Rugby needs its grassroots

Bledisloe (bleh-diz-LO)

An annual state/feeling of hope which is swiftly replaced with the harsh and bitter taste of despondence...

This morning feels like a hang over.

It’s nothing new for Wallabies fans, we have faith in our side. We entrust them with our hopes and sense of pride. Yet, again and again we are left shattered, awakening to the realisation it wasn’t a dream.

Sure, some things didn’t go our way. Sure, we lost three inside centres in the first 40 minutes, but the top teams always find a way to win and we never looked like doing that.

The performance of the All Blacks confirms they are not here to rebuild after the Carter and McCaw era. They continue to only get stronger and stronger.

It’s hard to know where to go from here, who to drop, who to promote. What can be done to overcome such a talented side. The two time reigning Rugby World Cup champions and arguably the greatest team in the history of world sport. The Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps or late 1990’s Chicago Bulls of rugby.

If Australia is to stand a chance against the All Blacks in the foreseeable future something needs to change. That something isn’t who wears the number 8 jersey or who will be the captain. That something is the very fabric that makes up rugby union in Australia, grassroots rugby.

Trying to improve rugby from the top down with new coaching staff and new players or combinations is fine. It’s a part of rugby and it always will be, but have a look at the depth in New Zealand, something that is perfectly epitomised by Stephen “The Beaver” Donald and the 2011 Rugby World Cup. One minute he is a forgotten ex-All Black sinking beers on a fishing holiday, next he’s struggling to squeeze a beer belly into a black jersey as the fourth ranked Kiwi fly-half and kicking the World Cup winning kick. Sending Eden Park and the rest of New Zealand into raptures. It’s a story that could only be set in New Zealand.

The difference between them and us? Rugby is in their blood, it’s bred into them from a young age. In Australia rugby plays fourth fiddle to rugby league, AFL and soccer. Three sports that know about the value of grassroots players and teams. In recent years it’s not uncommon to see AFL coaches, players and scouts visiting traditional rugby schools or for hordes of local rugby clubs to fold due to lack of players.

It’s time for the ARU to get off their high horses and do something about it. It wont be easy and it wont be quick, but if one thing is for sure, if the Wallabies are to ever stand a regular chance against the All Blacks, it will be vital.

Rant over.

Ranted by Nelson Dale

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