At the end of a week full of squad announcements, prosecutions and appeals, the Hansen and Jones show and Rugby Australia facepalms, our attention turns to the last Test and touring XV matches before the World Cup.
FOR YOUR LATE-NIGHT VIEWING PLEASURE
England vs Fiji
Saturday, 26 August – 15:15 in England, 00:15 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Scotland vs Georgia
Saturday, 26 August – 17:30 in Scotland, 02:30 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Italy vs Japan
Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso
Saturday, 26 August – 18:30 in Italy, 02:30 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Karl Dickson
Portugal vs Australia A
Stade Jules Ladoumegue, Massy
Saturday, 26 August – 20:00 in France, 04:00 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Luc Ramos
Ireland vs Samoa
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne
Saturday, 26 August – 20:45 in France, 04:45 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Spain vs Argentina
Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Saturday, 26 August – 20:45 in Spain, 04:45 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Andrew Brace
Chile vs Argentina XV
Estadio German Becker, Temuco
Saturday, 26 August – 17:00 in Chile, 07:00 (Sunday) AEST
Referee: Frank Murphy
France vs Australia
Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Sunday, 27 August – 17:45 in France, 01:45 (Monday) AEST
Referee: Luke Pearce
South Africa vs New Zealand
Sunday, 27 August – 19:30 in England, 04:30 (Monday) AEST
Referee: Matthew Carley
France’s team to play the Wallabies has just been announced. On our side, RugbyPass reports Eddie Jones thinks “it would certainly be good to get a bit of game time into” Ben Donaldson and Suliasi Vunivalu. Because they have “trained well” since they got to France.
In England vs Fiji, our Pool C mates meet the notional top dogs of Pool D. The Fijian forwards were really good at the breakdown against France last weekend, securing speedy ball for their backs. The English forwards were really, really bad at the breakdown against Ireland. Expect them to do everything they can to slow this match down.
In South Africa vs New Zealand, the early exchanges hold the main interest. It’s six weeks since the All Blacks won the Auckland match in the first quarter. This time, the Springboks are starting Marx, Kolisi and Vermeulen in the forwards.That should add some staunch.
If Portugal were contenders in Pool C, they would be entitled to be miffed about having to expose their form and tactics to Australia’s analysts in their last warm-up match. It’s not a big deal, just an odd bit of scheduling. The Aus A lineup is here and it features Pete Samu at 7, so that’s something to be cheerful about it.
SHOCK! QUALITY RUGBY JOURNALISM FOUND ONLINE
PlanetRugby is carrying an opinion piece by Australian writer Geoff Parkes on the Wallabies and Eddie Jones, and bugger me if it’s not the most reasonable, considered and insightful thing I’ve read about rugby in yonks. Mr Parkes has a nice turn of phrase and understands how to structure an article so that every point he makes adds to and reinforces a straightforward thesis. A little bit of research reveals that he writes a weekly column for the shouty site and has written a book about international power relations in rugby. I have ordered it and I would have liked to review it for GAGR, but that ship has sailed. Anyway, I’m still waiting for the copy of Bret Harris’s Rocky Elsom: Leader of the Wallabies that was reportedly posted to me to review before the 2011 World Cup.
GIMME HEAD PROTECTION
Here’s my two cents’ worth on the appropriate punishment for head contact.
Did you hit the bloke’s head with your shoulder? Have four weeks off. Did you hit his head or neck with your arm? Make that six weeks. It doesn’t matter if he was falling, or that you started to wrap your arm, or somebody bumped you, or you feel remorse, or you are of previously good character, or you’re going to “tackle school”. Take the punishment that’s on the books.
Maybe we need an exception for situations where tacklers face a knee-height pick-and-drive assault while defending their goal line. Tacklers can’t be expected to go lower than a ball-carrier who’s burning worms, and if he’s being reckless with his head, he’s responsible for the harm he cops. In all other circumstances, if you contact a carrier’s head with impact, you’re out.
Same with lifting and tipping tackles; same with contacting a player in the air. It doesn’t matter which body part he landed on or whether he was injured; you did what you know you shouldn’t have done, so you’re out. The Tough Titties Committee rejects all appeals, so swallow the medicine.
The only way to eliminate dangerous tackling and clean-outs is to make players so afraid of the sanctions that they’ll modify their technique to protect their incomes. If some less-culpable players get penalised as severely as the thugs and grubs, it doesn’t matter. Grey matter matters.
THE FRIDAY FRITZ
Yeah, it’s kinda hard to swallow.
By now, everyone who cares knows that Gaggercorp sold GAGR to Hosscorp last weekend. I’m sure the main players imagined themselves starring in a drama that was equal parts ‘Succession’ and ‘Yellowstone’, but from where I sat, it played out like Tin Men crossed with Lord of the Flies.
You’ll remember that a couple of months ago, the previous daily news crew slipped out the backdoor one by one, with comments such as “after a couple of years doing this I need a break” and “am going to step away for a while as I have a few other things on my plate” and “my circumstances have changed a bit . . . I just have other stuff on.”
It’s no secret that they immediately started posting daily news articles on a different blog. Nor is it a secret that they didn’t invite Charlie Mackay to join them. This remains unfathomable, because after working alongside Chuck for a while, I can report he’s a top bloke, a hard worker and a promising editor. The stories he commissioned from Georgia Satellite and Kirby Sefo are great content, just the sort of thing that used to make GAGR a blog of quality.
What I learned subsequently is that Hoss had tried to buy GAGR earlier this year. When his offers failed, he stopped posting his Friday news here (I didn’t notice, because Charlie filled the gap). He started a new site and the GAGR news crew left when it was ready to launch. One interesting point is that they didn’t tell Matt Gagger that they were leaving. He only found out when I contacted him through a mutual acquaintance to let him know that his site had no content and no writing team.
It was purely sentimentality that made me want to help keep GAGR going. I just hated the thought of it being dead in the water in a World Cup year. Other volunteers – Newtta, GoldyLocks, ParForCourse and Blindside Bludger – were really keen to take on the writing roster. They piled in with the tireless Charlie and within a week, we were back on course.
What none of us knew was that in the background, Hoss and Matt had reopened negotiations on the sale. Maybe Hoss realised that his site’s articles were pulling one-tenth the views of ours and would never be competitive; maybe Matt (who had to get inside the clunky old WordPress install and patch up some of the broken bits) realised that he would need to spend some actual money to keep GAGR going. Maybe it was a bit of both, or something else; but suddenly, we (the current news crew) were told by e-mail that Hoss’s team would be resuming control of the daily news. And yeah, we were told that we wouldn’t be excluded from contributing in some way, but I wasn’t buying that. Neither was Charlie.
Speaking of Chuck, again, one of the maddest things I’ve ever seen posted on this site was a comment to him from one of the rebel crew earlier this week: “there’s no hard feelings to you or anyone else who kept the site running”. That’s really quite the perspective.
One of the simplest and most important lessons I’ve learned in my working life is that there is a difference between leaders and managers. A leader gets stuck in with the team and shows the way; a manager sits behind a closed door and keeps secrets. If you’re in charge of a collaborative endeavour but you’re not able or willing to be honest with your team – especially in a situation where the team are pulling hard to cope with a rough environment – well, that’s just a bit shit.
While preparing pull the plug on my GAGR involvement for the second time, I get a lot of pleasure from remembering how good the site was in its heyday. I mean, forget the daily news articles; they were only ever meant to keep traffic coming from Facebook on weekdays. Real articles were the thing. For every Wallabies match, we used to run one for the team announcement, another to preview the game, a match report afterwards, a player ratings piece and then some sort of analysis or commentary. Every Super round got a preview and review, as did the premier grade comps in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra. There were interviews and think pieces galore. Matt did some piss-funny stuff with captioned videos in the John O’Neil and Robbie Deans era.
Make no mistake, Matt absolutely nailed what he set out to do with GAGR. When new online trends emerged – podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, probably even Google+ – he engineered them into GAGR and the traffic kept coming. We went from a pirate operation to a credible source that was getting quoted in the mainstream newspapers. The momentum was strong enough that one year, we spun a credible story about the site being bought by Fairfax.
Artwork for the 2011-edition GAGR stubby coolers, featuring the original Farting Rat drawn by a bloke named Greg. I think it was my idea to show the rat rogering a kiwi.
Time moved fast and the internet changed. Our whole lives sped up. Soon nobody had the time to read those articles and interviews, let alone write them. Facebook started wanting money for eyeballs and the traffic dwindled. The podcast lived on with an evolving crew, but eventually the daily news articles were the only regular posts on the blog.
I’m glad the site has a new owner with ambitions to make something out of it again. The punters just want free content with laughs, and the chance to wang on in the comments, so it will be good. But if you are fond of this old bucket of electrons, remember that it’s now in the hands of a crew who tried to break it because they couldn’t own it. It’s theirs now, but do keep an eye on them.
The Masked Avenger, juswal, Zeno and Lloyd Porifasa – out.