Bledisloe Cup: Time for on-field action to block out all the talk

2:30 pm on 10 August 2019

Opinion - Talk just gets cheaper by the day. That's across all walks of life, obviously, but let's just confine this whinge to rugby and this week.

Joe Moody

Joe Moody nears the tryline during a Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies at Eden Park last year. Photo: Photosport

There have been 'shots fired!' in Perth, apparently, where Australia coach Michael Cheika, who's previously been depicted as a clown, was reminded New Zealand opposite Steve Hansen also called him a mouse.

Irrelevant might be a better word for Cheika and what he's rendered the Wallabies.

So much so that, rather than talk rugby or assess the merits of the man's team, journalists just try and bait him now.

Let's subject Cheika to various indignities we'd never tolerate ourselves and then condemn him if he bites. Brilliant.

London, UK, 24 November, 2018
Australia's Coach Michael Cheika
during Test between England  and Australia at Twickenham stadium , London, England on 24 Nov 2018.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is a frequent target of journalists' baiting, commentator Hamish Bidwell says. Photo: AFP

We like to regard ourselves as fair-minded and even-tempered in New Zealand.

The fallout from events such as the All Blacks' 2007 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal defeat, or even the recent Cricket World Cup final, might suggest otherwise but never mind.

Michael Cheika is Australian and therefore fair game. Not so our All Blacks, though. No, it's time we got behind the boys.

They were awful in their recent outings against Argentina and South Africa but that was by design.

Those matches didn't matter, we didn't put our best team out and, oh, did we mention we're also bedding in some new systems?

So if you, dear fan, are too dim to appreciate all that, then you probably lack the subtlety to notice just how well Kieran Read's been playing lately too.

There's a variety of reasons for the All Blacks' sustained success. Among the more relevant is the external demand for excellence.

It's not enough for the general public that the team win. They need to win by a big margin while playing as close to faultless rugby as possible.

The All Blacks ought to beat Australia by 20 points tonight. That remains to be seen.

What's certain is that there will be a lot of nonsense talked and written afterwards.

The Wallabies are a poor side so, if New Zealand win handsomely, it means nothing.

No corner will have been turned, no player or coach will have been vindicated or redeemed. The All Blacks will simply have done what they should.

A close game or a loss? That'll be entertaining just to see the positive slant the team and their pals put on it.

Speaking of spin, it's a shame to see the print media increasingly becoming the publicity arm of broadcast networks.

If it's not admiring profiles of commentators and presenters, it's breathless announcements about the depth and breadth of their upcoming 'team' coverage.

It's a sad state of affairs when you'd rather listen to the referee than those being paid to commentate, but that's what it's come to for some people. That or just watching games with the mute button on.

More and more, the coverage seems to be about them rather than you. Their in-jokes, their nicknames, their membership of an exclusive club that you'll never belong to.

These groups of ex-players and back-slappers might be becoming more diverse, but they're no more inclusive. They're certainly not offering an objective view of the action out on the paddock.

That appears to be human nature these days. People want to insert themselves into the story or signify that they belong.

The death of a fine man such as Brian Lochore isn't a chance for a family to mourn or a nation to give thanks, but for people to position themselves.

In taking to social media to express their condolences, they don't celebrate a man's life so much as connect themselves to his achievements.

Drop in a nickname, and maybe an anecdote too, and it's almost as if the deeds were your own.

It's been a difficult rugby year to date. Super Rugby was sacrificed in the name of future All Blacks' success, while the Rugby Championship's hardly started with a hiss and a roar.

Hansen has said the Bledisloe Cup matters, though, and that tonight's line-up to meet Australia is pretty much his best.

Let's hope the action finally lives up to all the talk.