The Wallabies' Rugby Championship win over the All Blacks in Sydney has done nothing for my golf game.
A very average player and appalling putter, I was on the putting green at Brisbane Golf Club on Tuesday doing my best to ensure three-putts would be kept to a relatively respectable number during my next round. As I tried to hone the concentration, I was constantly interrupted by passers-by who wanted to know how the Wallabies would go at Eden Park against the All Blacks. Despite being a member of this club since 1985, I had no notion any of the interrogators had an interest in rugby or indeed any clue that I once played a game, which I was slightly less embarrassing at than I am at golf. And the curiosity about what might occur in Auckland tonight is not confined to sporting clubs.
The person on the street seems to care. The fact our cricketers have been towelled somewhat emphatically in England may have had many looking for any sort of patriotic solace that might come our way, but whatever the motivation, the Wallabies have again become a hook on which we want to hang our hopes.
Australia's win at ANZ Stadium has revived interest in our national team, when it was badly needed. Rugby has fallen well behind the NRL and AFL in popularity in recent years and in a week in which television rights for league in this country procured the type of money that would feed the starving in a Third World country, the 15-man game needed something noteworthy to keep it on the radar.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
My answer to the Wallabies question on Tuesday was the same to all. We'll be in the game with 10 minutes to go. There is, of course, optimism in that prediction, but there is a foundation to support it.
We all know the All Blacks will be better than they were in Sydney, but the Wallabies will be too, and I sense a feeling among this current crop that nothing is beyond them.
I don't know Michael Cheika, but my observations from a distance have been that he loves everything about what he does and there's a contagion involved in that which has spread to the whole squad. He smiles a lot, he probably rants a fair bit, but he also looks as if he'd like to take his boots and mouthguard to the games and join in the action.
He's the boss and the excitable kid rolled into one, and people buy into that mix. Underpinning all of this - he seems to know his stuff. Every selection he has made since taking over at the end of last season has had logic behind it. Not everyone would agree with his choices but he can mount a sound logic behind each and every one. Even the ones that miss out can accept the way the cards have fallen if common sense is involved.
The combination of Michael Hooper and David Pocock was probably not one seriously considered some months ago, but as Cheika said, they forced him to pick them both. And they delivered.
Australian rugby followers aren't necessarily demanding victory tonight, but they are demanding a performance of which they can be proud. I trust it will be delivered.
PS: My putting practice didn't provide the rewards I was after so I'm seeking compensation from the Wallabies. A one-point win would do.