an hour of glory

A French-sounding journaliste asked the question of Richie McCaw at the post-final news brief, ‘is it like they say? Victory has an hour of elation, then there is emptiness’.

It caused a little pause in Richie, I thought; in his eyes and response I think he knew exactly what she meant, but this was no time for that sort of downer to hit the headlines; Richie was too professional to fall into that trap and he assured us he still felt pretty warm inside and did not want this time to end. But in the answer he betrayed his heart. He did not want this time to end, but by the time he woke the next morning he would be facing the sobering thought that the tournament was over. The routine, organisation and sense of purpose would be over. The downer begins.

Sure the welcome home hoopla is a bit of a final upswing on the roller coaster ride, but really after that everyone will move on. The energy was in the battle; in the planning, preparations, training and in the game itself. Afterwards? And while New Zealand’s TV audience for the final no doubt numbered in the millions, the welcome home crowd will be well down on that.

There is a bit of a victim cry going up from some Dunedin quarters that the boys are not coming here for a parade. But realistically even on their first day home in Auckland only 2% of the population came to see them at the airport/ Victoria Park receptions. We would be lucky to get 10% of us in the Octagon for a welcome parade and if our city council’s planning and organisational efforts for the Highlanders welcome home earlier this year is anything to go by, we really have not got much of a drawcard to keep them on the road another day. Lets see what the City Council can do for Ben Smith who is our born and bred RWC15 hero; that should be a big enough event for us without the whole team turning up.

But in a week it will be just a trophy in the rugby union’s cabinet and from the moment it is placed there all anyone will think about is the next tournament. RWC2015 will be a a great piece of history, but history it is. RWC2019 is the only one that will be in our minds. Hanson only hinted that he might not be around after 2017 and the media were immediately (see what I did there?) full of profiles on our potential new coach. Sorry Shag, you are a legend but we are moving on already. Despite Richie being the heroic leader of the RWC11 and 15 campaigns, it seems that from the minute he stepped off the field on Saturday night all the media wants to know is the news of when he will retire. And the minute he makes that announcement he will join Shag in the history file while we speculate and get excited about who will be our new hero.

Maybe that is why the French can be a little blasé. a little shrug over something that we take so seriously. A trophy is not le Louvre nor la Tour Eiffel. The RWC final is not Waterloo.

But one thing I have decided after this tournament is to play to the whistle. Accept the referees’ calls without getting upset; without screaming ‘conspiracy’.  The anti-ref venom from the Australian media made me realise how unbecoming this practice is. In the old days of local referees we just accepted the South African referees were a tad biased and no doubt the New Zealand refs reciprocated. We all just accepted that was what home advantage meant. In the modern era of four professional, impartial referees and a plethora of cameras, if a referee wears an eye patch today you can be pretty sure it was officially supplied. And if the bookies ever influence a result, it will be through food poisoning not through referees. No doubt the RWC15 final was refereed much more leniently than the lead-up matches. But so it should be. This is a spectacle, this is entertainment. What a hollow result it would be if a team won a trophy while the opposition had lost one or more players to red cards. And so even though the TMO had eyes all over the place searching for fouls in all preliminary games, Kepu got away with one late and two high tackles, the second on Milner-Skudder included a neck roll and suspicious looking grab at the eye sockets, but this evaded notice as Nonu took off for his try from the recycle. Interestingly Nigel Owens was heard shortly after that asking Kepu if he was keeping his tackles down. The only justice in that incident is that Kepu was still only getting up off his fat arse when Nonu ghosted past him on his way to the line. Pocock also avoided a red card with his face stomp on McCaw; admittedly he was annoyed by Richie holding onto his boot, but in any other game that is a red card. The Aussie media also screamed that Smith’s yellow should have been a red (ridiculous) and Kaino’s high tackle should have been a card not just a penalty as called by Owens.

But neither the All Blacks nor the All Black fans would want a victory that had two Australian red cards.  What a hollow victory that would be. How flat would we feel ? (as the Aussies should have done when they could only score tries when we were down to 14 players). So even though the referees were not as strict and punitive as in the preliminary rounds, it was right to be more lenient in this final. And maybe there are other occasions that justify referees being given instructions for selective refereeing. In addition to such instructions from above, the referees cannot see everything in slo-mo replays as we do with MySky; so missing things is just part of the game. What a bore the game would be if refereeing was completely robotised by cameras.

So that is my RWC15 resolution; from now on to just accept the referees’ calls as part of the game, part of the unpredictability, part of the roller coaster excitement that draws us to these games. That is until that bloody Wayne Barnes ever refs another of our games or some other useless one-eyed bastard makes some ridiculous bloody decisions.

Anyway, that is a side issue, so will it be Kieran Read or Sam Cane to take over the captaincy from old whathisname ?


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