Woeful Wallabies not on their Pat Malone
When Australia’s universal good guy Pat Rafter makes Lleyton Hewitt look well-mannered, you know the Australian sporting universe has been turned on its head.
Everything went wrong for Australian sport this weekend. Everything. The NZ Warriors knocked Wests Tigers out of the NRL finals, Ireland beat the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup, Sri Lanka dominated the cricket, and the Davis Cup turned ugly on court and off.
Sheesh, even the early Melbourne Cup favourite is now a Kiwi horse. But let’s talk about the two that really hurt – the Wallabies and Davis Cup.
Losing to Ireland in the early rounds was pretty much the end of the world for Australia. As in, the end of the World Cup. Australia will likely now face South Africa in the quarter finals, then New Zealand in the semis.
Now, it just so happens that Australia has only ever met New Zealand twice in World Cups. Both times it was in the semis and both times we won.
In 1991, David Campese threw his famous no-look pass. In 2003, there was that brilliant Stirling Mortlock intercept, with salt rubbed into the wound by George Gregan’s cheeky “four more years”sledge.
All the same, who really believes we can beat them this time? Not anyone with any sense.
Sure, New Zealand are renowned World Cup chokers. But remember, they won their one and only World Cup on their own soil, way back in 1987. So they are not, repeat NOT, chokers at home. Not yet, anyway.
And we still have to beat reigning champs South Africa to get a chance at ‘em.
But let’s talk Wallabies. Or what’s left of them, anyway. Gee they were awful. Time and again, Ireland tackled so hard that they hoisted our players aloft, then promptly buried us into the turf. It was reminiscent of Irishmen in pubs raising pints of Guinness, then guzzling them down, then doing it all again.
On one occasion, Will Genia was flung back about 15 metres. The Irish also toyed with centre Pat McCabe.
Tellingly, McCabe said “he learned a few lessons in the first half”. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if he could have completed his rugby education before the world’s biggest tournament.
The rugby scribes won’t admit it because no one would keep reading their columns, but the World Cup is over for Australia, and Robbie Deans’ Wallabies are a shambles.
Deans earned his coaching stripes at the Canterbury Crusaders, winning five Super Rugby titles in nine years. A steady stream of monstrous sheep farmer’s sons from the world’s finest rugby nursery didn’t exactly hurt his cause.
Here in Australia, there is no such production line. Playing ranks are thin, in what is essentially a minority sport, played largely in private schools. Bottom line: great players, great coaching record. Average players, average coaching record.
Analyse it to death if you must, but if you’ve got a better theory, Deans himself would no doubt like to hear it. For all the brilliance of Quade Cooper, Will Genia and the Queensland Reds this year, the Wallabies still don’t seem tough enough up front.
Speaking of leaders who struggle with inadequate cattle, let’s turn to one Patrick Rafter, the former Australian of the Year who yesterday had one of the bigger whinges of the year at the Davis Cup.
Rafter, Australia’s Davis Cup captain, had a point. In fact, he had two perfectly valid points.
His whinge over the faulty beepy device that was wrongly calling “lets” was totally valid, though his tone was far too combative. His later whinges over the fading light was just as legitimate, though again, he was far too angry.
Where was the good-natured Pat of old? Where was the guy who won the New York crowd’s heart by repeatedly calling “sorry mate” when his ball tosses went awry against compatriot mark Philippoussis in the 1998 US Open final?
Pat’s rants at the ump weren’t nearly as distasteful as Serena Williams vile US Open outbursts last week, but it wasn’t a good look. And as mentioned, he made Lleyton Hewitt look placid, which is no mean feat.
Anyway, we finally lost the unlosable Davis Cup tie this morning. Here’s what we know. Hewitt is past it, Tomic ain’t there yet and Pat needs a lie down. What a shocking comedown of a weekend for Aussie sport, in the tennis and elsewhere.
On the positive side, at least the Australian teams are doing well in the AFL.
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