you on and sharing in your triumphs or failures. Take that away and what have you get? The Rebels. Great at home (forget round 1 - that was the equivalent of a virgin struggling to undo the bra straps in the front seat of the car in the dark), rubbish away. Injuries are just a convenient excuse.

The conspiracy theory is that the Rebels are an ARU plant to ensure other Australian teams get 5 points each time they play them, thus rigging the conference system in their favour. If only it were so simple.

Exhibit 2 - The Brumbies
The ultimate in Rugby nepotism, appoint your mates to all the plum positions and when the coach takes exception get rid of him. The only real problem that the Brumbies face, and the reason why it's all gone to shit, is that they simply haven't taken the concept far enough. Anyone can appoint a former player, it takes real guts to appoint a current player.

If Matt Giteau wants to do all the post-match coach-talk then let him coach the team. If Adam Ashley-Cooper want to be in with the Board, then appoint him as General Manager. If Rocky Elsom wants to spend a season with his feet up under the pretense of an injury, then let him be Brumby Jack.

Exhibit 3 - The Waratahs
Full marks to the Waratahs in their never ending quest to make the hearts of their fans so hard that the concept of hope, never mind the chance of it, is as unlikely as a perfect kicking record from the Tahs in any given match.

Indeed given the high frequency of Kurtley Beales kick-and-chases recently, the desperate move he uses when the plan B that was talked about never materialises, it's no surprise that most Waratahs fans have reached the Simpsons miscomprehending 'blink into nothingness' pose the writers use when they have nothing better to fill a pregnant pause with.

The real question is why do we bother? Surely we are a state full of masochists, which would make the players sadists.

So if erotic is the feathers and kinky is the whole chicken then where does that leave the Waratahs and their fans? Punch-drunk. Muhammad Ali isn't the only boxer to emerge from years of headknocks in a state of semi-aware bliss and needing someone else to tie his shoelaces. Waratahs supporters are much the same. Taking the blows, ducking and weaving, taking the standing eight counts and spitting blood into buckets. And loving it.

Exhibit 4 - The Reds
After historic record-breaking wins against the Brumbies and the Rebels you'd think Rugby supporters north of the border would be rubbing their hands in glee. But wiser heads note that defeating the Brumbies is like sleeping with your sister. It may feel good at the time but in the cold light of day you know it's just wrong and that nothing worthwhile has been achieved.

Similarly, but not in an incestuous sort of way, the Will Genia - Quade Cooper partnership may appear to be something magical and special, but like all magic tricks the reality is something more benign. The Cooper jink is the equivalent of the hole in the floor of the stage, while the Genia flick-pass is no more exciting than the old pea in the cups routine. Other teams may have been fooled once and dumbfounded twice, but three times with the mirror trick is stretching it for even the slowest prop.

That Cooper now has to rely on his kicking game and drop back to fullback so reliable are his tackling attempts is proof enough that desperate times have called for desperate measures, but you could put Cooper in row J and he still won't be able to hide once the Reds come up against the big boys from across the ditches.

Exhibit 5 - The Force
The only thing saving the Force from total humiliation is that they got rid of Matt Giteau. Clearly their no dickheads policy has had some effect though Cameron Shephard is still driving drunk and Nick Cummins and Sam Wykes are still doing each others hair.

Other than that there's little to cheer about west of everywhere important. As the masters of the moral victory, the Force have racked up more morals than a United Nations full of Libyan defectors. A win on the road against the lowly Lions is nothing to cheer about even if sticking it up the old coach was a whole lot of fun for the players.

But as long as Matt Dunning is still employed to cheer the Force from the bench every second game or the stands when injured every other game then there is always comic relief. Thank for the Force, for without 5 minutes every two weeks of Matt Dunning's red and straining cheeks and bulging two sizes too small jersey there'd be no reason to watch Australian Rugby at all.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

It's Official: The Brumbies are Rubbish

It may be too early to dance on the grave of the Brumbies, but for all those long suffering Australian Rugby Union fans in New South Wales and Queensland who looked on as the ACT established the closest thing we've ever had to an arrogance borne of success, this is pretty sweet.

The concept of the Brumbies one day officially being garbage crept up last season but no one really believed it.

At the beginnning of this season it looked like a hiccup. But of course hiccups are damn difficult things to get rid of. It's now fully fledged and confirmed. The Brumbies really are crap.

Matt Giteau went public saying they were lazy but refusing to name names. Expect the public slanging match to start soon. Coaches will leak the names of players they want to sack. Players will leak the names of other players they don't like. The administrators won't leak anything but that's because they couldn't organise a piss-up in a brothel. OK so that's a mixed metaphor but an apt one because the Brumbies are fucked.

Matt Giteau may be the acting captain of the Brumbies but clearly he's not a captain of the leading by example variety. His example has been less than inspirational, less George Gregan two steps backwards than crab-like two steps sideways. And don't even mention his kicking which is so ordinary he makes Berrick Barnes look good. So he's on shaky ground as a public representative.

The game passed Giteau by about two years ago. It sped up, did a couple of sideways jinks, chipped, chased and grew a full head of hair before shaving its chest and planting the ball in the corner. Giteau's faux hawk is so 2008 and so is his playing style. In getting rid of the blonde highlights he also seems to have lost his pizazz.

So sack as many real coaches as you want Brumbies and hire as many unqualified former players and drinking buddies to the coaching staff as you can find. It won't help. This fish isn't rotting from the head it's rotting from the guts, and only a complete disemboweling can remove the stench. Fortunately, a few more shocking losses and public machinations and the rib cage will be exposed for all to see.

The Brumbies will get better eventually, but in the meantime they deserve a few quick kicks to the goolies to release years of pent-up frustration from Waratahs and Reds fans. When they do get better let's just hope they still fill the pain in the gonads and will have learnt something from the episode that led to the tears.