By Matthew Burke, Sun Herald
I am a fan of all sports, I like to watch skilful players perform at the highest level.
I try to take pieces of information that will benefit me or help me impart that knowledge when I coach. Whether that be golf, athletics, soccer, tennis, whatever, I am always trying to find something that can make a difference, make an improvement.
I read an interesting quote form Dr Craig Duncan, a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University in The Sydney Morning Herald last September that said, “Long term we’re going to produce less good athletes because kids need to be able to solve movement puzzles. The more sports they are exposed to the better.”
This was in reference to increasing professionalism of schoolboy sport and, I think, the choices being made to specialise at an earlier age.
I agree with the statement. Experience as much as possible to gain a skill level that is outside the normal parameters for your sport. This thought has merit right through to the senior level, not just limited to kids. So when I watched the State of Origin on Wednesday night, I thought, now there is a lesson to be learnt there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my rugby, but wasn’t it special when the Blues won game one of Origin. There was a sense of ‘‘how good was that’’.
Even if league isn’t your cup of tea, the fact that NSW won must have meant something.
I will go a little further and say if you still didn’t like the game you had to admire the physicality. It set itself apart from other league games as a stand-alone gladiatorial moment.
Those two words – gladiatorial moment – could be the key phrase that the Wallabies take on board this season.
This is what is needed from the Wallabies in 2014. It has to be present when they take on the French next week but more importantly when they encounter the All Blacks and the Springboks.
I am sure the Wallabies coaches would have cast an eye over what happened on Wednesday night and thought, how could we adapt that into our game?
It’s the physicality that caught my attention and how (cliche time) the players gave 110 per cent for the full 80 minutes. The win came from a team under pressure in a similar predicament to the Wallabies.
A belief that they could succeed. Maybe a phone call to Blues coach Laurie Daley to swap a few notes wouldn’t hurt.
Since the inception of Super Rugby and the corresponding international matches, the Wallabies have struggled to be consistent in matching the gruelling physicality that both the All Blacks and the Springboks bring to the game.
Before you jump, yes there have been times when we have gained the ascendency, but more often or not at times we have struggled.
Now I am not saying this is isolated to a forward battle, I am saying across the board. You have to match fire with fire in order to get a result. There is no use having the most skilful team if you can’t win the battle.
I have always mentioned in my articles that the key to playing South Africa is about playing fast, but you still need the brawn to start with.
You have to take the fight to the opposition and impose yourself on them. Until that happens you wont be able to ‘‘play’’, even if you have seven Tim Horans in the backline.
Surely by watching what unfolded through the week, attitude must play a part in getting a team ready to ‘‘want’’ to be physical. In effect, it is legal thuggery.
You have it in your right to hit as hard as you can, to impart your presence on the opposition. Or in layman’s terms, bash them.
Since the tour last year and the tough decisions the coach made, I get a sense that there is an attitude change in the set-up of the Wallabies, especially from the squad that has been assembled to include some new blood.
This Test series against the French will be a test for all. The French historically have a big forward pack and flare in the backs, that will be complemented with sheer size with the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud. He is the 120kg centre. Ah, I’m glad I am not playing any more.
My old teammate in the UK Jonny Wilkinson recently said upon pending retirement, ‘‘it is becoming ever more apparent, when you see the size of the guys running alongside you and at you, that it is ultimately a younger man’s sport.”
Time now for the Wallabies to be spoken about as the big guys running at you and to become the enforcers.
Matthew Burke is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.