When the absolutely horrific happens (and from a Wallabies’ supporters point of view, Saturday was about as bad is it comes) the only way that something good can come out of it is if the right lessons are learned. My concern is that some of these lessons should have been picked up and acted upon a long time ago, but obviously haven’t.
To start with, believe it or not it wasn’t all ratsh1t. Reading the pommy press you’d think you were talking about a 20 point margin, not a two point one. If you add up the player ratings on this BBC blog you’ll find that the average England player rating is 8, for Australia 5.3. This is pretty interesting considering that the handful of times the Wallaby backs got decent ball, they sliced open the England midfield, and scored the only try. Latham, Mortlock, Tuqiri, Mitchell and Barnes all had good running games.
Here’s lesson number one though: YOU CAN’T WIN A WORLD CUP WITHOUT A TOP CLASS GOAL KICKER. Playing as crappily as the team was, there was the opportunity to get out of gaol more than once from the boot. Someone needs to take Beavis to one side and tell him he’s a great centre, but in a big game, he’s a sh1thouse kicker.
I’m led to believe that Barnes and Giteau are better, but we don’t need better, we need a semi-autistic kicking machine who looks like a rugby player. I know it somehow goes against the ‘Australian ethos’ to kick points, but we’ll run in a lot more tries with the confidence of a ticking scoreboard behind us. We’d also still be in this cup.
But now for the worse. Anyone who’s played in the pack will tell you that a scrum getting monstered is bad enough – energy sapping and disorientating. But the real damage it caused on Saturday was psychological. Australia came out making some big tackles and seeming up for the game. There were a couple of hiccups, but it wasn’t until the scrums started that the quivering and foetal positions were adopted.
Why? If you’ve been a Wallaby over the last 4 years, you now have a mental ‘trigger’. Despite all the bullsh1t about Matt Dunning now being an ‘international grade prop’ and Al Baxter earning 50 caps (someone explain that to me), you’ve got that niggle, the fear that those most humiliating scenes that took place during the ’05 autumn tour are about to replay themselves with you on the field again, and not being a prop yourself, there’s diddly squat you can do about it.
So, like Pavlov’s dogs, when you start seeing that green and gold front row go down, heads in the dirt, arses up and legs splayed, you inwardly groan and say “oh fµck, not again”. You don’t have to be a sports psychologist, to see that’s not a great ‘swing thought’. And so it’s not surprising that what actually lost Australia this quarter final started to creep, and then flood in; mistakes. Australia made the dumbest mistakes at the exact times they shouldn’t have been making them, releasing the pressure that should have been points. The opposite of how we beat the ABs at the G.
Finding a couple of A grade props then isn’t about ‘fixing the scrum’, it’s about giving the team a chance to win, and show the parts of the game we seem to be naturally good at. So, with that in mind, here’s
Green and Gold Rugby’s three point prop plan:
- Ban Dunning, Baxter and Shepherdson from ever again being Wallabies. I know it sounds harsh, and look, I don’t mean them harm as individuals, but the lack of size and ability aside (ahem), they are now symbols of this mental trigger that we need to get rid of.
- John O’Neill – shut your mouth, get on a plane with blank chequebooks and Aussie passports, and bring back the Georgian front row. If you can get the Argies, even better. These guys will at least get us back to parity while point 3 swings into action, which is to
- Scour Australia, every dessicating last piece of it, for the biggest, mentally and physically twisted specimens of mankind you can find and put them on the most inhumane prop training regime ever devised. Set up a whole new wing in the Institute of Sport for it and get them young. Stuff that, breed them like livestock. Break genetic and stem cell guidelines and bring me back a set of guys who will make Andy Sheridan look like Face-man out of the A-Team.
OK, it’s early days and I realise that the G&GR 3PPP might need some smoothing, but I’m serious about the core of all 3 points; sweep out what we’ve got, buy in stop gaps (we’ve done it before) and get serious about making our own.
I’ve seen Aussies like myself talk about what the future might look like with the Beales and Turners coming through for the next RWC.
STOP. Without very big change like the ones I’m outlining, they’re going to end up the same way as this crop of talent, mentally scarred and totally wasted. Let’s finally learn the painful lessons, and see what we might achieve.