The Tuesday Morning Quarterback dissects the weekend’s sporting happenings with the clarity of an anthem singer who has forgotten the lyrics.
It’s truly fitting that the rugby league’s first stand-alone representative weekend saw the Kiwis and England join the mile high club, while the Aussies stayed at home and played with themselves.
The Kiwis and England travelling long-haul to a foreign clime for the privilege of smashing each other at 1600m above sea level in an attempt to spread the gospel, while New South Wales and Queensland played out State of Origin match number 108 at Sydney’s Stadium Australia, pretty much says it all about the crippling insularity of the game’s behemoth powerbroker, the National Rugby League.
Of course, Sunday night’s Blues’ clincher was the greatest Origin match ever played, if not the greatest sports contest, period. And there was a sop to international footy in the form of Tonga playing Samoa at the magnificent sporting edifice that is Campbelltown Stadium, so everything worked out just dandy. At least that is how the NRL will see it.
What should the rest of us make of it all?
For starters, any doubts about the merits of a league test in Denver were quickly erased during the national anthems. There’s no sacrifice too great when the return is a national anthem sung that poorly.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s a must listen.
“That will just about go down as the worst rendition of the New Zealand national anthem that I’ve ever heard at a sporting event, very disappointing,” offered stunned SKY commentator Glen Larmer.
“It was so bad Shaun Johnson was quizzed about it. Johnson, of course, was nowhere near Denver, with the Warriors having taken the sensible decision not to risk their injury-bedeviled linchpin.
“If I’m being honest, it was really disappointing,” said Johnson, simultaneously giving it to us straight and making us wonder what he’d lied to us about in the past.
“There were boys there who played their first test that are going to remember that game for a long time and that got tossed up.”
Much the same, of course, could be said of the final 50 minutes of a game the Kiwis started strongly to lead 12-0 only to crash to a comprehensive 36-18 defeat.
“I thought she was just off, but hey, things happen,” said Johnson (still talking about the anthem).
There was, in fact, plenty to like about the Kiwis’ first outing under Michael McGuire. A handful of the debutants put the shaky pre-match festivities behind them to notch impressive debuts, suggesting there is enough talent coming through to eventually plug the gaping holes left by the now seemingly permanent defections of a bunch of key players to Tonga.
The post-World Cup debacle rebuilding job will take time, but at least the raw materials are there.
England’s assured, professional display bodes well for more regular competitive matches at the game’s second top table, as does Tonga’s demolition of Samoa. If this continues, it’s even possible these matches might be elevated to the status of curtain raisers for Origin matches in future rep windows.
Throw in the anthem singer from Denver and we’ll have ourselves a rep window party.
Elsewhere in oval ball sports, Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium produced another compelling case for rugby as an indoor sport. The free-flowing nature of the All Black B-Team’s victory over the gallant, Gallic Frenchies was in stark contrast to the stodgy fare served up in the previous two tests.
It was fun, not quite in the sun but at least not in the pissing, freezing rain.
The match – and indeed the series – was really only marred by the persistent whinging of misguided Kiwis (Yes I’m looking at you twitter feed) about the relentless rogering our guests appeared to receive from the match officials.
This, of course, culminated in Dunedin with Irish referee John Lacy running a cunning blocking line as part of an All Blacks set play, and Justin Marshall completely losing his rag (before having to backtrack after having the rules explained to him).
This ill-conceived sympathy for the devil reflects poorly upon us a nation. Not only does it make us look glib and forgetful, like the atrocities of Marsden Wharf and Cardiff and Buck’s Scrotum never happened, it proves that we are world champion whingers, capable of moaning just as much when things go for us as against us.
Rain, shine or climate-controlled roofed venue, we’ll find something to complain about. “100 per cent pure?” 100 per cent moaning farts is more like it.