Knowing your place

Does anybody else get a chuckle out the constant teeth-gnashing by the rugby union fraternity, as they kid themselves there's actually something wrong with the world order of that sport when Australia is losing?

Suffering, in large part, is worrying about things you cannot change. It's pointless me spending hours in front of the mirror wishing I looked like Brad Pitt or could surf like Kelly Slater because ... it's never gonna happen.

Such is the case with Australian rugby.

We are an average rugby nation, always have been, and we should recognise and accept our place in the pecking order - just like Zimbabwe and New Zealand do in cricket* - so fans and commentators can stop beating up the team over unreasonable expectations.

Of the 145 times a Bledisoe Cup match has been played, New Zealand have won 99 times, Australia 41, with five draws. Overall, the Kiwis have won the cup 40 times, Australia just 12.

Since 2003, New Zealand have won the Bledisoe 10 times in a row. The best we ever did was five in a row from 1998–2002.

However, New Zealand's dominance is nothing new. They convincingly won the first Test between our countries 22-3 in 1903, then won the next three until we got on the board with a draw in 1907.

It wasn't until 1910 we got our first win against them (11-0), then lost the next six out of seven.

The Kiwis' best run against us was 28 years straight between 1951 and 1978, when they won 12 Bledisoe titles in a row.

Yet, we kid ourselves this is a battle between equals? That every Wallabies side that follows the grand and ancient tradition of getting their arses handed to them by New Zealand is an aberration?

Correct me if I'm wrong but Australia's golden age of dominance in the late '90s, early '00s followed soon after the sport went professional in 1995.

At that time, we had two existing professional football codes in the country - VFL, now AFL and ARL, now NRL - so it's fair to say union was able quickly to adopt practices that were already in place - they had a template to follow, one which union in both New Zealand and South Africa did not have.

We capitalised on this advantage, but soon other nations caught up.

Now that the coaching, training, rehab, nutrition playing field is even again we have to rely on two things - talent and hunger - both of which I'd argue we lack.

As has been noted a bazillion times before, Australia's talent pool is stretched across four football codes, while in New Zealand it's two - and even that's arguable; the country lives and breathes rugby.

However, our teams are populated by former private schoolboys who, dare I say it, are little less desperate to tear the world a new orifice than say, a boiler-maker's son from Invercargill.

Our rugby community is like a 45-year-old, fat, bald guy who pulled five beautiful women in his early 20s and can't accept that's the best he'll ever do.

A football code, like a man, needs to know its limitations.

(*Fittingly, Australia is probably as good at rugby as New Zealand is at cricket).

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.