When the Waratahs lose.
Last weekend's loss by the Waratahs to the Hurricanes was at least the third time this season that the Tahs have lost a game yet come the next morning all the media talk positive, how the new backline is starting to gel, about how great the attitude is and how just a few technical tweaks, a dollop of time and maybe some personnel changes next season and the team will be humming like a world champion hummingbird in the best humming category.
Bizarrely, Israel Folau continues to be selected in Team of the Week selections despite the fact he still doesn’t know what to do when he’s tackled, isn’t sure whether he should take the tackle, is an average kicker at best and has a tendency to crab across field looking for support when he should be running straight or running straight and holding onto the ball when he should be looking for support.
How did it get like this? Only last season every Waratah loss was greeted with howls of discontent and predictions of imminent Armegeddon. Something has changed and the Rolling Maul has a(nother) theory. Greg Growden and Michael Cheika.
Growden was the Sydney Morning Herald’s lead Rugby correspondent for about a hundred years and made a name for himself by talking down Australian Rugby, especially of the NSW variety, at every opportunity. He also loved a bit of gossip and mischief and was the player’s first choice when it came to wanting to create a bit of scandal in order to further one’s career or ruin another’s. He took a redundancy from Fairfax at the end of last season and was last seen on Eurosport’s panel during the 6 Nations looking very smug and maybe just a bit bored.
His replacements are Georgina Robinson, who tends to do the reporting, and Paul Cully, who tends to do the analysis. Neither have a tendency to throw their opinion around unless it is reasoned and nuanced. While they make for a more thoughtful and insightful read, the softly softly approach with Michael Cheika is bemusing at best. The commentators on Fox Sports seem equally in awe of Cheika and are on board with the cheer squad.
So credit where credit is due. Michael Cheika is managing the media like the seasoned veteran he is. It's not being reflected on the scoreboard or the vast swathes of empty blue seats at the Sydney Football Stadium, but it may be taking some heat off the players. If that's the intention, then good on him. And if it's now up to the general public via discussions around the water cooler at work or in the pubs or via blogs like this one to stick the knife in as it continues to get more pear shaped then so be it.
But some honesty Growden style is missed. So is the color and so is the controversy. Until recently, if the Tahs didn't win on the field well at least it was fun reading about it the next day. Now it's just informative and fair, and who wants that?!