Heading into the last ever City vs Country match I had heard a lot of talk about it was great to get rid of it and how meaningless it was. When I watched the game though I found it quite entertaining. There was swearing on live TV, there were players like Nathan Ross and David Gower speaking about what it meant to them just to earn a rep jersey of any kind and the view around the stadium was beautiful.
Compare that to the ANZAC Test where I was thoroughly disinterested. The Kiwis fielded their strongest team in two years and their key positions of 1, 6 ,7 and 9 all played together at club level. Still they looked absolutely clueless out there in the first half and Australia completely dominated.
On reflection I can honestly say I enjoyed the City vs Country match more than I did the Test. It was then I started to realize that I’m starting to not care about International footy and that the ANZAC Test is becoming meaningless which may be a reason why they’re getting rid of it.
I applaud the Australian team for their renewed passion in playing for their country.The Kangaroos introduced a new mantra over this recent representative round entitled RISE. Respect, Inspire, Selfless, Excellence. Coincidentally RISE was also what I found myself doing after I had nodded off during the first half.
It’s a great initiative on Meninga’s behalf to introduce a newfound level of pride in the jersey. In my opinion though, the mantra registers as little more than meaninglessness fluff to the general public and the only real effect it has, is to demonstrate just another reason why the Kangaroos are better than the Kiwis in every single way. That mantra isn’t going to get me to care about a foregone result.
Complete dominance by a sports team doesn’t always make for entertaining viewing. Rugby League isn’t an exhibition sport designed to cater to the amusement of fans but regardless the World Cup is looking like even more of a complete farce than it already was.
So what’s the problem? How can they change things so the World Cup has at least some level of intrigue to it? I believe it’s something as simple as New Zealand re-discovering the same level of passion in the jersey that Australia did.
2014 and 15 looked promising for the future of international footy. In the ANZAC Test of 14, NZ were fielding a side with Ben Henry at Hooker and a reserve grade half on the bench. They led 18-12 at the break. Why? Because Australia underestimated them and they played with a point to prove. The Kiwis followed it up with Four Nations success at the end of the year and in the 2015 ANZAC Test they just about embarrassed Australia as they piled on 26 points in the first half.
That game showed the diminished pride in the jersey Australia had and gave me hope that future internationals would be more competitive. Unfortunately the fire that was lit under Australia’s belly from that loss may have worked too well, as now they sit firmly back on top of the international game with no equal.
New Zealand need to accept the challenge to redevelop their team culture and strive to instil that pride in the players to wear the Kiwi jersey. Bring new players into the system and let their enthusiasm rub off on the more experienced players who may have forgot the joy they experienced suiting up for the first time. Take a chance on a player like Matt McIllwrick who at club level has proved that years of hard work and determination will pay off as he seized an opportunity in first grade and hasn’t looked back. Playing with pride first and foremost will lead to better results down the track.
Australia doesn’t have to lose every game to make the international game worth watching but New Zealand has what it takes to compete on equal terms with them. For the good of the fans and the World Cup I hope they find that passion within before then. Without the help of outside substances I would be remiss not to mention either.
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