Is Australian rugby really getting better?

Saturday night I watched Australia lose to the All Blacks again. Twelve years since we have held the Bledisloe Cup, and surprisingly it gets harder and harder each time. There is the argument that I should be used to losing to the men in black – after all, I’ve had more than enough experience in it. However, I’ve come to realise that being a Wallabies supporter means holding on to hope, no matter how insignificant or fickle it could be. That’s why at 5.30 last Saturday evening when I sat down to watch Michael Hooper lead the Wallabies out into the fortress that is Auckland’s Eden Park, I thought we could win.

To be honest, I think the occasion did get to the Wallabies a little bit. Their structure and poise, which they exhibited in the June tests, seemed to be forgotten. There was about 15 minutes when the Wallabies showed what they could do, but even then it wasn’t good enough to take it to the All Blacks. The Wallabies couldn’t even capitalise on having Richie McCaw sin binned for 10 minutes, failing to take any points away from New Zealand. In comparison, when Wallabies second rower Rob Simmons was sent to the bin, the All Blacks were able to put on two tries and a penalty goal. The Wallabies just didn’t have an answer.

I’ve now almost come to the conclusion that the Wallabies just aren’t good enough, and I need to be content with being worse than the Kiwis. We have the wood over them in any other trans-Tasman sporting event, but to me rugby is the one that matters. However, 12 years later, we still haven’t held the biggest and best trophy in international rugby. Beating the French 3-0 gave us all hope, and to an extent the rainy draw in Sydney did the same. In that game, though, the cracks began to show, with the Wallabies unable to convert their sheer weight in possession and territory into tries. It was in Auckland they opened like a fissure in the ground.

The groundbreaking moment for me was when Israel Folau scooped up a kick and ran about 60 metres into a great attacking position. In the tackle the ball was turned over, two passes were flung the width of the field and Julian Savea ran through some lacklustre Kurtley Beale defence to score an almost length of the field try. Turning the Wallabies counter attack into their own try scoring opportunity showed the clear division between the two sides.

Hopefully the National Rugby Championship which has just been restarted and re-branded in its inaugural season will go a long way to developing Australian rugby. When you look at the Kiwis, and the depth that they have, it is flabbergasting. This is a big part in the dominance they hold over international rugby as a whole.

To use a horrendous cliché, the night is darkest before the dawn (cheers Batman). Well from the Wallabies perspective, the night was very dark and full of men in black jerseys. I’m still not quite at the point where I think the Aussies can’t win the Bledisloe and we are gone for all money. I am a Wallabies supporter after all, and if I am to hold on to anything, it has to be some hope.