An International Disgrace

I very nearly put pen to paper a week ago to vent my disgust at the Australian International Rules team. I’m not going to let the second consecutive Friday night pass.

 

I’m a big believer in the concept. I went to a great Test at the WACA as a kid, and had a terrific day when the Aussies stole the points at Croke Park in 2002. The MCG clash in 2003 was another beauty, and I was privileged to be one of the 60,000 in attendance that night. At that time, stars like Pavlich, Crawford, Judd & Wirrpanda ran around in the Australian jumper.

 

Not only does International Rules have an important role for showcasing our game to others, but it is a great spectacle. Whilst not a contest at any stage, last week’s 1st Test at Docklands appealed just through the fast movement of the ball and the frequent scoring (a soccer fan would’ve hated it). And I found myself absolutely marvelling at the Irish side’s skills.

 

Whilst the sport is right, unfortunately our nation is an embarrassing disgrace at it. Not only that, but over the course of the 2 Tests, we demonstrated that we can be 2 different kinds of disgraces.

 

In the 1st Test, it was simply a case of a case of being pathetic. Unskilled, slack, slow, uncompetitive. We deserved to lose by 100, and if every shot between the big sticks was worth 6 points, we nearly would have.

 

This shouldn’t really be any real wonder. It wasn’t even a C-grade side – it was as though we had hand-picked the weakest players from all AFL lists. James Kelly and Andrew Swallow were the only players in the squad who might rank amongst the league’s top 50 players; Bernie Vince and Stephen Milne the only others who might rank in the top 100. An abundance of Melbourne and Richmond players, and Port, Adelaide and Gold Coast all well represented.

 

The message from that Test was clear: the AFL clubs are out to kill International Rules in the same way that they killed State of Origin. As with a host of other issues (eg. Grand Final ticket scalping), the clubs have too much power, and are happy to hold the sport’s greater good to ransom for their own sense of being the centre of the universe. The AFL needs to grow a pair and declare that all players need to be available for selection, and anyone who refuses is suspended for Round 1.

 

To the 2nd Test, and we have a different kind of national embarrassment. Our national representatives spent the night alternating between being thugs and sooks. After saying all week that they would get physical and aggressive, they showed that their idea of doing so was to go for cheap-shots, hitting their opponents from behind and after they’d disposed of the ball. And when that didn’t work, they whinged to the umpires – they could give out the cheap-shots but not take their opponents’ retribution, the worst kind of cowards.

 

If the very ordinarily playing squad wasn’t enough, there was very ordinary leadership. Captain Brad Green epitomised the oscillation between thuggery and sooking. Some long-haired bloke called Wood (who I’ve never heard of, don’t even know which club he plays for) dutifully followed his leader. Frawley took to following his club skipper’s lead in sooking. Callan Ward ran into an Irish opponent and staged for a free (and had his opponent sent off as a result), before moments later crashing into the back of a prone opponent. Really courageous stuff.

 

Every time I watch an event like the Rugby World Cup, I can’t help but think of the pity of our sport – that Australia has all this great athletic talent that the rest of the world never gets to see. From the bunch of unskilled, hapless cowards that have represented our country over the last fortnight, it would seem that the world hasn’t been missing out on much at all.

 

I still think the AFL needs to get serious and threaten suspension for our top players (eg. All-Australians) who opt out of this series. But perhaps they also need to impose a blanket 1-week suspension on the blokes who did play this time as well.

 

Comments

  1. Mark Doyle says:

    A good summary Brad. The result was predictable because Australia selected B grade players which included B grade leadership. The Australian thuggery and sookish behavior in the second test was an admission that they were not good enough and leaders such as Brad Green and Rodney Eade lacked class. The concept of International Rules is a flawed concept because of the combination of amateur and professional players. It is unfortunate that aussie rules footy has never developed a strong culture of rep. footy at the elite level. Club footy is paramount. The only aussie rules rep. footy that has a good rivalry is the Victorian Country Football League with the O & M, Goulburn Valley, Hampden, Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong leagues. The history of state footy is that up to about 1980 it was dominated by Victoria because of the inclusion of the best players from all states in the Victorian team. State of origin footy was relatively shortlived and was flawed because some of the best players such as Voss, Carey, Kelly, Hird, Buckley, Lynch and Richardson were excluded. The only blokes who took State of Origin seriously were buffoons such as Ted Whitten who liked to promote crass state parochialism. Blokes such as Leigh Matthews and Mark Thompson refused to play for Victoria at times because they played at successful clubs.
    The only way that rep. footy can work is that the governing body needs to have strict rules like the FIFA soccer rules, which overide club bias.

  2. Andrew Fithall says:

    I watched a small amount of the first game and then completely forgot the second game was even on. The Australian players (and a small number of the Irish) are full-time professional athletes. That they are being soundly beaten is due only a small extent to the calibre of Australian players selected (and many are not even available for selection because they are on their mandatory break); it is because they are playing a foreign game. The hybrid rules game, to compensate for the professional versus amateur differential, is designed as a handicap in favour of the Irish. I do not like to watch highly skilled players be made look stupid because they are playing a different game! Put a quality Australian Rules team in a game of netball against the national netball team, and the same thing would happen. The footballers would be made look inept.

    Other sports say their players have the opportunity to play to the highest level and represent their country. Then again, it could be rugby league. In a Mickey Mouse international game overnight, Billy Slater sustained a serious injury which will have significant negative impact on his forthcoming season and therefore on the expectations of Melbourne Storm. As a Storm watcher (I don’t qualify as a proper supporter), I cared little for last night’s game. I do care for what Slater’s injury means for the Storm next season.

    The Australian/Irish International Rules Series should be discontinued.

  3. Greg Mallory says:

    I am not sure what Andrew Fithall means by a Mickey Mouse game of international rugby league. Last Saturday’s Test was played at the highest intensity and was a thoroughly entertaining game. Darren Lockyer stated that his appearance at Wembley was one of the highlights of his career. Club football has its place but all players aspire to represent their state and country, it’s a measuring stick as to how good they are.
    Brad Carr has hit the nail on the head in his assessment of the AFL clubs being too powerful. It is the same in the NRL, they will not ‘kill’ State of Origin, but they will probably make an all out attmept to ‘kill’ international rugby league. Hopefully the new independent commission will have some ‘teeth’ to not allow this to happen.

  4. Sorry, Brad, saw some of a game years ago at the MCG. Many said it was the best played. It was awful. There’s plenty of sport on without junkets…or read a book.

  5. Richard Naco says:

    One of the things that I love about AFL is that it is utterly devoid of the sanctimonious jingoistic breast beating of ‘international’ sports. Or worse, of sports perpetuating the notion that we are in any way, shape or form still a collection of semi-autonomous colonies of the British Empire. Bread and ciuses should never be the focus of any nation’s desperate clasping at a sense of national pride or relevance. The financial and performance yard sticks of our sport is purely club performance, as it should always be.

    Simply put: they pay the bills. (Even Norths & Port. With help.)

    The international series, by the very compromise in rules and presentation which underpins it, absolutely forfeits any sense of validity or right to be considered a serious sport. It’s an absolute joke, and our continuing playing of it it is the one glaring blight on our wondrous sport. The only thing it’s done for my club was ensuring that Travis Varcoe took almost the entire 2011 season to approach anything remotely resembling his optimum performance levels after sustaining a shoulder injury playing the bastardised indulgence in Ireland last year. My only interest this year was that Wojo & Kell pulled up OK (and Wojo came out of it with a minor leg injury), but I didn’t waste time or emotional investment of this ugly mule of a game.

    The only sports with genuine international credibility are basketball (FIBA has the largest number of member countries of any sporting association) and soccer (with all the attendant stench of corruption which is perpetually wafting out from that body). No other sports can truly claim to be global, and frankly, watching various footy codes’ “World Cups” highlights how marginalised and irrelevant these sports have become. Having been very heavily involved in both basketball & soccer in the past, I find the lack of jingoism in AFL refreshingly honest and to the point.

    We have no need to base the credibility of our sport on outdated & misplaced concepts of international flag waving. To do so dilutes the pure delight of the fantastic 2011 season, and the amazing finale which concluded it (with all due sympathy to Danielle Eid & any other member of the monochromed masses). That is AFL: this ridiculous cross fertilisation of too vaguely similar indigenous games ultimately serves to enhance neither.

    Let the mongrel die.

  6. I think the horse has bolted. As embarrassing as it was to watch, I think I can lay claim to viewing the last ever International Rules event.

  7. I’d rather watch grass grow than that hybrid concept.

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