Is it South Africa with Bakkies Botha as their poster boy?
Is it the Kiwis with their annoying win record and ignorance of breakdown laws?
Is it England with their traditional cluelessness with the ball in hand?
Or is it the unpredictability and arrogance of the French?
Nope. I reckon it’s us, Australia.
There I’ve said it.
Growing up, it was simple. There were the bad guys in black like Richard Loe, and the good guys in gold like Michael Lynagh. We had Rod McQueen’s understatement and Ealesy balanced out that lovable rogue Campo. Australia were the one team that challenged New Zealand’s strangle-hold at the top, and do it with running rugby.
Early 90’s England thought Australia was great as well. We were the smiling friendly guys living under perpetual sunshine in Neighbours. The Wallabies were talked about in the same reverential breath as the All Blacks.
But that’s long gone. In Pommy, and I suspect world eyes (shit, we even get traditionally booed at the HK sevens), what we see as banter, they’ve come to see as cock-sure arrogance. It probably started with Campo in ’99, got ramped up by Eddie Jones until ’06, and was carried on by O’Neill and Tuqiri at the RWC last year. Ricky Ponting hasn’t helped things along the way.
If you’re winning, you can get away with a lot. But we haven’t been. And what’s been even sweeter for the previously downtrodden, is the nature of the losses – weakness in the most manly area of the game – up front.
I believe this is a key source of the insanity and intransigence of the norths ELVs refusal. As in all wars that escalate out of proportion, both sides see themselves fighting a greater evil. The south against faceless old school tie pompous conservatism, the north against a dodgy dealing south bent on re-creating rugby league to re-assert their dominance.
John O’Neill is the lightening rod for the Norths venom as to date he’s kept up the modern Aussie tradition of not going quietly. So we Australia now cops all this as well. Do you see any Kiwi heads above the parapet?
If you give a shit, the good news is that the answer to these problems is in place. Perhaps because he’s not originally Australian, Aussie Robbie doesn’t go for the verbals. It’s been hilarious watching the press doing their best to stir ahead of Saturday’s game, so far without ammunition. If he can put this together with some actions that speak louder than words, then who knows. Maybe we can be the second most hated team in world rugby?