So here we are again, in familiar territory.
On the eve of a Bledisloe Test with Australian confidence rising. Dunedin proved the gap was closing. If the Wallabies follow that trajectory then they will win in Brisbane on Saturday, right?
But as any Wallabies fan, or lapsed Wallabies fan, will tell you – it’s not the losses that kill you, it’s the hope.
Let’s be frank. The Wallabies’ recent history against the All Blacks is disgusting. Since the 2003 World Cup there have been 41 Tests and the Wallabies have won six. That record makes NSW look like a decent Origin side. And the upshot is that it has damaged Australian rugby. The frequent clashes against the All Blacks has caused a form of sporting trauma. They are not helping any more, they are hurting.
Don’t believe me? Witness the Australian schoolboy representatives now choosing contracts in New Zealand rather than in Australia. Setting asides the ethics of these raids (which seems a bit like the Sheriff of Nottingham robbing Robin Hood) how did we get to the point where a youngster sees more room for development across the ditch?
That is the danger of having your self-esteem set by results against the most dominant side in sport. Australia are not being elevated by the frequency of the contests, they are being reminded of their flaws.
For the average Australian sporting punter it is the All Blacks or bust. Sure, it would be nice to go over to England and stick one up Eddie Jones at Twickenham next month but without any recent Bledisloe success the masses have been been convinced the Wallabies are second-rate.
There is a terrible unfairness about this. The Wallabies are better than most Australians give them credit for, it’s just that they are competing in a brutal global market. And besides, every Wallabies player who puts on the jersey gets compared not just with his peers but with an All Black champion from an era of unusual dominance.
“Gee that Jack Dempsey goes all right.”
“Yeah, but he’s no Jerome Kaino or Liam Squire in contact, is he?”
“True. Needs to work on his physicality.”
See the trap we all fall into? Wallabies players who are just making their way in the world are told pretty early they are below where the bar has been set.
I think it has broken some players. I think there some good Wallabies in the current team who do not believe deep down they can consistently beat the All Blacks. I think they look across at the haka and think they wouldn’t get into that team. I also think they are under-selling themselves, but it’s what they think that counts.
Of course, there is still a chance the Wallabies will beat the All Blacks in Brisbane. At the start of the year had you offered Michael Cheika the chance to take them on minus Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Nehe Milner-Skudder you wouldn’t have had to wait long for an answer.
That is a lot of talent, and experience. Plus the Wallabies have made some gains over course of The Rugby Championship. I am also among the minority who thinks that rain or greasy conditions would benefit the Wallabies and curtail the All Blacks’ offloading game.
But what cost another loss, especially now that hopes have been raised? If the Wallabies cannot beat a relatively inexperienced All Blacks side – Israel Folau has twice the number of caps than the All Blacks’ back three combined – then where?
The answer is sadly back into another three-Test campaign next year, with two Tests in New Zealand. This is the reality of a long-term deal locking in the three-Test series until 2021.
It has come at a heavy price. The frequency of the losses has diminished the Bledisloe, not enhanced it. Australia would survive on two trans-Tasman Tests a year. It may even be one step towards rebuilding some self-esteem.
The motivation behind the three-Test model was sound enough but it has been self-defeating. Instead, it has come to represent a mixture of overkill and roadkill.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.