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Stirling Taylor talks about the impact of COVID-19 on Australian Rugby Union, especially with the Bledisloe Cup coming up.
Six years ago, the Brumbies, based in Canberra, finally beat the Highlanders at home in their Wellington fortress. That same year, the NSW Waratahs won their maiden title, with Bernard Foley living up to his name as the ‘Ice Man’, slotting a penalty conversion 45 metres out. Michael Hooper was only 22 years old and Adam Ashley Cooper was still carving up opposition backlines. It’s incredible how quickly things can change. In 2020, Australian Rugby is revealing signs of national superiority over our Kiwi opponents. Equipped with new talent and leadership, one expanding, external enemy stands in the way of glory: COVID-19. Will we ever get a chance better than this in the near future, to break a 17-year drought?
As another year passed onward from 2014, it was one more championship for a New Zealand based team in Super Rugby, and yet again, a disappointing Bledisloe Cup (the pinnacle of Australian rugby union) campaign on the Wallabies behalf. It took six years for the Brumbies to defeat New Zealand at home; six crushing years where near every time Australia crossed the ditch, we came home conceding 4 points, with our hopes of Australian glory dying out.
In 2015, Richie McCaw and the All Blacks raised the Webb Ellis Cup, packing the bags of Wallabies fanatics for four more long years. Now, in 2020, Australian Rugby is actually giving hope to fans both young and old, excluding the Waratahs who haven’t been a threat since their 2014 title. Canberra’s Brumbies fought hard to down Damian McKenzie and the Chiefs, while the Rebels got up against the Highlanders. On the Super Rugby ladder, our Brumbies lead against all Kiwi sides. Even the Queensland Reds almost managed to down the reigning premiers, posing the question, can Australian Rugby once again bring home the chocolates? Yes, the Bledisloe Cup.
Us rugby followers know that feeling all too well around August. Waking up hopeful the day of game one, donning the Green and Gold with pride, singing the anthem with mates by our side. We flock to the stadium, pubs, friends’ televisions with no shortage of hubris. 80 minutes later, the hooter sounds, the likes of All Blacks stars Barrett and/or Smith sending a final dagger into the hearts of our beer-stained jerseys. Rugby fans say that only a Bledisloe loss can put a grown man into tears! Yet, through all the pain and agony we have come back each year, 17 times, intending to prove our devilish consciences that they are wrong and that our Wallabies will reign victorious in the Trans-Tasman derby. For those out of the Rugby sphere, the Bledisloe cup is a contest of immeasurable comparison. Nothing can compare to experiencing a Wallabies winning campaign. Why? Because our generation has never truly seen one.
By virtue of Murphy’s law, it’s unsurprising that at the moment when Aussie Rugby shows signs of a new beginning; COVID-19 sends the globe into a widespread pandemic, postponing the Rugby calendar. Forget the toilet paper scarcity and the abundance of ridiculous Tik-Toks of renegading teens and the much over-hyped Tik-Tok star Charli Damelio, it’s increasingly likely that there will be nothing to watch on our screens this winter. Yes, in colloquial terms, the coronavirus is affecting many more important aspects of life in the grand scheme of things, although the subtle pleasure of sitting down on the couch after a long week and watching the game is going to be lost. So, “come on (World Rugby), don’t be shy, give us some more”!
As a rugby fan, I’m not alone when I say I will miss the weekends of Tom Banks returning a deep kick, showing off his fast feet and speed. What about the resurgence of James O’Connor; will we ever get to witness it again this season? Sure, I don’t mind sitting back and watching the NRL, but I’m almost sick of the high cross-kicks to the corner, the constant jabbering about Cameron Smith being the GOAT and Blake Ferguson’s backflip try celebration (even though I wish I could do it). The NRL plays to a different demographic, to say the least. While their skill can’t be denied, will the players ever learn to say more than “credit to the boys” and “we’ve talked about it all week”, after a great team win. Yes they are professionals on the field, let’s not delve into the off-season. Bad news, it’s only Round Two. Who will ever get sick of the K-Train, Tevita Kuridrani, running a hard line, or better still, Taniela Tupou putting on massive shots? Not me.
Our Wallabies could’ve triumphed over the All Blacks when they were most vulnerable; without the leadership of Kieran Read and most importantly, without the arrogance of coming off a World Cup winning campaign. We have a new coach and new youth, who know how to win and who thankfully haven’t been involved in our losing ways. The time for Bledisloe glory is now, so to Covid-19, please vacate quickly. Leave our rugby players alone, excluding the Waratahs; who have been ridden with a disease for a long time now, which is of a much higher calibre than yours.