By Jeff Wall, Crikey’s rugby league writer


Events this
week should give all fair-minded sports fans cause for worry that we
are in danger of losing our reputation for being good losers as well as
good winners.

In cricket, the obsession with blaming coach John
Buchanan for our Ashes loss continues – I don’t recall a guy named
“Buchanan” dropping catches, bowling no balls or getting out for a
duck. And now we have Nathan Bracken, seriously or not, saying the Poms
had an advantage because the bowlers rubbed “breath mints” into the
ball!

And it’s the same worrying trend in rugby league. This
week, the Kangaroos’ loss against the Kiwis last weekend is all Wayne
Bennett’s fault. There have been calls for his “head” – yet
underperforming and overpaid players escape scrutiny and
responsibility. And, even before the kick off in tonight’s game in
Auckland, the hapless and hopeless ARL has raised the spectre of the
NZRL narrowing the field to put the Kangaroos at a “disadvantage.”
Truly pathetic!

The Kangaroos, like the cricketers, might have
been winning for too long for defeat to be “manageable.” I sincerely
hope not. The comment by Wayne Bennett that “we’d better get used to
losing because we can’t expect to win forever” may have been dismissed by
some critics but it’s the simple truth.

The Kangaroos face the
Kiwis tonight in what ought to be a much harder game to win than last
weekend’s encounter. It is being played in New Zealand. The weather
is typically New Zealand – wet, very wet. The Kiwis have their tails or
feathers up – last week’s win was NO fluke. In the corresponding game
last year, the Kiwis managed a 16-16 draw.

And talking about
“excuses,” the latest trotted out today is that the Kangaroos very
often begin slowly in a test series. Since 1990, in nine series – tri
nations or against the Poms – Australia has lost the opening game on
SEVEN occasions, with two draws and NO wins. Given the dominance of the
Kangaroos over the last 15 years, that is an extraordinary fact. In the
eight series before this one, Australia has ended up winning every one
of them. That one is more fact than excuse.

On that basis,
Australia should be as short-priced as they were last weekend and the
market men clearly consult rugby league’s foremost statistician – David
Middleton who provided the above figures – because Australia is $1.24
to win … the Kiwis $3.65. At that price, the Kiwis are a very
tempting bet.

The Kangaroos should win but they should have won
last weekend as well. And if they lose, I just hope all fans can take
it on the chin and realise that winning is fine, but even the best
can’t win all the time. And if we lose, share the blame by all means
but just make certain that the players lump the lion’s share.