The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

Well thank God that weekend’s over. Even Mother’s Day couldn’t make up for some of the rubbish we were served up. This year we vowed to find diamonds in the coal that is Australian Rugby, but we kept digging and digging and came up with squat. So this week we dig up the good, bad and ugly, daydream about Scott Fardy, check the pressure cooker we have created for ourselves, get Karma Chameleon stuck in our heads and discuss the merits of being popular.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good – It was good to finally see the Sunwolves put together a classy performance and run rampant over the opposition. They scored some lovely tries and just totally outclassed the opposition and were pretty handy in defence too, making 150 out of 171 tackles.

The Bad – It was an Australian team that the Sunwolves finally beat slaughtered.

The Ugly – The Report Card

Yep. This week the Report Card is the ugly part of the Good, Bad and Ugly. I’m starting to get a bit sick of writing the same stuff every week!!

Reds D- Originally I was going to give the Reds a higher grade because of the number of tries they scored themselves compared to the opposition. But then I remembered that the opposition was the Sunwolves. Their discipline let them down – big time! The Sunwolves showed they were more than happy to go for goal, and with a kicker the standard of Parker they were sure to punish the Reds for any infractions close to being within kicking range. Their defence was average, missing 23 out of their 88 tackle attempts and they were just unable to match the Sunwolves in most aspects of the game.

Waratahs C- This was a tough one. At the 30-minute mark of the game they were getting an A+. They completely outclassed the Crusaders in that period, scoring 29 quick points through some very good tries. Their defence was tight and the Crusaders barely had enough of the ball to string a few phases together, and when they did it usually ended in a knock on. But then things changed. The Waratahs fell off some tackles (the stat of 25 defenders beaten by the Crusaders points to some defensive lapses) gave away some penalties (17 is a season high for them) and their level of play dropped. 29 points is a very big lead to let slip. If just one thing had been different they would have won – Foley missed two crucial penalties, either of which would have handed them the win.

Brumbies D- It’s a bit of a broken record for the Brumbies. Pointless kicking, no options and silly errors. They looked good in the first half but once things started to go the way of the Rebels it’s as though the Brumbies just had no plan B. They continually kicked the ball directly to the Rebels who had little work to do to get through the defence. This game showed why they are the worst team in Australia at the moment.

Rebels C Yes they won, against a very poor Brumbies team. Once the Rebels got some momentum in the second half it was clear the Brumbies were not going to be able to stay with them. The Rebels didn’t really do anything too special, they were just better than the Brumbies. They ran double the metres and kicked about half as much. Those two things right there were the difference in the game.

Force B It’s hard to really judge just how well they are going given the opposition, but the Force are really stepping up. They have a new coach, a mixed group of players who,. like I said last week, have had limited time together, and they are playing some pretty entertaining rugby. With lots of tries on the board they are starting to put together some good combinations.

ForceTonga14

Champions Cup

Over the weekend we saw the final of the Champions Cup played out between Racing 92 and Leinster. For the first time the final was contested outside of one of the Six Nations countries, being played in Bilbao, Spain. Apparently this was done in an effort to expand Rugby across Europe.

While it wasn’t a high scoring affair, it was a tight match with some tough play and big hits. Racing took a couple of big blows early, firstly when Dan Carter was ruled out, then around 3 minutes into the match when Pat Lambie left the field with a knee injury (thus showing how important it is to have a quality back up flyhalf in the team!).

For me, the worst part about watching this final was seeing Scott Fardy, not only playing in fantastic form but watching his interactions with the referee, showing what a great leader he could have been for Australia. I know many people have lamented on what a big loss he was to Aussie rugby, but during matches like this I think it becomes even more apparent.

Embed from Getty Images

But I digress. The Champions Cup final wasn’t what I would call a wonderful spectacle, in fact the highlights reel (below) is actually quite dull, but it was still an entertaining match to watch. Racing took the lead early with a couple of penalties, and it wasn’t until the 79th minute that Leinster passed them on the scoreboard. Backup, backup number 10, Remi Tales attempted a last-minute drop goal to level the match again and push it to extra time, but hooked the kick sending it wide and handing the Championship to Leinster.

Baked before it’s put in the oven!

We have to win the Beldisloe; we have to beat the All Blacks; don’t let the ball bounce the wrong way; we only have a 30 point lead; we need to be more physical; we need to be fitter; we need to be smarter; we need to do it better; we need to be better. If only that bounce of the ball; if only the ref called that; if only we had done that; if only they hadn’t got that; if only………

KMP-WALLvAB-1813

At some point when you take a step back you have to ask the question are we all holding on a little bit too tightly, too wound up, on the edge, a little too desperate perhaps? Have we played and lost the games in our minds before our teams take the field?

Take some time to think about it. Think of that list above and what expectations we are putting on our players and what we as supporters are expecting? Let’s be realistic about this, can we actually change overnight or from one weekend to the next? If we did what about the following week?

Confidence, belief and success are all bed fellows. But Aussie rugby is struggling to get into any bed; and those beds we can get into are already self-soiled.

Over the weekend it was another demonstration of where the mental state of Aussie rugby showed where the key flaws lay.

Once the ball bounces the wrong way, the call goes against us or is missed and the momentum shifts away from us we implode. We get panicky and overplay and then the penalties and stupidity start. How many times have we seen our side bleed large amounts of points? How many times do we only show up for a portion of the game? How many times do we see our sides ill prepared to deal with the opposition? How many times does it come down to who plays the least poor?  

One thing that can’t be denied is that whether you believe it to be an all-powerful super being, the universe or the Rugby Gods, it’s an amazing coincidence that these bounces of the ball, refereeing issues, stupid decision and behaviours all seem to be being imparted exclusively on Aussie rugby and its Super Rugby players. 

Culture Club

Now I know we all want to point our finger at either the all-powerful super being, the universe or the Rugby Gods but it’s really a long bow to be drawing. But the harsh reality is it’s our players who are getting panicky, overplaying and giving away penalties and generally making stupid decisions.

Four years ago, I remember that most of the same players that are at the centre of the mental issues today were also the same players that featured in the Wallabies set up that was (and is still) struggling to perform for many of the same reasons. In the last 2 years we have brought some new blood into that same Wallabies set up and they now feature in the same mental issues both at Super Rugby level and in the Wallabies.

Embed from Getty Images

These issues continue to repeat and when we are looking at the “who” the names are very familiar. Why are Wallaby captained teams struggling with decision making, leadership and discipline? Why are many of the Wallaby players responsible for these errors. If not Wallaby players it’s the experienced Super Rugby ones. It’s unsurprising that the new blood is making poor decisions with the examples they have to follow and the leadership and culture they are exposed to.

There comes a point where we need to realise that we have been incessantly fighting to fix Aussie rugby by reconstructing it using the same parts, pieces and tools for years. This dog is not going to learn new tricks. It’s that simple.

And why?

Well the dog’s trainers don’t know any new tricks for starters. Our coaching ranks are really poor and devoid of new ideas. Look at our teams and it’s hard to envisage them beating Kiwi teams unless everything goes our way and then it will be a one off. There’s also the usual “inbreeding” happening. We are certainly not breeding out the issues, rather making sure we keep the bloodlines pure even with the hereditary issues.

But how can that change with such positive progressive thinking leading the way? Reduce the footprint, smaller stadiums for smaller crowds. It’s a defeatist attitude right off the bat from the top.

There is a point where we need to ask the hard question about real change for the sake of the game and its future. We need new. Not the old being used to try and create the new, but real new.

It will be hard to accept but Rugby needs a significant cultural shift.

Popularity is overrated

You watch this rubbish? Why?

It’s not a game for the people. The MST’s are pretty passionate when it comes to our Rugby especially the Brumbies. Each Brumbies home game we are the horrible selfish parents who drag our children to the games rain, (snow) or shine. So far, our children have missed two games collectively in the six years we have had them. On Saturday Mr Six was at the game and was struggling with his focus and interest. He was bored and getting over it. It was boring! And in his defence, it was. It was slow, with so many re-sets and stoppages. It was painful and unentertaining. So how do we keep people engaged in this, especially the younger generation?

Mr 6 post match interview

I stupidly watch this rubbish because of the love for the game. But it’s HARD!

When I do I can’t help but wonder what SANZAAR are trying to achieve? The draw is really poor and does little for Aussie rugby or to make viewing other games easy. I know it’s only a professional multinational competition, but maybe making teams wear home and away strips so they don’t clash is asking too much. Neutral referees; I would be happy with competent ones for starters but alas even using a TMO and all the technology that goes with it we still miss all the things I can see on my TV so I will lower my expectation to anybody who can blow a whistle occasionally. Must just be my TV that shows all the infringements.

But let’s get closer to home. Does Rugby Australia or your team really care what you think or say? So, there were just over 5000 at the Brumbies game. Cold weather and and old stadium is just a distraction. The reality is the Rebels don’t draw a crowd. Many have a disdain for the “bought” team. I will confess I do as well. I do want Aussie Rugby to be successful but the Rebels I really have mixed feelings about. So, with the game being hard to watch add in an unpopular team and you will always get low numbers.

But with your team do you have a voice. Does it count?

I get at times boards will make unpopular decisions for the betterment of the game but Rugby seem to make the decisions due to arrogance or ignorance.

How often do we all talk about needing real change? How often do we say this Super Rugby concept is dead?

I didn’t want less Rugby but RA cut a team. Now the Force are showing that there is life in the game and that game isn’t even the “top flight” Super Rugby.

“Please not that coach.” Such a familiar call yet it happens again and again and as the supporters walk away what happens. Nothing. But does the game or do the clubs learn. Look at the Reds membership decline. But no, we stupidly don’t learn.

When distilled down Rugby, like all sports, is about popularity. Unless you, me and lot of other people like it its dead in the water.

It’s not that hard to understand. Can’t change the rules? Well that excuse is now dead compliments of Twiggy ball.

Even the Kiwis were smart enough to get the help they needed from the enemy to improve and change and not even from a Rugby bloke. Thanks Mick for helping them.

Crowds are down ratings are down. But its ok as RA will just keep ploughing on.

Who cares about being popular? It not like its important.

  • Adrian

    Yes, yes, yes….but..

    Frankly, I’d improve every letter by 1
    Instead of D,C,D,C
    I’d go C,B,C,B
    I’d pick a letter out of the hat for Force

    … though really it’s not that simple, because if ever there was a side/size to beat the lumbering Reds it’s the Sunwolves. Saders/Tahs also predictable, and Brums/Rebs ditto

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Morning Adrian, not sure giving both the Reds and Tahs B for that display would be correct. It smacks of certificates for participation when you go to that level.

  • Huw Tindall

    Good article MST. The whole popularity angle can be viewed when we look at the success of a sport based on 3 measures:
    1. Quality – is the product good
    2. Balance – is the competition balanced (competitive)
    3. Care factor – do people care

    You need 2 of the 3 to have a sustainable sport.

    Look at club rugby – quality is pretty low really but comps are relatively competitive and people care about their local team = can sustain a cheap but average quality game.

    Look at super – quality is actually pretty good but the competition is unbalanced and people don’t care about teams from south africa they only no by a noun of dubious import e.g. Stormers = 1 out of 3; is becoming quickly financially unsustainable on the back of fan disinterest.

    NRC – quality is really good. competition is relatively balanced bar maybe 1 under performing Sydney side, but people haven’t yet ‘bought in’. I’ll give the NRC a discount on the ‘care factor’ as it’s still so new and hardly had any marketing. Anyone who has watched it though will tell you just how bloody good it is. In saying that crowds have grown over the history of the comp. So I’ll say 2/3 for NRC. Could grow into a really strong comp with the right backing and development.

    With the Super brand on the verge of being terminally tainted where to next is the $64,000 question. I don’t know what it is but the NRC is a good starting point for Australia if only we can get people to buy in.

    • Kiap

      I like those 3 measures. Succinct.

    • Kokonutcreme

      Good measures Huw. Measure 3 takes care of itself if the first two are achieved.

      Raelene Castle on Kick and Chase accurately summarised what kind of future Super competition she wants to see. A competition where fans want an uncertainty of outcome and all teams have the capability to win. The drop in performance by Australian teams is the uncomfortable truth.

      Everything else – timezones, conference format, travel fatigue, expansion teams, falling attendance and audience figures are all peripheral issues that become bigger talking points because the rugby is so inconsistent the topic of conversation shifts to off field.

      The NRC will become a great competition over time, rewind the clock to 2007 when Gary Flowers launched the first national competition and if allowed to continue would be 11 years old now. That discarded opportunity is an opportunity cost Australian rugby is paying for dearly now.

      Australian rugby historically has boom and bust periods. The last one being the Tahs title victory in 2014, remember how positive and buoyant everyone felt after that win leading into the international season. The challenge is to sustain that success, it’s a curiosity that none of the Australian title winners have been able to win back to back titles so far. The Brumbies were the closest in 2001 and 2004.

      • Huw Tindall

        I think you can also develop the 3rd factor in it’s own right, although it’s obviously going to be driven by 1 and 2. For instance some decent fucking marketing and grass roots engagement would be a good start! I know the current Super Players do a lot with schools and clubs etc but there full time job is to play rugby, not act as quasi development and promotions officers.

        I do take you point about talking points shifting to peripheral issues if the teams aren’t winning. Winning papers over many cracks and that’s arguably what the Reds and Tahs recent success in Super Rugby (actually ages ago now!) and the Wallabies 2015 RWC performance did. Throughout that time the other Aussie Franchises weren’t really progressing and ARU was bleeding money in fumbling Super Rugby expansion. Fundamentally though, these peripheral issues just make it harder to succeed, all other things being equal.

        The ARC getting canned is potentially one of the biggest mistakes looking back. Yes it was probably far too ambitious with some serious cost over runs but what could it have been? At least they got that one cracking advert out of it – the ‘you don’t know me, yet’ campaign.

  • Bernie Chan

    Scott Fardy…! Another player the ARU/Cheika felt didn’t warrant a Wallas jersey (LFG is another…why did Toomua leave Oz…?) and absolutely carving it up for Leinster. Player retention managers is Oz clubs (especially my QRU guys…) are the best assets for European clubs!
    What wouldn’t we give to have Fardy available for the Ireland Test series…’we’ doesn’t include Cheika, he’d likely not pick Fardy anyway. But Fardy at #6 and Pocock at #7 seems attractive to this mug fan…

    • Mica

      Also how’s Toomua’s replacement going at the Brumbies?
      No don’t answer that and remind me of the predicament.

      • Bernie Chan

        Mica…we are feeling your pain…up in QLD we’ve been in a funk for a long, long time. And to answer MSTs question…no, we don’t have a voice as far as the QRU hierarchy is concerned.
        On a “big picture” note, I had a chat with (NQ Cowboys coach..) Paul Green before the NRL kicked off and he was concerned that once rugby lost the “critical mass” it would be hard to get it back in Oz as there is so much competition for a limited spectator base and money…this was in the context of the cutting of the Western Force. He then followed up by saying the ARU had left WA wide open for the NRL to have another go…Lucky Twiggy is trying to fill the gap…?

  • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

    What’s a team gotta do to get an F?

  • Nutta

    Fight the power MST.

    I loved the Narromine Gorillas approach to family inclusion a few years back. Easily 15yrs ago I played a random game of 3rds for them (the smart-arsery of the Dubbo guy on the gate made me go play for them instead). Anyway they had a little set of mobile sheep yards under a Landmark awning with sponsors banners tied to the yard posts to block any gaps in the rails. I was wondering if they would do sheep dog trials for half time entertainment. But NO! Kidlets were dropped over the rails with a backpack and a water bottle, $10 was pushed into the hands of the x2 16yr old girls running the show and mum went for a bubbles on the hill whilst dad pulled on boots. Bloody brilliant idea I thought. Kidlets: supervised and contained. Mum: on the bubbles. Dad: on the field. “Is everybody happy? Ya bet your life we are…”. That’s family involvement.

    • Mica

      “Mum on the bubbles”
      Can be easily summed up as happy wife; happy life… :)

  • John Tynan

    Thanks MST’s.

    “Let’s be realistic about this, can we actually change overnight or from one weekend to the next?”

    YES! from Reds vs Chiefs to Reds vs Lions!!

    “If we did what about the following week?”

    Reds vs Sunwolves!!

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Good article MST. To be honest I don’t think the supporters here are putting too much onto the players at all. These guys should have a supporter base that expects them to win, expects them to continue to improve (3 Wallabies who can only pass the ball one way WTF?), have a culture of acknowledging the game is more important than them and has high expectations evbery time they hit the field . If that is putting too much pressure on them then they should go and play soccer or someother sport where they can indulge in their self centred lifestyle.

    I agree with everything you say about RA and thie lack of transperance and accountability, however you also need to include the states who have this rediculous situation where they are not accountable to RA for their own stupid decisions. After all it was QLD who took a failed coach from WA and then another failed coach from Melbourne to support a brand new coach with no experience at this level. RA didn’t actually have a say in this because the setup of the system doesn’t allow them to. Mate until this stupidity stops I believe things are going to get worse before they get better.

    • Brumby Runner

      I believe that RA actually had a presence on the selection committee for at least the last coach appointment at the Reds. Nothing I’ve seen AR do would instil any confidence in their ability to do things like coaching selection better than the very poor experiences we’ve seen under state administrations.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Wow I didn’t know that. That is sad. Be even worse if they pushed McGahan on the Reds.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    I thought they were while Moana was playing to their strengths – kicking to Folau. However, I was disappointed in their lack of self generated opportunities

    • TouchFinderGeneral

      You’re a hard man to please KRL! Injuries/yellows/’saders with amp turned up all the way to 11. The ‘Tahs did well to come within a missed kick of winning in Christchurch. How many teams have done that since Gondwanaland split up?

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Yeah I guess looking at it like that does make a difference. However I still see it as more of a Crusaders failing than a Tahs good work. Mainly because the Tahs didn’t seem able to create anything themselves and to me if you can’t do that you don’t get a B

  • Mica

    Can I just say a couple of positive points that I saw in the Sunwolves vs Reds match to at least let in a little sunshine?
    Loved how George Smith talked to the ref when Taniela was pinged for his attempted clean out. This should be played on loop to the Hoop as how to interact with a ref. Didn’t change the outcome, but it was pretty bloody hard to argue with.
    I thought young Angus Scott Young had a great game. Massive engine and just kept trying all day. Well rewarded with a try too.
    I thought that Hamish Stewart did some classy things on the field. He’s not the finished product, but he’s got a lot of positives. Good kick and his defence is more than good. If he keeps improving he has the potential to be a pretty decent player.
    The crowds in Tokyo have to be the best in SR. Great atmosphere, get into the spirit, respectful of the opposition. All this when their team has been going worse (on the scoreboard) than any of our teams.
    The Sunwolves played really well! Their tries were really well taken and showed great skill. I love the story of Michael Little. He’s had a storming season and his soft hands, one armed pass in traffic for the second try was something special. Quite frankly I reckon the Sunwolves would have given most of the SR teams a run for their money with the way they played.
    Over to you my fellow GARGs

    • idiot savant

      I agree Mica. Anyone who saw the two games the Sunwolves played in NZ would have known that they were odds on to beat a young Reds. Their speed even troubled the kiwi sides and as we have seen against the Tahs, the Reds really do not cope with sides who move the ball quickly. When the Sunwoves got confident they were a sight to see.

      The Wolves were better than the Reds. Better coached and played with way more intensity. But… Both sides had scored 4 tries apiece with 3 minutes to go and the penalty try was soft. The Sunwolves get huge sympathy from the referees and from us because we all want them to be more competitive. Gardiner caned the Tahs in Tokyo as well. I saw plenty of infringements from the Sunwolves go unpunished (like side entries to the rucks). With Parker on song that explains the huge margin. It explains why the Reds couldn’t keep the ball long enough to make inroads. They often got penalised in possession. So while it was a flogging on paper, I felt it was about a 20 point loss. And hopefully a lesson the players can learn from. Not sure about the coaches.

      I am still staggered at how the coaches couldn’t have seen this coming and tried to prepare for the kind of game the Sunwolves play and the fact that they were going to get a huge leg up with penalties. I cant believe how slow the Reds are from 9 to 13.The injection of bench youth made a difference to the Reds speed. And come on, how much more creative did DPA look than either centre has been all season. DPA is in another class to Kerevi in heavy traffic – quicker feet, more elusive, better fend, better offload, smarter reader. If some of the Reds backs had more grey matter they would have followed DPA because he is the kind of player who can put them into holes. Sorovi followed him because he is smart. The rest of the backs pretty much just stayed in their channels and left him isolated. I agree on Scott Young. He has the kind of 100% concentration Australian players need.

      • Brumby Runner

        How many times do we hear coaches and players say they are not looking at the opposition coming up, but just concentrating on their own game. I used to think this was just bullshit for the media, but I’m now coming to the view that it is entirely true for our SR teams.

        In what universe would you not look at how the upcoming opposition plays and try to design matters to counteract their strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses.

  • RedAnt

    I think we all feel your pain, MSTs!

    There are certainly a number of issues that need addressing in our game and, it seems to me, most of them start with an unhealthy, almost incestuous culture in the administration and at elite player levels.

    But I think a really important question to ask is: where do we want the game to be in 10 years? Is it realistic, or even desirable, to want it to be the number one or two football code in Australia? Where and how does it fit in the scheme of things? Bigger isn’t always better.

  • Bernie Chan

    Generous man…:)

  • idiot savant

    Tahs were good. Despite what all the kiwi trolls have been saying.

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Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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