ABs squad predictable - where are bolters?
The absolute flood of information provided by the media in its many capacities has taken away the excitement, expectation and occasional incredulous moment that in previous generations has greeted the naming of an All Blacks touring team.
Such is the plethora of analysis on the huge number of games and the in-depth research from radio, television and newspaper journalists that to spring a surprise is about as likely as Steve Hansen doing his tie up.
Therefore everyone knew that Ali Williams and Piri Weepu were going to be selected, even though most of the country disagree, that Dane Coles was going to head off Hika Elliot and that Tawera Kerr-Barlow was the next halfback in line.
Some probably thought that it would be a waste of time taking Wyatt Crockett on another northern tour as well, but with no obvious discussion being promoted he has kept his place.
Couldn't there have been one bolter at least, say someone who earned his place through a strong Super 15 and NPC campaign? Maybe they could have taken 33!
What difference would one more player make as many of them are just on board to provide a stronger opposition at training than in the actual games?
Oh for the days when a surprise or two came out of a series of trials in a time when rugby was at its simplistic best, the players had a mix of sherry and lemonade at halftime and you had to travel to a game if you wanted to watch it.
1968 was a pearler when the All Blacks were selected to tour Australia. Taranaki was rewarded with three players plus a Taranaki boy in Peter Johns who was now representing Whanganui.
It appeared Johns had been selected based on a great game for King Country-Whanganui when they defeated the 1966 Lions, which has to be an indicator that news travelled a lot slower in those days, although I guess Williams is chosen based on the same criteria.
One player who was selected purely on an outstanding trial was Taranaki's mercurial Neil Wolfe. A reserve for both trials, Wolfe was called off the bench at halftime in the main trial and proceeded to score two tries in a 10-minute burst of energy and exuberance, so much so that he got the nod and wink from the chairman of the NZRU as he entered the sacred halls underneath the grandstand at Athletic Park to announce the touring squad.
Bill Currey was another Taranaki player to make the squad. Currey had been one of only three players who had started in the main trial but missed the tour to the United Kingdom in 1967, so he would have to be considered extremely unlucky on that occasion.
Unfortunately for him, a winger from Marlborough by the name of Phil Clarke scored three tries in the early trial and he got the nod. That's the way it was.
Eltham's tough man, Brian Muller, was the other tourist and he was never going to be left out. Anyone who can cut a hedge with a motor mower has to be a certain inclusion.
Everything is so black and white these days . How about rewarding Tim Nanai-Williams or Liam Coltman, or Craig Clarke, and just maybe they could find another small, dark, room that is too cramped to serve its purpose to replace the one used at Athletic Park when they name the squad.
Well, maybe things weren't really better then, but some events sure did make you smile. Rugby is such a serious business now it's refreshing to remember what it used to be like.
- Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy
Taranaki Daily News