It hasn’t taken long for the Australian rugby league team, the
coach and selectors, to get the wake up call I alluded to in Friday’s column,
though it came a couple of weeks earlier
than I had expected.

The practice of religiously sticking to the same team,
rewarding “loyalty” and ignoring form, helped bring the Kangaroos comprehensively undone at the hands of an under strength but
massively enthusiastic Kiwis outfit on Saturday night. And rugby league fans should not kid themselves, the
Kangaroos, at near full strength, played dreadfully. The final ten point margin
– even though it was six tries a piece – probably flattered
them.

The Kiwis got the rough end of the pineapple when it
came to decisions by the referee and video referee, though the post-match
judiciary “hearing” involving Nigel Vagana more than
compensated for that.

The Kiwis were without Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall, though Stacey Jones make a welcome return to
the international scene. And the coach – never heard of him.

The arguments being trotted out for the Kangaroos first
loss to the Kiwis in Sydney since 1959 don’t hold water. The weakest of all is that most players lacked match
practice. Well, many of the Kiwis play with the Warriors in the
NRL, who had their last game is round 25 – having the bye in the
last round and not making the finals.

In truth the Kangaroos got done because some must have
thought it would be a push-over – just as the bookies did. And the Kangaroos don’t have much time to regroup – they face
the Kiwis in Auckland this Friday night.

The cricketers went into the Ashes series with too much
“baggage” and paid the price for it – and the Kangaroos did the same. Too many
players picked because they were picked last time, not because their form
warranted it. The selection processes for the Kangaroos is like the
body that administers the game at the representative level, the Australian Rugby
League. Its used by date has long
passed.

But let there be no doubt about it – the Kiwis deserved
to win and they will be even harder to beat on their home
turf.

And just a word on the Nigel Vagana judiciary
hearing. He was put on report for a
“dangerous tackle” that saw Trent Waterhouse dropped on his
head. In the NRL, that would attract at least a six week
suspension – maybe much more. And what did Vagana get? He got off!

Any link between “judiciary” and “justice” in rugby
league is purely coincidental.

Peter Fray

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