THE Wallabies have come a long way, no question. World Cup winners in 1999, runners up to Jonny Wilkinson four years later, but they’ve been on the stink ever since, barely winning a thing.
Sure, the record books will have them as the second best team at this tournament and that’s probably fair, mind you Scotland were the better side two weeks back, so best of the rest is probably more fitting.
But whilst Australian coach Michael Cheika has won awards and acclaim for his performance and in defeat the media has praised the side for taking it up to New Zealand and getting so close, in reality it wasn’t close at all.
Ben Smith, the All Blacks full back, warranted his ten minute spell and in the ensuing period of 15 vs. 14 the Wallabies piled on two converted tries to narrow the margin to within one score, it was game on.
And sure, anything could have happened from that point and there were many nervous Kiwis back home as surely, it couldn’t happen again, lose the un-loseable?
But in essence it was a masterclass from the men in black and where plaudits for the Wallabies narrowing the gap to their Tasman rivals are from a good place, they are sadly mistaken, there is still considerable daylight between the two teams.
In fact the daylight is so profound it’s incumbent on a government to impose daylight savings on that daylight to make the very most of it.
Over the 80 minutes the score line reads 34-17. If we take out the ten minutes where the Wallabies played with a man advantage, the rest of the game sees the score 34-3, that’s a romp in anyone’s language, the sort of score you’re likely to see in a pool game between a serious rugby country and a soccer-mad country making up the numbers.
The Wallabies were lucky against the Scots, the Scots were robbed let’s be honest, and sure wins against England and Wales were reassuring, the Poms are as good at rugby right now as Volkswagen at honesty and the Welsh did everything they could to not win that clash.
Absolutely, the Wallabies are improving, the Wallabies are a team to be proud of and credit where credit is due, Cheika is doing a superb job, but any idea that the All Blacks are in sight, not even close.
YOU know that feeling when you think your partner wants to split up but wants to wait for the right time and you linger on in an awkward nothingness until then?
Cue the A-League and the Wellington Phoenix relationship.
Let’s put the facts on the table up front. The FFA wants to have all its teams in its now rather embedded and burgeoning competition in the one country.
Wellington is a city in New Zealand. That won’t work.
The A-League hasn’t got an outstanding candidate for a new club like it did with Western Sydney only a few years back so instead of scrapping the Phoenix this off-season, they have offered them a four-year extension on their expiring franchise license purely giving itself time to find such a candidate.
Now whilst the FFA won’t go on public record with that plan even Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles can see that is the idea behind closed doors so those across the ditch who are fond of the ‘Nix are less than pleased.
It’s a shambles, not so much in that this public cold war between a guilty FFA and stubborn Wellington has no rosy makeup in sight, but why the FFA hadn’t better planned for this situation.
The license has been expiring for some time now and I don’t think there’s any issue if the league has sound reasoning for wanting ten Australian clubs going forward, it’s harsh on the Phoenix but it does stack up.
But to offer the four year extension where ten years is the usual minimum smacks of incompetency.
Why hasn’t a third Sydney team out of Cronulla or a second team in Brisbane been worked at, hard, in the previous 18-24 months to be ready for the vacancy a departing Phoenix would leave into next season?
Wellington are a well-run club and have shown to be going in the right direction not just off-field but on-field too. Could a Cronulla-based team, the fifth in NSW, or a rival to Brisbane Roar, really do much better?
If a New Zealand based team is so detrimental to the league’s success, then kick them out at year’s end and if nine teams is the result, so be it
Otherwise, give the ‘Nix the ten years and if a credible, quality expansion opportunity arises in the following decade, go to 11 or 12 clubs and review the Wellington situation in 2025.
THERE’S a test match Thursday, it only seemed like footy grand finals were just last week but alas, the Kiwis are in Brisbane and a Gabba test is upon us.
But don’t be concerned if you blame being still in footy mode if you’re scratching your head at the Australian batting order, it’s essentially brand new and a total unknown commodity.
Captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner are the only two in the top seven that cricket fans will instantly recognise and be confident in, the other five are all misnomers or queries.
Joe Burns will open with Warner, a supreme talent whose only exposure was a couple digs in the middle order last summer. An opener by trade for Queensland, he is someone to persist with, but the new swinging ball in the test arena could easily catch him out.
Usman Khawaja is back, and at the number three position. Didn’t do that well to be honest last time he was given a test cap and hasn’t blitzed the Shield competition since, so whilst he has no question one of the best techniques and temperaments in Australian cricket, that doesn’t automatically lead into scores. He will need them and he is qualified to do so but who knows?
Down the order at five, six and seven are Adam Voges, a 37 year-old who is luckier than anyone who somehow got on Prince of Penzance, very little runs and older than time itself, Mitch Marsh, immense talent, hasn’t scored many runs or taken many wickets yet though, and Peter Nevill, the new Australian gloveman who shows promise but certainly isn’t anything near Adam Gilchrist.
Scoring runs was a problem in England, but with so many question marks over the batting order for the upcoming summer, cricket in this country is begging for one of those aforementioned to leap out and make a name for themselves because if not, this might be a dreary run for cricket the next few years.