Last Saturday evening was an experience I will never forget.
Feelings of frustration, anger, hope and ultimately utter helplessness washed through me over the course of 80 minutes.
You see, I was supporting the Wallabies for the very first time. The Michael Cheika-coached Wallabies.
Being an All Blacks supporter living on the beautiful Gold Coast (there are but a few of us), never have I had the need, urge or want to support the men in gold. Last Saturday was different, I wanted them to win. I wanted them to stuff the English.
I was cheering names that usually escape my lips followed with a profanity.
Go Kurtley Beale, go Beale…he’s been electric tonight. Come on, David Pocock is all over that…and he’s on his feet this time. Michael Hooper, great positional play seagulling on the wing.
All vastly different statements from the norm when usually watching Australia. As a result, I had a snapshot of being a Wallaby supporter. It was hard.
Where to start? The omissions of the matchday 23 were interesting. The game was 20 minutes old when the realisation struck that Dane Haylett-Petty wasn’t in the squad.
Since Reece Hodge was suspended, Haylett-Petty has been one of the most impressive players in Australia’s pool games, so surely a bench spot was warranted. Another hyphenated name was missing. Why was Adam Ashley-Cooper not in the matchday squad?
The reasons for his original selection were a mystery in the first place, however, if a coach is going to select a veteran to go to a World Cup, the logic would be to play him.
Otherwise, it is a missed opportunity to expose a young player to a World Cup environment and gain some priceless experience. The constant change at number 10 was also an issue.
Throughout the tournament, the backline needed to have time to play together, to build combinations together, to gain continuity and confidence together.
As I sat head in my hands, muttering “don’t run from there, exit properly, exit properly…kick the bloody ball”, it dawned on me the plan was to run. Run the ball from anywhere on the field.
The complete lack of a plan B was absurd and completely unfair on the players and supporters.
How many times did Christian Lealifano kick the ball? Maybe twice. As a result, the Wallabies made errors and the English kicked points.
No team in World Rugby can run the ball all the time. Not even the All Blacks. New Zealand used more variation in the first ten minutes in attack against Ireland.
Kick long, grubber kick, Garry Owen, kick to the wing or run the ball…variation. Expecting players to run it from every position makes it obvious and predictable. It sets them up to be smashed.
After the final whistle, I felt another weird emotion, sympathy. Sympathy for Wallaby fans far and wide. This was a team that had the talent to knock over the English.
Unfortuanately, they had to play with a foot tied behind their backs and it was too much for them. This 80-minute experience was tough. The last four years must have been excruciating for the fans.
However, there is hope. As long as Rugby Australia appoint the right New Zealand coach, Australian Rugby will rise again. Cheers to the die hard fans of the Wallabies, you tough bastards.