Sunday, July 09, 2006

A right royal shellacking

I don't understand the appeal of rugby union for participants. I can see how it's good for spectators - you pick a team, get caught up in the rivalry, go ra-ra during and celebrate/commiserate after - but playing is different. Players must expect to be smashed into the cold hard ground as though they're made of anything but living breathing feeling human stuff - every time they go out on the field.

Do they want to get hurt? Do they want to hurt others? Are they so full of aggression they need a socially-sanctioned means of releasing it? That's possible, I guess, but it's probably not likely. Look at Jonny Wilkinson, for example (Australia's pin-up for the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Sydney, and he was playing for the opposition). He represented brains and dignity and goodness, not rampant aggression. And (horror of horrors) my sweet young nephew Beansprout recently started playing rugby with his school, but there's no way anybody could describe him as being aggressive.

So. I don't know. The whole mock-combat thing: I don't understand wanting to get involved in it, except at a distance, and safely, if at all.

The point I'm slowly getting around to is this: last night New Zealand's rugby union All Blacks beat Australia's Wallabies 32 to 12, and that's a mighty victory. I didn't see it. I turned the TV on at 5pm to see the start, but the pre-match on-field pseudo-ad-lib banter by the Australian commentators was so extremely irritating, I didn't even last as far as the national anthems. Boo.

Generally speaking, I think Australia presents itself to the neighbours as being a nation of arrogant self-centred fuckwits, and maybe that's exactly what we are. My source in the Pacific (and I only know about 3 people in the entire universe, so guess who) watches NZ television news feeds and says that, unlike our Australian jokey rubbishing of Kiwis (who we seem to regard affectionately as our impish and naive younger siblings), the NZ version of cross-Tasman rivalry has more bite to it. In fact, Australians: it's entirely possible that many or most or even all New Zealanders hate us. Would or should this be surprising?

Anyway. The All Blacks beat us. Soundly. According to this article, the Wallabies were smashed, bashed, tarnished, monstered, and even, would you believe, nailed to the wall. Respect where respect is due: the Kiwis were good and they won. Well done, New Zealand.