I'm noticing a rapid and significant change in the media hacks in this country post the Tahs fan ripping the balls off the team forum last week. After spending I don't know since the start of the Super concept abusing the NSW side for failing to live up to their expectation of dominating the world of rugby the Genie is out of the bottle. A number of them are now rapidly trying to force the Genie back into the bottle by suddenly flinging stats around trying to prove that its actually QLD playing the boring rugby and that its NSW that far more attacking. It's the standard problems you get with stats that unless you understand the contexts they are being used in, they mean nothing. The funny thing is that home crowds (minus the opposition supporters) don't normally abuse the home side for nothing. The glaring wounds this Genie (expectations) has now caused NSW rugby will cause significant and long term ramifications. NSW season is sliding and they may still fall short of the finals. The consequence of this will be a declining number of bums on seats and drops in the memberships. The financial consequences of this will be dire for NSW rugby.
The Tahs tried to shove the Genie back into the bottle by scoring 5 tries in the opening half against the Lions. After receiving critical acclaim at halftime the genie was temporally contained. But they forgot they had another 40 minutes to go, they relaxed into their preferred playing approach and suddenly the genie was out bigger and nastier than before. The disapproving sounds got larger as the Lions held NSW scoreless in the second half and in the latter stages unleashed Elton Jantjies who electrified the Lions attack. The fans let them know about it and the comments by Beale about the crowd booing that performance showed that there is both a lack of understanding about the game and the entertainment factor craved.
Sometimes a win or preventing a loss (Brumbies drawing with the Force) is something a side needs to build confidence or savour respect. Sometimes the half time allows a coach to slip the angry juice into the players and the game takes on a new dimension. Other times it’s just simply resting on your laurels and the game slips away from you. Some in the media here have been doing that for way to long. The number of glowing reports about that NSW effort highlighted it.
Australia needs a strong NSW rugby side and let’s face it they have 8 wins out of 12 games. It is exceptionally rare for a side to go through undefeated in a season (hat tip to Crusaders anyone else?). This is an exceptionally tough competition, the need to manage injuries (Barnes is on his 3rd concussion, TPN??) when you best players are not there the reserves need to step up and lets face it the lack of depth is being exposed. What is disappointing is that although NSW can grind out a win it’s the fact that although they show glimpses of attacking brilliance in the opening rounds they just don’t go on with it.
Well the Genie is out of the bottle. The big question is what happens next year. Will the media change tact and start applauding the side and attune the NSW supporters to love the forward battles or continue its sniping attacks going for the soft underbelly of unrealistic expectations of ruling the rugby world. Until this Genie is contained by either a radical change in game style or expectations alter, it can cause enormous damage.