Patrick Gower: Does NZ have 'droppie-phobia'?

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It seems like I was not the only one wondering where the droppie was in the minutes leading up to the All Blacks' exit from the World Cup.

Hundreds of people wrote in with all manner of answers to my questioning of why nobody banged the pig skin over to make it 21-20 to the All Blacks.

Top of the list: that New Zealand as a nation treats droppies as some kind of prodigal son. That All Blacks supporters don't believe in them, so no wonder the players don't bang them over in a game.

In a word: do we have clinical "droppie-phobia"?

There have been few answers out of the All Blacks camp.

Captain Richie McCaw has said the droppie was "talked about" while the All Blacks were camped in the French half.

McCaw said from where he was up front it didn't feel as if the droppie was a goer, but named Nick Evans and then Luke McAlister as the guys "to know when it's on to have a go".

McCaw had faith in the ability of the All Blacks to attack with the ball - a sure symptom of droppie-phobia.

Over to McAlister then, who confirmed they would rather have gone for a try, saying "we are not a team to sit back".

Asked if he regretted the decision not to go for a droppie, McAlister replied: "You can't have any regrets".

Neither player raised New Zealand's possible prejudice to droppies as a problem, but maybe they weren't asked.

Many New Zealanders wrote expressing a similar view to me that droppies are an everyday thing and the All Blacks should have nailed one.

Peter Tuki was perhaps the most succinct, simply saying: "(*&$*(&$@".

Supporters from rival teams wrote from abroad saying they were surprised to see a New Zealander write about droppies, as many, (unsurprisingly, lots from England) thought they did not exist down here and that our hating fans hunted them to extinction.

This got me thinking: are droppies like parallel parking, something every New Zealander thinks they can do properly, although the reality on the streets on Saturday is quite different?

As while Zinzan Brooke's drop goal was seared on most memories, it has been over a decade between drinks at droppie-grail for All Blacks supporters. We've been ordering tries at the bar for so long, they stopped stocking droppies.

Joe Florian, a self-described "armchair critter", argued this could be reverted through compulsory droppie training for all future All Blacks and coaching staff.

He extended this to future New Zealand captains of industry and prime ministers, and "hell, why not even bring in the `ten guitars' singing coach to teach and preach the droppie!"

(It must be said that Florian appears to be one with slightly misguided rugby judgement, letting slip that he once banged the pig skin over - pointlessly it seems, as his team was 60 points behind.)

Most of the correspondence from abroad centred on why All Blacks teams and New Zealand supporters didn't love the droppie as much as they did.

Frenchwoman Josiane Voisin wrote describing my piece as "violent but so realistic!"

That would have been a good description for the French team's performance, but in what must be a strange arrangement, Josiane and her husband are rugby-swingers who support the All Blacks.

"Why, why ,why?" she cried, when asking about the "missing droppie" as if it was little Madeleine McCann.

Cristian Funosas wrote from Argentina saying he and his friends were cheering for the All Blacks and couldn't believe there was no droppie.

He grew up on cheap steak and replays of Hugo Porta droppies over there, and until reading my piece Cristian thought most fans of the All Blacks "do not approve the use of the drop".

"Better luck next time," said Cristian. He then added: "The cup is ours, the Pumas are in a kamikaze state."

Other writers were more pragmatic, blaming the lack of selection of a backline "lieutenant" rather than a nationalistic hatred of droppies was the real reason it didn't happen.

Monique Devereux, from Christchurch, said: "[Aaron] Mauger would have kicked it with a broken left foot", in part a veiled reference to the way reconstituted Jafa Nick Evans limped off.

There were many more rational comments of a similar vein, saying that if either had been selected, the tactical acumen of either Mauger or Conrad Smith would have seen the droppie organised.

A writer called Blake described the part of Millennium Stadium the All Blacks were playing in as "Brain Freeze Central".

Some rightly stuck up for McAlister's last-ditch droppie attempt, rightly pointing out that he went for it after referee Wayne Barnes signalled advantage and banged it thinking we would have come back for a penalty afterwards. Which he didn't. Thanks again, Barnes.

Still, even the leaguies thought there should have been a droppie earlier.

Gordon Dryden said he didn't believe in "field goals" being worth any more than a tie-breaking one point like it is in the game the miners invented because of the unfairness in winning that way.

But he happily put this philosophy to one side ("I don't make the rules," he said) and dredged up his Union knowledge to spend the last eight or nine minutes of the game in what sounds like some kind of catatonic state.

"I kept repeating: deficit two. Dropkick three," said Gordon, who was hopefully watching alone.

There were plenty of readers who sided with the "New Zealand-doesn't-do-droppies" argument.

Adrian Christie said he would rather go out of the World Cup without resorting to a drop goal, than get to the semifinals like England without scoring a try against a tier-one nation.

Grant Crawford was another who backed the All Blacks' no-droppie decision and railed against my "cheap jibes" at their leadership group.

"If the highest honours you've achieved are representing the Poneke Rugby Club think how much more it takes to make it as far as the All Blacks and also the burden that comes along with that honour," he said.

"Think about what you have done for NZ and think about what these All Black players have done. I don't know your history, so good on you if you have done something which makes you or those close to you proud."

(Note: the sad reality Grant is that one of the few things I have been proud of is that droppie so I guess it is back to the drawing board.)

There were even some who wanted to take attention away from the All Blacks with personal attacks on my own handiwork with the droppie.

Adam Ray said he recalled playing "Forceback" against me in Hamilton and claimed I missed more than a few myself.

"I think you should have been more open - where are your journalistic ethics? I am considering a complaint to the Press Council," said Ray.

However, in my defence, Carl Allwood, from my Wellington days, said: "You were an outstanding natural exponent of the droppie and that is something that just can't be taught even in a three month reconditioning window."

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