• nedmanningwriterac

Searching for some Wallaby love in Melbourne

I love you Melbourne. I love you very much.

But seriously.

There is a world out there.  A big wide world. Many games are played in that great big world. One of them is Rugby Union. It’s played by many nations.

Every four years there is a Rugby World Cup. That’s when all the rugby playing nations descend on the host nation for a festival of the game that, some say, is played in Heaven.

The final of the Rugby World Cup will be played on Sunday morning (AEST).

That’s Australian Eastern Standard time. It’s not VEST. Victorian Eastern Standard Time because, believe it or not, Victoria is part of the nation. And our nation is being represented in the Final of the Rugby World Cup against our traditional rivals from across the ditch, New Zealand.

Australia is playing New Zealand for the honour of hoisting the William Webb Ellis Trophy. That’s right. Australia.

Why am I telling you this?

Because, having lived in your fair city for five years, I have made the startling discovery that when it comes to matters football you have collective monomania. I have to be frank about this. It is a disorder. An unhealthy obsession with the “world” of AFL. Only it’s not a world. It’s a few states and in one of them it isn’t even the main game during the winter months. It’s a great game, AFL, don’t get me wrong. If there is the one thing I have learnt since I’ve been living in Melbourne.

AFL is a great game.

I have learnt to appreciate that during the season Victorians have nothing else to talk about or think about. Your game is front and centre of every conversation, every news bulletin and (of course) front, centre and back of every newspaper.

What baffles and, I have to confess, troubles me, is that this monomania continues into the off season. So much so that, judging by the coverage given to the Rugby World Cup in your media, you are blissfully unaware of its existence.

Scouring Victorian newspapers for titbits of information about our valiant, world conquering Wallabies is an exercise in futility.

Acres of breathless reporting about who might be (not even will be) playing where, fill the back pages. When that seemingly inexhaustible topic is exhausted, Victorian scribes turn to who is taking what drug where. If that isn’t enough to fill ten pages they opine about who might have taken which drug where in the past and whether they might be fined or given a slap on the wrist with a wet lettuce leaf. It’s riveting stuff.

But, dear friends, it is masking an event that is of national significance.

It’s almost on a par with the Olympics. Defeating the All Blacks (New Zealand) in the final of the RWC is like climbing, well, Everest. And we know what country the chap who conquered that came from.

When I was a boy I made regular pilgrimages to the Sydney Cricket Ground to witness the All Blacks thump the Wallabies. It was ritual humiliation.

In my twenties I stood in awe as Mark Ella’s scintillating back line scored in the first minute and went on to achieve a remarkable feat.

They beat the All Blacks.

It was the beginning of an era when we stood up to the Blacks and asserted our new found confidence. We started beating them on a regular basis. Here, there and everywhere.

New Zealanders couldn’t quite believe it. They were in turns shocked and infuriated. Their national pride was dinted. By us. By Australia, their old whipping post.

The fact is New Zealanders are as hung up about beating us as Collingwood is about beating Carlton. Or anyone who isn’t a Hawthorn supporter is about beating the Hawks. When New Zealand played France in the final of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 all the placards being paraded around the ground were lambasting us. Australia. And we weren’t even playing.

When they lost to France in 2007 the country went into national mourning for a month. No one could speak. All they could do was shake their heads and groan.

Rugby Union is a national obsession in New Zealand. It defines the nation. To defeat them we need all Australians to get behind the Wallabies.

That means you too Victoria.

So I’m pleading with you. For one day put aside your fascination with the “trade”. Give it a break on the AFL player’s drug taking front. Conquer your inner monomania.

Australia needs You!

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