Walsh debunks the rigmarole of kicking for goal

Wowsers. What a collector’s item of sparkling goal kicking from Luke Walsh last night!

The Penrith halfback’s spotless 11 from 11 was a magnificent showcase of accuracy from sideline to sideline, not to mention a perfect accompaniment to the razzle dazzle being served up by the Panthers on the CUA turf against a porous Warriors defence.

But it wasn’t just the results of the metronomic slipper show that knocked my socks off. In my eyes, there was something else that stood out from Walsh’s marksman masterclass.

Walsh. Not a jig in sight.

Walsh. Not a jig in sight.

The whole thing packed minimal histrionics.

With every raise of the touchies’ flags, it affirmed the fact that there is still a place in the game for a dull dime-a-dozen kicking action.

In recent times, boring and undistinguished routines have been under attack by a wave of alternative converters and their intricately detailed approaches.

So why is the ‘Goalkicking for Dummies’ manual slowly becoming eroded as a reading choice by the sharp shooters across all codes?

Up until recently, capably kicking a dead ball used to be so simple.

Settle down, wipe away some sweat, secure your mouthguard in some disgusting pocket of your body, take some right-angled steps and slot the thing through to papa.

Too easy!

But somewhere along the timeline of kicking history, theatrics and contortions became de rigeur. Just punching the footy over and/or through a set of poles is no longer enough.

Nowadays, you need an abstract statue pose followed by an audition for the Bolshoi Ballet to be in the running for kicking tee duties.

Cast your mind back.

Remember the uproar when ‘around the corner’ kicking first came in to the codes? Traditionalists of the toe poke lost their shizen at the time at what was considered a totally ludicrous newfangled method!

Then fast forward to the emergence of Ian ‘Chook’ Herron.

This wacky winger was considered a rugby league outcast with his blend of neck twisting and hot-stepping. Nobody imagined that things were going to get any weirder than him.

But no!

Cue Jonny Wilkinson in the heavenly game with the first of the stone sculptured poses, and then the nutcase workings of Mark Riddell, who seemed to be placing some kind of mid-air blessing on the Steeden just before he gave it the boot.

This lead to the current golden era we find ourselves in.

There’s one of modern footy’s most bizarre and long-winded routines with Jamie Soward’s version of a sedated soldier whose compass is playing up, which is complimented by Quade Cooper’s regular reminder that his favourite comic hero is Superman.

James O’Connor jumped on board for a while with his own zany stylings before coming to his senses when he realised the robot dance went out of fashion for a reason.

Don’t forgot those who appear to be experiencing debilitating stomach cramps while they carefully hold a fragile baby chicken in cupped hands, that being Adam Reynolds, Berrick Barnes and Jarrod Croker.

And the insanity isn’t just confined to the rugby codes either.

What about in the AFL?

There are extra trimmings on the usual stale bread and butter provided by West Coast’s Josh Kennedy and St Kilda’s Ahmed Saad.

Kennedy’s attention-seeking feet take over the whole show and regale the crowd with their version of the stutter rap, while Saad somehow incorporates a lazy Sunday arvo stroll that seemingly stretches from Coogee to East Perth.

There’s no doubt about it. The modern kicking culture has evolved in to something weirder than that slouching windmill dance your uncle does at family functions.

Does anybody have an intelligent explanation to this?

I’m sure many would say that it’s another sign that the psychological aspect of professional sport is becoming further prevalent, and fair enough. But could it be more than this?

Are managers and marketers encouraging their charges to build a brand through individuality? Is it time wasting? Or loss of bets with long-term consequences?

Or are footy players convinced that pretending to pray in a state of semi-constipation is genuinely effective when piloting a leather pillow on a beeline?

Whatever the reason, long may it continue.

I acknowledge the successes of guys like Walsh and their staple routines. Good luck to them all.

But there’s no doubt there is something entertaining about watching athletes blindly devote to their boot-scooting security blankets.

For some kickers, it seems keeping it straight relies on being slightly twisted.

 

 

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Forget innocuous injuries by praising the panel-beaten

Modern day footy has always been an extreme high-risk venture with a reputation for inflicting severe long-term injury upon those who take part.

Recently however, the mutilating hasn’t always been caused by an overseas trip with the West Coast Eagles or one of Richie Fa’aoso’s many spear tackles.

In 2013, footballers have hit a new jittery height of fragility and the MediCabs are running hot from coast-to-coast as a result.

What we are seeing are those pesky invisible landmines and well-concealed snipers causing bewildering injuries from thin air, and nobody important with a clipboard, stethoscope or microphone can really work out why.

In a bizarre change of scenery, the part of local footy where you get ferociously bashed at high speed by a waiting pack of gorillas has now become the easy part of surviving Australia’s top flite codes. Players nowadays are nervous over dealing with a silent and intangible sweepstake of bad fortune that is a real pickle to identify.

It’s the most meagre contact with an opposition player or a deceptively flat playing surface that now possesses the ability to interrupt the harmonious strum of ligaments with a sickening twang, disconnect a shoulder from the torso like ready-to-retire Lego, and inflict eye-rolling concussion with what appears a feathery brush.

The buzzword is ‘innocuous’. The bogan word is ‘soft’. But this serves to only label the carnage. All we want to know is why the hell is this happening?

Can we blame training workloads, fatigue or poor medical advice? Is it the increasing speed of the games? Or is it Robert Lui’s cousin’s fault?

Upon contacting the major codes for an explanation, I was met with the response of ‘Stuffed if we know’ from the AFL, ‘It’s probably just a coincidence’ from the ARU and was encouraged by the NRL to ‘Start calling Todd Greenberg about this stuff from now on please.’

My neck, my back...

My neck, my back…

With a dire lack of leadership on this issue, the durability of our footballers in question and nothing showing on the arthroscope as a solution, I thought it best that we lift the spirits of the nation by celebrating those immune from these recent ills.

I’m talking about the panel-beaten hombres who resurrect before our very eyes, who appear as though they’ve won the knee-pop lottery or a well-earned snooze before springing back to life and contributing within the very match they were nearly pronounced dead.

The respective footy codes could do a lot worse than to swab this trio and inject the strain in to the current generation of glass.

Steve Matai

Rugby league isn’t rugby league without the Kiwi centre trying to decapitate his opposite before halting a game with his 78th serious neck injury. On a good night, this will spread down to the shoulder and arm region to give the impression that has he not only broken his neck, but he’s also suffering from a heart attack too.

Regardless of the ailment, Matai always seems to rejuvenate steadily from the critical ‘death’s door’ to the stable ‘heroic refusal of a stretcher’, before amazing all by rising to his feet as if been healed by an American pastor, ready to belt the next Burgess brother that comes his way.

If he wanted higher socks then he should've just asked.

If he wanted higher socks then he should’ve just asked.

Is odds-on for a contract with Nurofen should he survive his football career.

Tatafu Polotau-Nau

As the bodies peel away from a breakdown in a Waratahs game, you can guarantee that their laborious hooker will be found at the bottom in a lifeless heap faintly clutching at a cavalcade of paralysing aches from top-to-toe. He is rugby union’s ultimate mystery cocktail of body trauma.

Polotau-Nau spends more time on his back wrapped in bandages on a rugby field than Heidi Fleiss doing an Egyptian Mummy role-play. And again like Fleiss, half the time he’s sleeping through it before miraculously rallying for the next ruck after a simple sip of a drink and a decent strapping.

So seriously busted does his troublesome knee appear at regular points in a game that he has had to block Lars on Twitter due to constant harassment.

Joel Selwood

You know you're crook when your wake-up call requires four humans

You know you’re crook when your wake-up call requires four humans

Concussion rules were introduced to the AFL to prevent maniacs like this bloke from producing repeated heroics on the field amidst habitual narcolepsy.

Due to fearless and selfless attacks on the ball, Selwood can often be found dozy and/or bleeding at the bottom of packs and seemingly done for the day. However, give the man a simple pat on the scone with the magic sponge and he stunningly relaunches to continue on his ferocious merry way of high-octane physicality.

The inspirational Geelong skipper has a penchant for the fashionable head gash, and if he isn’t already a share-holding ambassador for Elastoplast, then perhaps they too suffer from regular trips to Disneyland like him.

 

Confucius say ‘always blog after upset win’

Much like this piece’s title, the following has always been one of the more popular proverbs from the divine Rugby Confucius.

‘If furthering your XV down the path of rectification is for what you strive, then one must firstly temper weaknesses and/or splash funds on talent.’

In 2013, the Waratahs have made it their trademark to start slower than a circa 1996 laptop, and it’s one of several factors that have cruelled their drive for improvement thus far.

However, last night against the Chiefs they channelled the words of rah-rah’s Buddha and addressed this irksome shortcoming by discovering a choke button and engaging it before halftime.

Nothing says 'upset win' like a vertical stacks-on.

Nothing says ‘upset win’ like a vertical stacks-on.

What resulted was a high-octane opening for the home side and a gutsy 25-20 victory, although with a bullish Chiefs riposte wedged in between that nearly had the fans reaching for the spiritual analgesic incense.

It was a dose of unlikely success against high-grade Kiwi opposition for the Waratahs and another stepping stone in the evolution of optimism under the tutelage of cranky grasshopper Michael Cheika, which he has made no secret of is more tortoise than hare.

With an obvious focus on reversing the trend for sleeping in, their bright beginning was powered by some appealing ball-in-hand play which propelled them to a deserved 15-0 halftime lead. It had the faithful tentatively high-fiving in the aisles and cautiously contemplating an unlikely boilover.

Despite this, it seemed normal transmission of heartbreak had resumed in the second half thanks to a barnstorming Chiefs bushfire which incinerated the Waratahs newly turned leaf, and five minutes from time when the 134kg Ben Tameifuna battered his way under the posts with minimal finesse to catapult the visitors in to the lead, the 15,000 faithful at Allianz had probably wished they were next door watching the Swans get pumped.

Cue the dice rolling required in these situations, a backtracking Chiefs defence and the hungry backing-up of former doorman John Ulugia, and the winning try was dotted down for the Waratahs to pinch sweet victory.

Like all Super Rugby wins in NSW these days, it was crucial for the Waratahs and their grand scheme. If they are serious about successfully implementing coach Cheika’s plan of just falling short of a semi-final berth this season, they desperately needed points at home before embarking on the always-unfriendly South African leg of their campaign.

Folau's excitement may subside if that attempted reach-around is successful.

Folau’s excitement may subside if that attempted reach-around is successful.

Those famous words of Rugby Confucius rang in the ears of many when it came to selecting the best on ground for NSW.

Like any cliché-laden backs-to-the-wall dogfight win against a top-ranked side, there were many contributors who made claims for the unfinishable pewter mug of booze granted post-match to those who left nothing in the tank.

In last night’s case, the standouts for the victors were the off-season pick-ups of Michael Hooper and Israel Folau.

Hooper is seemingly on long life batteries in the trenches and last night was no different. It’s difficult to ever remember him having a stale performance whenever he steps on a rugby field, and I find it hard to believe that some dirty tabloid scribe hasn’t linked him with Steven Dank.

As for Folau, he once again put on a blistering display of wide hole-running that was capped with points when he soared on the flank to take a Bernard Foley cross-field kick and touch down in the shadows of halftime.

But it was more so his desperate toil in defence that showed his leaps and bounds improvement is of Olympic triple-jump calibre when on two occasions he popped up as the last line to snuff out certain Chief tries.

Many will argue that he is far from the complete rugby product yet, but he nonetheless deserves my apology at least after I questioned his purchase by NSW Rugby earlier this year and wondered where he would fit in their high-profile backline.

He’s a padlock selection for Cheika nowadays, and he could be more than just bonus attacking arsenal on Robbie Deans’ bench later in the year.

As for the Waratahs, next it’s the Bulls at the High Veldt, a historical crime scene plentiful with many discarded cans of whoop-ass administered by the home side in contests past.

But with the words of Rugby Confucius in the scented air around the squad and it’s fans, I reckon they won’t be feeling too bad about taking on the South African powerhouse after the encouraging display of last night.

 

Footy’s individualism: killed by power-hungry suits

Let’s face it. Unless you are a cold-hearted gold digger, clean-cut smarmy types clothed in Italian suits with excess cash spilling out of their pockets have never been high on the greetings card list.

With their sickening charisma, unsettling corporate smarts and immaculate hair like a young Michael Douglas, you know they’ll steal your girlfriend and sue you twice before the dessert’s even been ordered.

Unfortunately, with the advancement of sport in to an era of professionalism, these businessmen are on every corner amongst the territory of boofy footy codes that we blue-collar oafs used to claim as our own.

The gilded buggers and their Saabs are a necessary evil in the day-to-day running of sports business now we’ve all twigged that money is important for buying goalposts, so their big words, clean teeth and uncanny ability to hypnotise with long sentences have all become part of the furniture whether you like it or not.

Up until now, they’ve known their place, meaning a calm but uneasy truce has remained. They would collect their bulging cheques provided they learned basic footy vernacular, posed for an awkward photo or two, handed over the trophies when required and feigned interest in the game, while always staying the hell away from the leather and letting the players do their thaaaaang.

As for playing bad cop when the necessity arose?

The game’s history made that a cinch for them.

When the players stepped out of line, bar the odd firearm possession charge or clandestine affair with a team mate’s wife, they would respect the working class values of the game by using the ‘boys will be boys’ approach to spanking those who have breached with a ball of cotton wool.

Dugan and his ill-fated night on the tiles.

Dugan and his ill-fated night on the tiles.

It was too easy. Look cranky for the Daily Telegraph, hand out a suspended fine, a few games off and a forced public apology, which they would usually pen themselves for the kid anyway, and within a few weeks it was forgotten and everyone was happy.

It was a simple agreement that maintained the balance of power between paymaster and drone in the world of local sports.

But not anymore.

Over the last few weeks, the all-powerful defenders of the bottom line have ripped off their shirts, flexed their pipes and then pummelled any individual within their organisation that is considered even mildly rogue, confirming their dark and evil side that we’ve all suspected has lurked dormant within.

Making it worse, this recent outbreak of brutality has been caused by a handful of two-bit misdemeanours that Warney would’ve performed on his ear in a drinks break amidst the spice of the transitional 1990s.

It started at Collingwood, where Dane Swan was fined by the head honchos for the unspeakable act of engaging in unauthorised palaver, before the clamps were really tightened with Travis Cloke’s docking of pay for parking his rig in the CEO’s spot.

The office power-playing continued in Queensland, where the Reds stood down Digby Ioane after he was allegedly found lingering on the outer fringes of a messy melee of beefy blokes, which to me sounds exactly like being three passes off a scrum, the exact thing which he is paid to do.

And in Canberra, what else was a tired, injured and thirsty Josh Dugan supposed to do?

When Generation-Y has a session around a pumping Akai listening to the iconic tunes of their era, ‘the roof is on fire’ means you are obligated under the rules of popular culture to climb up there with a fizzy pre-mix and check it out, otherwise you may be at risk of letting ‘the motherf*cker burn.’

Doesn’t Don Furner understand the basics of contemporary existence?

And geeeez, what about the iron fisting that was the exploding septic tank of Homeworkgate?

Don’t go there, sisters.

It seems that suits and ties have taken it upon themselves to move the disciplinary goalposts, and it’s killing the spirit of individualism in the footy codes.

Regardless of the magnitude of the indiscretion, the level of public reaction, or if the indiscretion was actually an indiscretion, the big dogs are coming down on whoever is found at the scene in their colours. And with added tax lumped on top of the wrist-slap.

Remember the good old days when Ken Arthurson would let you keep your job, even though you were spotted outside of the Empire Hotel looking like a statue because you were plastered to the ground by the stiffness of your own dried vomit?

Well footballers, if this week is a sign of the future, then those good old days of wholesome chunder-fun in the public eye are long gone.

Top office tyranny has slowly grown to disgracefully powerful levels and it’s eroding the characters in sport.

Someone please stop the rot by making a recently retired and heavily concussed front-rower the club chairman immediately.

Or just fast track Tony Zappia or John Elias on to the board of your club.

The 2013 saviours of sombre inner-Sydneyites

The City of Sydney. Much like the other filthy and overpopulated municipalities of this earth, it has always had its fair share of the faceless melancholia and alienated futility that any confined human-squash is famous for.

However of late, one locale of ye olde convict hub is bluer than it’s ever been, and to pinpoint the real peak of despair in the state capital, you just have to walk the inner-city projects region around the Surry Hills district, up through the Moore Park precinct and out to the eastern beaches to witness where the faces of the locals really lengthen.

There are many reasons why the natives in these bustling hubs are down on life; the feeling of claustrophobia as they become enclosed inside growing masses of hipster beards, the onset of Scott Cam, the hassle of being forever subject to the questionable business propositions of bum-bagged rodent-featured locals, and the general drop in standards of their beloved café culture where a milk crate now passes as reasonable seating.

However, all of these kicks to the skinny jeans for the well-off dwellers in this CBD-to-ocean belt seem like minor fly bites when compared to the weekly anguish caused by the recent fortunes of their locally-based footy teams, a three-pronged entity which has managed to famously fudge-up 66% of the endless pursuit for professional oval ball glory in the recent past.

The 33% of the trinity made up by the AFL’s Sydney Swans are free to leave this domain of blame, having been reppin’ with valour for their local residents thanks to consistently pissing off Melbournites with a metronomic pattern of success.

Unfortunately, being Onwards to Victory most of the time has barely kept at bay the requirement for Xanax and alcohol that is demanded by being in close proximity to the NRL’s Roosters and Super Rugby’s Waratahs.

Previous seasons for this pair of highly reputed clubs have been badly poisoned with fumbler’s disease, subsequently bringing Monday morning tears with regularity to Moore Park and its surrounds.

New Rooster coach Robinson already has the shits. Good-o.

New Rooster coach Robinson already has the shits. Good-o.

Sydney pleads that the buck stops in 2013, and the top brass at both clubs have charged two men with the enormous task of putting this shameful sobbing to an end by restoring some energy, pride and most pertinently, more wins than the Reds and Rabbitohs.

Can Michael Cheika and Trent Robinson again make associating with your teams in Eastern Sydney cooler than a Darlinghurst-based organic South Cambodian noodle outlet?

Already the praying to the latest en vogue God has begun.

As for the fortunes in the rah-rah, new Waratahs coach Cheika is a fearless head-stepper blind to paycheque sizes whom certainly will not die wondering.

He has won trophies in the hotbed of European rugby (2007/08 Celtic League trophy and the coveted 2009 Heineken Cup with Leinster) and is Galloping Green royalty, having played over 300 games for the famous Randwick club and coached them to Shute Shield glory in 2004.

More importantly, he’s got the mega-scary crazy eyes of a deputy school principal, and when it comes to the art of communication he shoots straighter than John Wilkes Booth regardless of the target, meaning overpaid down-time and wriggle room for the overshadowing reputation is now in the skip bin in Tah-land.

As for new Roosters boss Robinson, there’s no doubt that a punt has been taken on his services, as well as a dollar or two saved on his contract.

This French-speaking local no-name is not awash with gleaming league hardware, however his record as head coach of Super League club Catalans Dragons finished impressively with 35 wins from 59 games and included two playoff campaigns and Coach of the Year honours in 2011.

Cheika's evil-eye just burnt a perfect hole through my cranium.

Cheika’s evil-eye just burnt a perfect hole through my cranium.

He’s a backroom boy from the blue-collar mould, which will grate with the ethics of recent Rooster seasons, and with an influx of quality arsenal in the off-season, he will be given every opportunity to turn the frowns upside down from Bronte to Paddington.

So can both of these men reawaken the slumbering giants they have been handed the keys to?

There are plenty of morose humans in the region where they ply their trade that will be thankful if they do. The taste of coffee, the tolerance of rodents and the strength to endure a never-ending series of The Block depends on it.

God speed to Michael and Trent in their attempt to re-beautify two-thirds of Sydney footy.

Who will Israel have crying at the Waratahs in 2013?

How did you symbolically label the sight of code chameleon Israel Folau wearing a fresh coat of Waratah blue on Tuesday?

You may have seen it as another red-letter day for contemporary individualism? A plunging blade to the lungs of team-orientated traditions? Or perhaps a young rich man standing near a series of blazing bridges with a can full of gas and a hand full of matches?

However you viewed it, one thing can be safely ascertained. Folau’s latest hop has caused a couple of raging rivers of tears to run under those flaming overpasses in the last few days.

So far, the lion’s share of teeth-gnashing and wailing has come from Ricky Stuart and the Eels, the NRL’s developing defence force in the perceived ‘War on the West’, and to a lesser extent, any lazy AFL analyst in need of easy prey. Nothing short of a Hallmark card from Folau containing the message ‘Forgive me mate, I needed to put 16 carat bread on the table / I couldn’t stand your game’ would be required to turn the raging torrents of anguish in to dry river beds of forgiveness for this dissatisfied lot.

So fitting that a man who has burnt bridges is pictured with another recent combustible: the trusty crane.

So fitting that a man who has burnt bridges is pictured with another recent combustible: the trusty crane.

However, before you lay a wreath for the mistreated interests of those above, spare a thought for a victim who is currently silent and yet to be determined.

Won’t somebody think of the poor back at the Waratahs who is going to lose his spot to Minto’s soldier of fortune in 2013?

We all know how this works. Big name recruits crossing the floor from other codes are given special pardon when it comes to important squad laws such as earning their spot, putting the runs on the board and showing proficiency in match situations. Usually, the new guy is given a pre-season of off-field osmosis, then plays 40 minutes of club rugby in front of a media scrum before being cannoned straight in to the first 22. It’s certifiable code-hopping science.

The murky downside is that an established squad member, with the game running through his veins and shaping his every instinct, who was kicking for touch from the crib before churning through the game’s nurseries and systems, will be either rotated, benched or flicked to club land to accommodate a man who hasn’t found himself in a ruck since his teens and was kicking a Sherrin only months ago.

At no other club will this be more evident than the Waratahs, a place where big name recruits seem magnetised towards despite a cobwebbed trophy cabinet and a steady marshmallowing of the underbelly over the years.

So that begs the question: Which blokes at NSW will be contemplating a sneaky trip wire for the new mungo recruit at training, or perhaps some Laxatives in his water bottle?

Obviously, depending on where new coach Michael Cheika chooses Folau to ply his trade will determine who sweats most.

Seemingly the best fit for him would be on the wing, which unfortunately for him is a position containing a conga line of established talent. Where will he be wedged when you have internationals Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner looking for a game, along with boom youngsters Tom Kingston and Peter Betham? Even allowing for one spot as cover on the bench, there’s still going to be someone significant on the outer.

Okay, so out wide is like a carriage on a peak hour train. So how about slotting him in to the centres where he can muscle and bustle towards the line?

You’ll need to shuffle the deckchairs and upset a figurehead there as well, as this is the domain where veterans Tom Carter and Rob Horne are firmly planted.

That leaves only one more possible position and that’s the highly pressurised position of fullback, a place where you simply do not roll the dice. Unfortunately for Folau, it’s sardines here as well, with 2012 breakout star Bernard Foley tussling with regular Wallabies Adam Ashley-Cooper and Berrick Barnes, both who can also play in Folau’s other two proposed positions of wing and centre.

See what I mean?

There’s no positions vacant at the Waratahs yet they are overstaffed by one, and there will be pressure from above for the newest and least experienced off-cut from another code(s) to be turned out on the big stage post haste.

Unless there’s a spate of busted hinges, Folau will take the position of somebody adept at the game of rugby union when it comes to selection time in NSW, as I highly doubt he will be forced to bide his time and bang down the Super rugby door from the lonely backwaters of the club circuit.

I’ll be weeping like Ricky Stuart for whoever falls victim to code crossing team politics at the Waratahs in 2013. You know it’s on the cards.

Save the Dingo: Why I still believe in Robbie Deans

Currently, the pro-Robbie Deans alliance is nowhere to be seen. Its affiliates have either gone very quiet or membership numbers have shrunk to record lows.

A seismic sea wave of gloomy vibes is draped around the Australian game at this point in time, and the collective spittle of blame is being propelled towards the adopted Kiwi boss.

Everyone who cares about the green and gold running game, from your regular line-marker for the local subbies to the always even-tempered David Campese, have all become extremely forthcoming with their useful criticism for the coach, with the majority of the friendly consultancy containing various adaptations of advice such as ‘sack the bastard’, ‘send him home’ and/or ‘give me a crack at this mug’s job.’

Dingo. Don’t go.

Such counsel is constructive, handy and totally warranted in this wonderful country where free speech and the right to rudely bake a coach are coveted. However, I’m here to remind Deans and his fruit-covered staffies that some of his backers are still about and supportive of his plans.

Some of us may be cowering inside a forest, hiding in a rum barrel or bravely taking a stand for the man from behind a keyboard. Nonetheless, we breathe and we be.

Now excuse me while I calmly place my head inside the fang-filled mouth of an un-fed jungle cat. I’m about to go into bat for Dingo Deans and it may get my fellow natives bashing the keyboard like a classical pianist who’s had a fifth coffee.

Here goes.

Mr Deans, our contracted Aussie, Tasman rugby kingship and the victim of much north shore caterwauling, tabloid cussing and burned effigies of your likeness cloaked in tweed jackets. I want you to know that I feel your pain.

One hopes this will assist you to a good night’s sleep, safe in the knowledge that there is a tiny smidgeon of the population that don’t want to place a flaming bag of dog poo on your front porch.

Here are some reasons why I think you are still the right man to lead the Wallabies into the future and beyond.

Firstly, you are not the first bloke who can’t coach a team to beat New Zealand in rugby union. I understand that they tend to win. A lot.

Unfortunately, the measuring stick for success here in Australia is whether or not we can repeatedly beat the buggers, and right now you can’t, much like most blokes before you barring that magnificent Rod McQueen and his lethal bunch of Wallaby demigods from the noughties.

And what about the rotten hand you’ve been dealt with regarding the mystical force of injuries and foot-in-mouth?

One cannot be expected to push a billy-kart to its optimum performance without its first choice tyres and reliable controlling rope, and recently you’ve been given working parts straight from a back alley Taiwanese toy factory.

I challenge any other coach to build their international soap car without valuable machinery such as David Pocock, Will Genia, James O’Connor, Steven Moore et al. And there’s also the dodgy steering fulcrum that is Quade Cooper that you’ve had to mollycoddle.

Finally, if there was one cultural aspect of a rugby organisation that could quell such a rugby brain swollen with nous like yours, it’s the factional warring of the local scene involving the catty bitching and two-faced antics of our franchises and the thirsting for blood of the press.

Would it kill the lot of them to put their own agendas to one side and pull together for the greater good, allowing you to play the role of a coach and not a mediator, thus helping you to concentrate on backline moves, scrum technique and sourcing sufficient Panadol for Berrick Barnes?

It would appear that yes, it would kill them to do so. And it’s unfair.

As our national coach, and a bona fide master of rah-rah philosophy, you deserve better.

Sure, a couple of performances that the team has produced on your watch have been downright horrendous. Intestine-evacuating. Minnow standard. The consistency of sink-pipe hair and trough lollies combined.

But that’s because you haven’t been given a chance to succeed.

Let it be known that I for one am behind you as the man to haul Australian rugby on to your back and valiantly carry it forth in to the future as the global colossus of world rugby it must be.

I will be handing out pamphlets, cold calling and doorknocking, campaigning and driving a Tarago with a loudspeaker on top, all in the name of turning the public around and getting the lot of them behind the Robbie Deans cause.

(I will probably leave Campo alone though, as he seems deluxe cheesed.)

So to those dismayed in green and gold, it starts this Sunday morning against the Poms.

C’mon Australia. Help save the Dingo!

Australasian rugby’s 120 year swap meet

In the aftermath of the Brisbane Bledisloe break-even, my celebratory crooning of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was abruptly muted by a snappy Steve Hansen jab to the patriotic solar plexus.

Obviously sick to death of fielding questions about the grouse feats of Aussie Mike Harris, the All Blacks coach retorted with a few choice lines about Australia’s penchant for chucking second-tier Kiwi jumbucks in the swag and shipping them back across the Tasman.

Understandably, he doesn’t like the thought of having some of his choice livestock grazing inside the enemy paddock and boosting the standard of the Australian flock, nor does he enjoy when some of them are brazenly re-branded in gold and passed off as Vegemite kids.

I’m cool with that notion. Nobody likes to see an essay that is copy-and-pasted from Google, nor does anybody like to see the English cricket team full of South Africans. And most of all, nobody likes having their stuff pinched.

This got me thinking: is this hand-me-down arrangement we have with our cousins a two-way street?

In an attempt to brain this poser, I’ve used my time at work this week wisely by going over the New Zealand honour roll for any ‘discrepancies’ regarding re-badged produce that once wore the stamp of the boxing kangaroo.

In news that will skyrocket the Wallaby rugby ego: I managed to find some Australian All Blacks!

Ben Franks ducking down to Lygon St for a skinny cap and an acoustic show.

Ben Franks

This bloke has been heavy scrummaging artillery for the All Blacks over 21 tests, but in reality he should be playing for the Wallabies or at least in the forward pocket for Hawthorn. Franks said his first g’day to the world when he was born in Melbourne back in 1984, and I can only come to the conclusion that he saw Australia’s ocean-like depth in the front row stocks and decided the Shaky Isles was a better track to international rugby.

Steve Devine

Devine was a talented halfback who spilled plenty of sweat for the NZ cause as an Auckland stalwart and a 10-test All Black, even though he cut his teeth in the rough streets of Boggabri in NSW. To make matters worse, he’s now a talented television presenter on Sky TV in his adopted homeland, meaning that we here in Australia missed out on someone who could be on the box instead of Greg Martin.

Derren Witcombe

Not only is this bloke memorable for his 5 tests for the All Blacks or the cool way he spells his first name, he’s also a household name in his birthplace of humble Hobart in Tasmania. There’s not much you can nail on Witcombe for taking the small paddle from the Apple Isle to New Zealand to play some footy; I’m pretty sure there’s absolutely nobody playing rugby in Tassie, so what other choice did he have?

Sam Harding

Take a trip to the far reaches of Perth and the moment you step from the plane you’ll hear names like Ben Cousins, John Worsfold and Sam Harding. The tough-as-nails Subiaco flanker wasn’t able to break in to the ranks of the WA Aussie Rules scene, so he left behind the questionable nightlife of the western seaboard and embarked on a memorable rugby career in New Zealand, which yielded a solitary test cap against Fiji.

Steve Devine demolished the Boggabri rep scene.

Scott McLeod

This man is an NZ rugby mainstay with 17 tests for the All Blacks and 44 Super 12 games for the Chiefs, as well as having a few fingers in various coaching pies in the current day. However, the fact of the matter is he should be imparting knowledge to sprouting youngsters here in the Australian system, as he was born a dinky-di banana-bender back in 1973 in the sun-bashed capital of Brisbane. Again, an understandable departure considering he had to deal with Queenslanders as a child.

Honorary mentions

Des Connor (Born 1935 in Brisbane, 12 caps for NZ and 12 for Australia), James Tilyard (1889 in Waratah, Tasmania, 10 NZ caps), Billy Mitchell (1890 in Melbourne, 5 NZ caps), Alfred Eckhold (1885 in Adelaide, 3 NZ caps) and William Mackrell (1881 in Milton, NSW, 1 NZ cap).

The Australasian swap meet carries on to this day after 120+ years of wheeling and dealing and stealing.

Gentlemen. Shall we call a truce after the pilfering of Harris?

The Wallabies are back, baby!

When you’re famished after trying to survive on nothing but basic rations for a while, it’s tough to muffle your excitement when someone unexpectedly hands you a ham sandwich.

That’s why after reaching some long-awaited parity with the All Blacks on Saturday night, I’m declaring with a sound mind and a gutful of delirious bravado that the pesky storm supposedly hanging over Australian rugby has now transformed into a beautiful rainbow sporting all of the trimmings of a hopeful future.

Yep, you know where this heat-of-the-moment rant is headed. In the words of Frank Costanza (if he followed rah-rah), I’m saying the Wallabies are back, baby!

Holding the rugby sovereign to a try-less draw in a unimportant dead rubber Bledisloe match was the endorphin-shot the team required to pump up the faith in Robbie Deans’ system and finally get the country feeling good about our first XV again.

Mike Harris. Aussie battler.

Let’s get real. One swallow definitely makes a summer and you’re only as good as your last game, so lets hang the hat on the solitary 80 minutes from Suncorp and celebrate the good times that are ahead!

After Saturday’s 18-all stalemate, our injury-riddled outfit has proven they can avoid defeat with the best of them, so put a welding mask on because the future is bright.

The re-awakening started up front with the Aussie forwards predatory at the breakdown, proving within 80 minutes that they’ve finally turned the corner in the intensity stakes. Lead by the anti-pensionable Nathan Sharpe, the man who won’t be around for said good times, an A-grade performance of passion and desire was produced which gave the impression that matching the All Blacks in the ruck will now be par for the course.

Add the prospect of unearthed youngster Michael Hooper combining forces with the inspirational David Pocock upon his return from injury, and BOOM, you’ve got yourself a Richie McCaw antidote. Advantage!

And what about Mike Harris? It was a super-steely showing from the true blue Aussie-Aucklander with his competent punching of anxious penalty goals and assured play at the back when the pressure was immense. He’s got the look of a long term marksman, and to add further gloss, he even keeps the traditionalists happy as a pawn in Australia’s continuing procedure of pinching anything of value from the Kiwis and passing it off as our own.

I’m not going to stop the dangerous predictions there, so let’s add the always-welcomed burden of expectation on young buck Ben Tapuai also, who looks the business as a rampager in the centres, as well as Kurtley Beale’s move to 10 which appears a less catastrophic option than Quade Cooper, even allowing for his pang of dropsies on the weekend.

A draw has never been so flaming enlightening. It’s got the Spring Tour looking more like something that has the potential to be actually enjoyable and encouraging rather than 4 possible banana peels seen on a shocker of a time difference.

I know I will feel a lot better rising at 1am for cereal beers knowing there should be a fierce and proud performance like Saturday night’s dish.

OK, I acknowledge that you may all be wondering how one can be so cock-a-hoop after a sister-kisser result in a dead rubber of a series that Australia were defeated in. You may also think that I have run out of medication.

Sharpey retiring was just like old times.

Well, my response is as follows: it wasn’t just the rousing display from the XV that has me whistling. There were mini-factors which seasoned Saturday night’s game that confirmed for me that Australian rugby was feeling like a cosy security blanket again.

With a Queensland-based Wallaby reverting to the dark arts in a daft attempt to rough-up McCaw, Sharpe again retiring and Eddie Jones featuring in the tabloids with controversial comments on Sunday morning, all seemed right with Australian rugby again.

Pure Nostalgia.

C’mon Australia, no time for rational judgement and cool heads, it’s time to go off early and get back on the bandwagon.

We’re back!

 

 

Why is Richie McCaw’s chest a billboard now?

As a boofhead of Australian descent, I am always reluctant to comment on matters of importance relating to our kin from across the Tasman.

However, in this situation, I think it’s pretty safe to go on the record with this bombshell: New Zealand rugby fans appear to be somewhat henpecked about the new sponsorship deal for the coveted All Black jersey.

“Go the All Blocks.”

For so long one of the last remaining hidey-holes from commercial intrusion, the All Black jersey will now relinquish it’s membership in the unstained apparel brotherhood after the NZRU succumbed to the buck and whored out the prized cloth space to multinational elephantine AIG.

Across the ditch, the decision has been met with a fair deal of rotten fruit.

The All Black jersey is recognised in all corners of earth as a uniquely powerful brand for rugby arse-kicking. It has relentlessly rucked the back of world rugby’s subordinates for 107 long years, and for 95% of this time has done so with the trunk commercial free.

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew has defended the decision to flay the kit with the corporate brush, stating that playing rugby is a bloody expensive business with its costly mattress-sized goal post pads and steeply-priced ongoing rights to the feelgood anthem “The World in Union”, and that the controlling body needs all of the capital support it can get.

Now pardon my lack of smarts, but hasn’t partaking in regular big-ticket ruggers been a drain on the purse for eons? So why now is the NZRU holding out the hand for some spare change?

One would immediately assume that the joint is totally impoverished and in need of an immediate injection of capital at all levels, but taking a gander at the NZRU’s financial position provides further mystification with the organisation posting a $9.6 million profit last year. To some, that’s ‘time to layby a portion of the Cayman Islands’, but to Tew it means batonning down the hatches for some belt-tightening selling of the soul.

Another possibility is that their football department needs some new toys and a coat of paint, but with the world champion national men’s team on a 14 month winning streak and 8 points clear on top of the IRB rankings, the Sevens side running second on the current circuit and the women’s outfit also reigning world champs, it appears doings are in a fairly golden state of cherry ripeness at ground level with the Gilbert.

In their current climate of near-perfection, a blank cheque for the sports science white-coat brigade or a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art training facility could manifest itself as an increase to the regular winning margin over the Wallabies to 20 points from the usual 17. Is that a reasonable return for the strip’s integrity?

Couldn’t Tew just sell a few spare Bledisloes to settle his pecuniary paranoia and keep Richie McCaw’s torso free of this mercantile malfeasance?

To make things even more bitter, the selection of sponsor has the Kiwi teeth gnashing like they’re in an never ending Dunedin winter, with the choice of a faceless corporation who carries a historical rank spot of financial failure going down like Felix Baumgartner with the faithful.

Steinlager. The tasteful choice.

Surely if the space was going to be flogged off, the keys to the cherished real estate could’ve gone to an iconic Kiwi brand. As an Australian, we love to emblazon our national teams with booze companies to remind the world we are frequently soused, so why not the equivalent such as a Tui or Steinlager to make a heavenly marriage with the coveted apparel?

Nope, instead the NZRU has opted for a relatively-unknown global money-spinner whose name contains the word ‘America.’ Weird.

I cringe at the possibility of awkward cross-promotional press conference moments involving some clueless Yankee suits attempting to wax about “The game they play in Hereford” and the commitment to the ongoing success of the “All Blocks.”

The fans over the Tasman, some of the most devoted and maniacal on the planet, deserve better. As does the game in the country as a whole.

New Zealand rugby had a wonderful legacy that separated them from the rest of the chasing pack and had them as perennial front runners in rugby values.

Unfortunately, it seems everything has it’s price these days.

The All Blacks are killing world rugby

There are various ailments in the game of rugby with the ability to undermine the health and wellbeing of its international scene and I’m certain they would be causing many restless nights in the sleeping quarters of the IRB front offices.

If we could take a look inside their global rugby medical journal, you can bet we would see a number of hazardous diseases on the watch list that have been marked with the red pen of concern by the top brass.

Chalk them up for another 6. Minimum.

Of course, there would be your modern day sureties; the rising threat of uninspiring pack-based game plans, the fogginess created by mystifying breakdown laws and Greg Martin’s commentary, just to name a bone-chilling few.

However, all of these currently manageable contaminants look like influenza college dropouts in comparison to the latest sophisticated and seemingly unstoppable assault on the rugby immune system.

And the most chilling aspect will frighten the cauliflower ears right off the most hard-boiled melon: this looming threat is also the game’s most admirable and respected antibody.

It’s bloody New Zealand.

For so long the cherished remedy to bland rugby and big boss insomnia, it’s the All Blacks that are now killing the attraction of world competition with their petrifying combination of galactical standards and immense hunger for success, which is repeatedly resulting in the predictable pulping of oppositions the world over.

Reasonable balance is being slowly pilfered and this can be seen in numerous ways.

Firstly, I refer you to the entirely accurate and watertight yardstick that is the IRB world ranking system which has our oft-vanquished and forever-blamed Wallabies currently perched in 2nd spot.

Besides conveniently upholding a country’s recent affinity for the bridesmaid’s position, 2nd place’s main directive is to provide those in 1st position with their sternest test, right?

At this point in time, there isn’t even a kindergarten pop quiz being applied. The All Blacks leave the Wallabies looking like nothing more than a gaggle of leather-clutching witches hats, anchored tackle bags and harmless reincarnations of video footage due to their disgracefully supreme invincibility.

Australia: again producing number twos on the weekend.

They haven’t let Australia put a grubby fingerprint on the Bledisloe for 10 years, and they even kept them scoreless for the first time since 1973 on the weekend just gone.

What’s it saying when the second best team in the world can’t even spring for a couple of morale-lifting tries?

Secondly, cast your mind back to the slap across the world’s chops that was the 2nd Test between the Kiwis and Ireland earlier this year.

The majority of our brethren across the Tasman were all a-dither because an opponent was able to get within sniffing distance of breaking even for a draw, when in reality their team was below their best and still managed to pinch the cash.

I can only dream of what it must feel like to worry after winning a Test match.

To put this dithering further into perspective, this was a result that was book-ended with a pair of cruel demolitions of the poor Fighting Irish, a team that hasn’t beaten the All Blacks in 107 years of competition. It just makes me green and gold with envy.

Where does this leave the aspirations of the chasing pack? Would someone please think about the fading heartbeat of the international game?

And you can forget about that coveted last bastion of the New Zealand World Cup bogeyman.

That once-reliable mental baggage was washed away with 250 Steinlagers flowing straight from the Webb Ellis Trophy on that famous Auckland evening last year, so who would be surprised if they went on their demon-free merry way and won the next 6-10 World Championships?

The fact of the matter is that the All Blacks exist in a separate stratosphere of ability to their rivals and it may not even be worth trying to beat them anymore. I’m sorry, but I can’t see anywhere in my crystal Gilbert a time where the rest of the planet can entertain thoughts of being top dog.

So that leaves one question. What’s the IRB going to produce as an antidote to allow the rest of the world the ability to don their national colours with at least a smidge of hope?

It’s time to shelve the research into the anti-venom for Martin’s commentary and work this out very quickly.

 

Rivals quiver as Crusaders coil

The Crusaders are now officially lurking around the 2012 Super Rugby winner’s hardware. They are rubbing their hands together and gravitating towards the prize like a porky kid’s stealthy approach to a buffet.

Over the last month or so, they have been posting reminders to the rugby universe of who they are.

Dagg. A rare image of him being hauled in.

Reality-checkers have been mailed to those who have enjoyed top billing from the public and bookies so far in 2012 and flyers sticky-taped to power poles to warn everyone else that they’re on their way.

It seems now they are ready to exercise their full rights to ownership of this competition and the choccies it bestows upon it’s champion.

I’m admonishing myself for letting them slip from my memory as the shadow of the Chiefs and Stormers expanded this season. But I guess I can be forgiven after the modest beginnings of the Canterbury campaign this year.

Trying to take care of business in the early stages minus their sovereign talent duo of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter turned out to be a testing gig, and this showed with their uncharacteristic 3-3 record after 6 rounds.

Add to this the conceivable hangover of a sapping 2011 tilt where they were training on tarmac and playing home games in transit lounges, and it was natural for you to think that this could be one of those rare years where they just clock off and have a well-earned spell.

Nobody could begrudge them a basement season or two- their trophy cabinet is even crying out for a Milo and a lie down- but it’s not the case.

The talented buggers are back and causing the title appellants to quiver. But really, is anyone surprised they’ve emerged from the bushes with a big stick?

Last night, they clinically flicked the playoff-aspiring Highlanders to the trash can with a 51-18 clobbering.

The Mr. T haircut adds a level of fright to Robbie Fruean that is simply unfair.

It was another short educational session on the scary and domineering Crusader vintage; a mosaic of surgical finesse, nasty power and spotless class for the full 80.

This takes their recent form line to 6 wins from their last 7 outings, which includes 2 trips past the half century and the mantle-worthy scalps of the Stormers and title-defending Reds.

They’ve now quietly sneaked into the party and are eyeing-off the seat at the head of the Kiwi table currently occupied by the Chiefs after boosting to within 2 competition points of the leaders.

There’s no doubt this will have the Waikato outfit’s swagger going from their current flowing Fonz-like gait to a more cautious and stiffer style of movement.

I also highly doubt that the South African conference front-runners will be bashing the jukebox in excitement either at the Christchurch team’s recent bout of attention-seeking.

The round 17 clash between the NZ heavyweights will be a monstrous traffic-stopping showdown and surely an unofficial conference final that will cease society’s operations in general for a couple of hours across the Tasman.

Zac Guildford: trying the impossible task of blowing smoke rings on the run.

The Canterbury resurgence is driven by it’s diamonds. Their blue chip talent is heating up at the pace of an angry stove and it’s timed like a pedantic Swiss watch.

Israel Dagg, Robbie Fruean and Zac Guildford have been fine silk recently and their fire-eating forwards, lead by the world class Kieran Read, are unfairly hungry and war-like at times with the way they ride roughshod over rival packs.

And we haven’t even mentioned the once-in-a-generation Carter and McCaw who are of an even higher gold-mark than those mentioned above. It really is unfair in some ways.

Some may argue that the break for international commitments could stymie the snowball they’ve rolled. But it’s not as though the nucleus and it’s combinations will endure a massive deconstruct for this time as the majority will still be plying their trade together, only in a different coloured jersey.

The clutch rugby kings and their indomitable culture is once again flexing it’s considerable muscle at bean counting time.

It may feel like the 2012 Crusaders are a snake slowly climbing the ladder after a dozy opening.

Take a closer look. You will see they are a crafty rugby serpent that has been quietly coiling in preparation to strike when the time is right.

Rebels provide biggest bubble in weekend of upsets

Local ball sports experienced more boilovers this weekend than a TAFE cooking class.

But I’m adamant that not even the most clinically insane followers would’ve expected the unforeseen bubble and fizz result of the Rebels win over the Crusaders.

It was one of those results that make you think you’ve actually drunk more than you thought on a regular Saturday sitting of footy and refreshments.

Your pickled brain drives you to quickly stumble out the door so you can trawl through your yellow recycling bin to do a recount on the stubbie intake for the evening.

Nick Phipps about to be wedgied.

But even after all of the eye-rubbing and crooked calculation of standard drinks is finished, the result was still there blazing like a beacon for reality in the top right-hand corner of your screen. It proudly stares you in the face as your muddling tormentor and sends your mind on a mad search for something comparable. 

Trust your VB-soaked pupils, as you are not hallucinating. This is an Australian union miracle.

Was what transpired at AAMI Park on Saturday night the biggest upset in Super Rugby history?

The most successful franchise in competition history, crammed to the back teeth with blue chip Kiwi talent and on a run of 6 wins in 7 games up against a bits-and-bobs outfit from a kindergarten-level rugby city with 1 lonely win in their last 6 outings.

An organisation with a plush and velvety history of repeated success against a mob who only decided on their team colours a few years ago.

The Melbourne Rebels, so easy to lash as the poster boys for the lack of depth in Australian rugby since becoming the nation’s 5th hungry mouth needing a talent feed, somehow came from behind and then closed out a stunning victory against the Crusaders, the biggest and scariest dog in the pound.

These sorts of match results have been known to spike the numbers of inquisitive phone calls to the WADA switchboard or the SANZAR anti-corruption unit in the past.

Crusaders lament a missed wedgie as Beale skips clear.

Fair enough, the Crusaders began the match with internationals Israel Dagg, Ben Franks and Kieran Read inside windcheaters on the pine, but the gulf in class between the two outfits on the team sheets was still Grand Canyon-esque.And it appeared to be a stock standard evening at the work depot for the Christchurch outfit when they defied being on the wrong side of possession and territory to lead 19-10 at half time.

However, only medically-diagnosed fruitcakes and the most rusted-on and delirious of the Rebel’s small but resilient supporter group could’ve dreamt of the astonishing and unlikely froth of the second half.

On the back of a sparkler from Kurtley Beale, a reminder post-it note performance to Robbie Deans from Nick Phipps and some tireless beavering from Hugh Pyle, the Rebels were able to defy arguably the entire international rugby community by keeping the Crusaders scoreless and romping to easily the most notable victory in their short existence.

So what was the spur in the Rebel rear-end that drove this rare rugby trinket for the ages?

I would like to say it was a brilliant tactical rug-pull laced with sparkling turns of dexterity, but it was mainly meat and potatoes rah-rah that got the job done.

Fundamentals like inspired and industrious defence, nabbing points when the opportunities presented themselves and having Danny Cipriani back in the UK  shagging saggy c-grade brit popstars and passing out at Spearmint Rhino nightclub for good.

Rebels coach and household rugby name Damien Hill described it as the ‘best win in the club’s history’, and duly so considering the stuff-all amount of times they’ve sung the team song.

In a weekend of heavenly uncertainty with Goliaths in all corners crying down the phone to their mums, the Rebels were the Davids that shone the brightest.

 

The thrill of Will to boost the ailing West

The Western Force can look forward to surviving on more than basic rations in 2013 with the news that gun scrum half Will Genia will be crossing the Nullarbor to call the shots out west.

Firstly, credit must go to his slick management and their SAS-style management routines for somehow keeping the pencil vultures unbeknownst right up until the cat was released from the bag.

Secondly, homage to Genia for a bold and ballsy rugby decision. Obviously the sizeable boost in bread helps, but this is an adventurous move to an underachieving team from the comfort zone of a structure that fostered him into a star.

Genia will be firing his bullets far far away. Will it be to anyone decent in the backline?

And you can hear the rugby faithful in WA begin to breathe again.

A couple of weeks ago, the joint was long-faced and looking potentially threadbare with the departure of coach Richard Graham and the grapevine suggesting that club icon David Pocock was also musing over nicking off inland. 

The franchise and it’s believers were preparing for existence as a charitable organisation who would be running business from beneath the rugby poverty line.

But if you believe in the domino theory, then this prodigious coup should ensure they will be living on a lot more than $2 worth of talent a day in 2013.

The Sunday morning rumour mill is now saying that Pocock is on the verge of hanging around also, which will give the Force a heap of pull and profile in and around the ruck as well as off the paddock.

Dave is sure to appreciate the extra Willpower, provided he hangs around.

With Genia setting up digs in Perth and Pocock deciding to hang, there’s no doubting that the Force brand will go from being unattractive and far-flung to a pheromone-releasing plausible performer and a tangy carrot to the best available coaching talent to replace the departed Graham.

Ditto for any available high profile players who are considering a change of employer.

This is the defibrillation that the Western Force needs.

Their committed and hardy fan base, who turn up in good numbers every home game, deserve this type of signing to remind them that their club is seen as a professional and potentially successful place by the top-line players.

The club currently treads water in Super Rugby, which is laudable considering their budget playing list.

They need the habit of winning to shore up their profile on the West Australian sporting panorama, and expensive items with champion pedigree like Genia will go a long way to making that happen.

Out of work Peter de man for fruity Australian rugby

I read today that former South African rugby coach Peter de Villiers is feeling “a bit useless at the moment” due to the world of union’s lack of interest in his services.

In recent times, the decorated gag-cracking rugby tutor is a dejected individual who spends his days flicking through the classifieds looking for a gig.

How could you say no?

Ever since he’s left his post as Springboks head coach, he’s been aimlessly moping around his house, wasting his bottomless catalogue of entertaining and controversial one-liners on nobody but himself.

To the game of rugby union as a whole, I say shame on you for standing by and allowing this to materialise.

PDV is the man who memorably slashes through the swathe of coaching rugby speak with customary fare such as:

“I am going to pull a rat out of a hat”,

“We are very organised at the moment. We do not want to become a fruit salad” and

“There is little difference between winning and losing except you feel better after winning.”

He’s the kind of dialogue artist that splashes fluorescent paint across the often plain and nondescript press conference.

Someone throw this man a rescue rope and drag him back into union. I know a perfect gloomy and weary audience for him to illuminate with his famed and celebrated rhetoric.

There’s nowhere in more need than our own backyard where local rugby performances have been weekend sleeping tablets of late, and there’s 2 particular organisations I’ve identified as perfect fits for PDV’s wisdom.

So to the backroom boffins at the Melbourne Rebels and the Western Force, this is your cue to get on the phone to the Republic and flash some stacks of Rand.

These 2 Australian outfits typify the doldrum state of provincial rugby in our proud nation at the moment.

The exact fundamental approach Australian provinces need right now.

The application and endeavour from both is evident; but let’s be frank. They’re not particularly exciting and they’re losing games.

What better stage for PDV to reunite with the game, and more importantly the microphone that misses the consistent injection of his unrestrained verbal gems, than at either Perth or Melbourne?

We all know Richard Graham is heading east, so the hot seat is vacant at the Force.

And even the most dyed-in-the-wool Damien Hill fan at the Rebels would have to recognise that PDV would bring a more appealing and spicy angle to the organisation which needs to be regularly firing flares in the engulfing ocean of AFL.

Both of these clubs and their fans need some international flavour, some success and some chuckles to go with the victory champers afterwards.

Perth and Melbourne, take my free advice. Give Peter a call and prevent the risk of becoming a fruit salad.

Get the pill to the…. loosehead?

Disconnect yourself from Google. Here’s a quick pop quiz without notice.

Who is the leading try-scorer in Super Rugby so far this season?

Big Tony enters the exclusive club.

For those unaware, I’m banking that the initial candidates that spring to mind are the orthodox try-line dominators. The men who in recent times seem to have commonly nestled in the habitat of the opposition in-goal. The men with double digits on their backs.

Is it Stormer speedster Bryan Habana, the man who has always dotted down like it’s shelling peas? What about Hurricanes retainee Cory Jane or the rejected Ma’a Nonu? Surely his anger at being shown the door at Wellington has been translated into some 5-pointers for the Blues in 2012?

One-eyed Aussie rugby fans would probably have the dynamic Digby Ioane or his fellow Red Dom Shipperley in their thought bubbles, or for the bigger dreamers, would you toss up new Waratah whippet Tom Kingston or baby Brumby Joseph Tomane?

Are any of these contenders at the crest of the try tree?

Arizona celebrating one of his half dozen.

If you guessed one of the predictable from above, then you have hooked your kick wide. You need to move your sights from the outer thirds of the paddock and start looking further infield.

Leading the list so far in 2012 is the Chiefs hulking loosehead prop Arizona Taumalolo with 6 eye-pleasing touchdowns.

You better believe it; a barrel-legged scrum brute with a low centre of gravity and a chest the size of a small utility is leading a chasing horde of whippy speedsters and line-running centres to the land beyond the posts.

I know it’s only round 6; but pack monsters around the globe are dedicating their 7th helping of mash at dinner tonight to their newest poster boy.

Taumalolo is the latest introduction to the front row brotherhood’s try-scoring hall of fame.

It’s rather bare inside, so it was easy to find him a place on the mantle right next to legendary prop scoreboard-cookers like Kiwi World Cup final hero Tony Woodcock, prolific ACT Brumbies ball-planting merchant Ben Alexander and one-time runaway Wallaby Greg Holmes.

And he’s got priors for harassing the scoring attendants; he scored Tonga’s only try in their 41-10 loss to the All Blacks at last year’s world championships.

And what’s the big unit’s key to success when it comes to burning a vapour trail across the stripe?

The answer is simple: he’s impossible to stop from half a yard out.

Greg Holmes burning green on his way to the brotherhood.

Forget Sonny Bill Williams, Richard Kahui and Lelia Masaga. The Chiefs want the greasy seed in the hands of the prop at the back of a stationery pile of oversized humans 80 centimetres from the promise land.

We may see a revolution in rugby backline play thanks to this fleeting statistical abnormality.

Picture this: the ball being spun through the hands out wide to a charging winger who snubs the tryline in order to hit the turf and create a ruck so the pointscoring whiz from the front row can finalise the pick, drive and plant for points.

Not quite. But at least for this week, the scrum pigs are finally getting their names up in the lights.

Sunny Saturday produces 3 course Super smorgasbord

Fans of the heavenly game from across the holy trinity of SANZAR nations were undoing their belts and letting their guts sag over the waistline on Saturday after gorging themselves on a 3 course helping of blue ribbon Super rugby.

It commenced in the brilliant sunshine of a priceless Sydney Saturday afternoon at Allianz Stadium when the lately-cheeked Waratahs packed down against South Africa’s powerhouse Sharks outfit.

Dean 'Don Burke' Mumm planting a Protea.

It was a game that had an eerily raised level of importance for so early in the season, mainly thanks to the previous round’s garbology tutorial delivered by the locals.

For pleasure-parched Waratahs fans, it turned out to be a daytime reverie of glossy cut-out passes, fierce phase-play and counterattacking razzle dazzle dotted with the occasional error from over-exuberant offense.

Despite a few clangers, this supermodel version of the game was welcomed with open arms after the lurid buck-tooth production against the Force a week earlier.

And the most appreciated aspect was the fact that the catwalk attitude didn’t compromise the sweat-shop substance.

The competition points were banked with a 34-30 pressure-relieving victory that was sealed with a late try to greenhorn flyer Tom Kingston after trailing the Sharks with 5 minutes to play.

Special tribute must also be paid to the hostile fend that Dean Mumm delivered on the run that was completed with a Shark facial soil plant that should see a small crop of South Africans sprouting from the Allianz turf within 4-6 weeks.

Fridge Fruean.

NSW fans were seen gleefully bounding out across Moore Park at full time, rubbing their eyes in disbelief after witnessing the bucking of local science that says games can only be won by playing the percentages.

The formula had been fractured, albeit in attacking-friendly conditions, and the faithful’s emotions were buoyed by the reality that the ball was given some rare oxygen, a feeling most probably accentuated by stadium chardonnay.

Following the setting sun in Sydney was the Crusaders v Cheetahs meeting from Christchurch.

It’s hardly a ‘cancel all plans’ prospect on paper, but this must be considered; this was the Crusaders finally concluding their phase of living rough by debuting at their new digs, as well as the reappearance of Kiwi rugby royalty in Daniel Carter after tearing his junk-muscle at the World Cup.

There was a spot of rust from both teams but counteracting the clog were some handsome tries from the Crusaders that were straight from the playbook of vintage backline moves that would’ve had the strictest defence junkies clapping.

The Cheetahs were enthusiastic party-goers themselves, throwing in a length of the field circus trick to contribute to the fiesta of positivity.

Jamie Mackintosh. At this size, he can swear as frequently as he pleases.

They could’ve been forgiven for being the flimsy tenpins at the Canterbury homecoming gala, but they continued the recent corrosion of their easybeat reputation with a strong and assured display that saw them parallel with the hosts right up until the death.

The Crusaders sent the faithful into rhapsody when semi-trailer centre Robbie Fruean latched on to the end of another sugary set of passes to crash over for the clincher in the 76th minute and complete another 5 try Super treasure with the final score at 28-21.

You could’ve been forgiven for getting horizontal with the hot water bottle after the madness of the first 2 games and giving the Brumbies v Highlanders game a wide berth.

But if you fronted up, you would’ve observed some more lateral ball movement that set the outer edges of the Canberra Stadium turf on fire in the challenging chill of the nation’s capital.

Christian Lealiifano was run off his feet with excitement.

The Brumbies continued their provincial rugby renaissance by torridly denying the Highlanders on the trenches of the try line in the closing stages and gallantly hanging on for a thrilling 33-26 triumph in front of their frozen-arse fans.

Some pundits were labelling this one of the games of the year so far for it’s flair and flamboyance.

And if this pro-rugby piece still isn’t enough to convert the haters, then here’s a tip: at least keep an eye out for knockabout Highlanders skipper Jamie Mackintosh and his post-match interviews. He drops cuss words like a well-oiled profanity robot and didn’t disappoint in closing the triple-header on Saturday night by describing the Brumbies breakdown work as ‘bloody top notch.’

A flamin’ fantastic way to bring down the curtain on a spectacular evening of thrilling eye-candy rugby.

Except for Waratahs supporters.

They were served a dessert of sorts with the spanking of the Reds in South Africa early on Sunday morning.

Spoilt and tormented? Just say Tah

Another year, another ulcer?

Or could we dream of releasing the esteemed Pinot blanc for a drought-breaking victory snifter?

This is the hard knock life for the supporters of the NSW Waratahs.

The devoted have become accustomed to the blended feeling of hopeful expectation and gut-wrenching concern over the years. It’s an icky emotion which is aggravated by performances which can be likened to sitting at a generously stacked manic depressive poker machine.

Rocky needs to work on his hide'n'seek skills.

We’ve witnessed the team go 12 rounds toe-to-toe with heavyweights such as the Crusaders before fronting up disjointed and drowsy the following week and being trampled by one of the 20 cent South African provinces in a siesta-inducing punt fest.

 
 
I’ve seen aristocrats from the north shore sobbing into their chardonnays with such frustrated force that their monocles have fallen off.

So what will Super Rugby 2012 bring for the spoilt and tormented in sky blue?

If there’s been one constant with the club, it’s that they’ve never had any issues baiting the big names to roll up and have a run. And it’s no different this year with a couple of big fish from the Australian rugby scene landing in town to ply their trade.

Well-travelled pack madman Rocky Elsom is here and he’s been given the captaincy. Except he’s out for the first 8 weeks.

Convenient.

Another valuable addition to the payroll is backline Mr Fix-it Adam Ashley-Cooper. He’s left the exhilarating lifestyle of the ACT for Tah-land to beef up our depth and keep the hyphenated surname quota up to scratch.

AAC and Berrick racing for parking spots.

There’s also the underrated Sarel Pretorius who topped the tryscoring charts last year with South Africa’s breadline Cheetahs team and a homecoming for barrister backrower Dan Vickerman.

On the other hand, there’s been a few who have had the temerity to depart our great rugby organisation.

Seeing a ruck and maul without breakdown viking Phil Waugh will just look downright weird, and conjuring sparks in attack without Wallaby wonderkid Kurtley Beale will certainly be causing new coach Michael ‘Axle’ Foley a few sleepless nights.

Sarel: where the f*ck did his leg go?

The campaign commences with a curveball that has swung on a right angle.
 
 
Playing the defending champions and detested rivals Queensland in a ‘home’ game at the characterless ANZ Stadium with a truckload of talent on the sidelines and an unproven captain would’ve added teeth-grinding to Foley’s already restless sleep patterns.

Drew Mitchell, Lachie Turner and Berrick Barnes will join Vickerman and Elsom in making up one mighty sick bay, whilst veteran benchie Daniel Halangahu will take the role of captain in a combination of circumstances that will have the Tahs faithful scratching the noggin right up until the final hooter.

An appropriately confusing way for the Super 15 to commence in bona fide Waratah style.

99 problems but a 10 ain’t 1.

ELD 2.0 SIZES UP THE TENNERS AFTER AN ECCENTRIC WALLABY 2011.

 

The Wallabies have put the lot of us through the emotional spin-cycle in the year just gone. 

Some practitioners of the heavenly game termed it ‘bipolar rugby.’

Quade

To ask that the last 12 months be largely categorised in some way would be inhumane to those with the task. There’s been shock losses, injuries, the unearthing of some precious stones and the return of a few of our favourite trophies. Some of us will smile and be thankful for the ride, while others will be lamenting another period of potential without performance.

The style has changed and the personnel is evolving. But to say our team has progressed to being a bankable outfit against lower-ranked sides and an authentic rival to the All Blacks might be met with some opposition.

The dollar-soaked poser is this: how do we know which Wallabies team is going to show up?

In a nutshell, Australian rugby experienced the following stimulants and depressants in one 2011 cocktail.

A fairytale Super Rugby title thanks to the Queensland Reds, followed by an insipid Wallaby loss on home soil to Samoa, then a drought-breaking Tri Nations title after beating the might and power of the All Blacks in the final match. This was topped with a group loss in the World Cup to Ireland which put our Webb Ellis aspirations in the porcelain, only for them to be fished out with a large toilet brush of good fortune when we beat the Springboks in the quarter-finals with a pittance of possession.

And then we all know what happened after that. And I’m buggered from merely recounting these matches in my head.

Bieber

One of the poster-boys for this zany rollercoaster of no-doze and plonk was the enigmatic Quade Cooper. Will he be the man to pilot the Wallabies forward in the hot seat at fly-half?

After the year was quietly closed out with a sound victory against the ever-improvi ng Welsh, the position which was once vice-locked as his for the indefinite future was up for sale. Tastier offers were made for the position and Robbie Deans appears interested to talk turkey.

Apostles of SSD: the ball is worming out of the back of the ruck, who do you want to laser the pill to at first receiver?

Quade: We all know the drill. Rocks or diamonds, and we prefer diamonds. Frame his form in the back-end of the Super 15 and he is the hands-down choice. These performances are the kind that deal-break tight games. Frame his form from the World Cup and the Wallabies will be playing 14 v 16. Then he’ll probably find himself at Parramatta.

Bezza

James O’Connor: A ripper talent who will be around the national system for years to come, it’s just a matter of where. And with Quade on the rehab table, he’s been the man touted as the saviour who can step-in and show a more stable style of creativity. Has the deft footwork and a capable long and short kicking game. Needs a haircut.

Berrick Barnes: The forgotten man of the Wallaby playmaker stocks. This is a guy who goes about his business with minimum fuss and maximum professionalism. Provides a more steady option in the hot-seat and meets his requirements in defence with a robust approach. However, in terms of looks and headaches, his melon is suspect.

Get creative, think outside the square, leave your thoughts below or get rucked ya scrumbag!

 

Old Brown dogs take.

Great to see a site where the better than average armchair critic can cut loose and let the educated sporting public of the world know what is on my mind. The rugby world cup is a true world showpiece in sport. If the IRB want this to remain a show piece , changes have to be made. First, tweak the rules a little to create more open running football. We want to see end to end ball movement. Some tries would be good as well. The points allocated fir penalty goals and field goals has to be revised. I’m over seeing teams win on penalties and usually this occurs due to the pandantic whistle blower. You didn’t roll away he says as he blows his whistle and awards a penalty. Wtf. Please tell me who can roll away with 500 kilo laying on them. Common sense please. Now I’ve work up a suitable sweat, can on.

Dane Eldridge Tries Hard

Contemporary rugby league surrealism and hot takes on Shane Warne