Why the All Blacks need to lose more
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OPINION: In the past three weeks New Zealand teams have very uncharacteristically lost a lot of rugby.
In case you need a reminder, the men's sevens team failed to win gold at the Commonwealth games, the Crusaders failed to win the Super Rugby title, and most recently the Black Ferns failed to make the semi-final of the Women's Rugby World Cup.
While a lot of people seem to be hanging their heads in shame and talking about the end of New Zealand's reign of world rugby domination, I think it is a good thing we lost.
No team can win every single game, of every single tournament, yet that seems to be the expectation that is placed on New Zealand rugby teams. It's unrealistic and it is unfair.
Winning is pretty bloody awesome. Who doesn't like to see the team they have backed for years lifting a trophy or wearing a gold medal?
Who doesn't like the feeling of national pride when a team representing New Zealand comes out on top?
To experience losses is realistic, to expect a team to never lose is unrealistic.
It is my personal belief that New Zealand teams losing shows that the rest of the world is finally catching up with New Zealand, in regard to the talent of individuals and teams.
It doesn't mean the talent of New Zealand teams is becoming diluted. It means that finally rugby is becoming a real competition again.
I will probably sound unpatriotic in saying this, but I hope the All Blacks lose this year. Perhaps even twice. Heck, maybe three times.
Why on earth would someone who claims to be obsessed with rugby even begin to think that way? It's simple. Excitement!
I want rugby to become exciting again. How many years has it been now since an All Blacks v Wallabies game was thrilling to watch?
How many years has it been since the two nations would go into the game really not knowing who would come out on top?
How many years has it been since an All Blacks fan was truly concerned their team might lose a game, particularly against Australia?
I want the rugby of 15 years ago, when New Zealand and Australia were very much on equal terms, when 7.35pm rolled around and I started to feel so nervous I felt nauseous. I yearn for the day that I just couldn't watch but had to watch. I miss trying to trick the All Blacks into scoring by leaving the room. I miss having a staunch misguided hatred for the Wallabies, stemming from my fear of the All Blacks losing.
We go into an international season now and know that technically, yes, our team might win, but then scoff and roll our eyes, knowing it isn't going to be the case. We know the All Blacks will beat the Wallabies and retain the Bledisloe, we know the All Blacks will beat South Africa and Argentina and retain the Rugby Championship trophy, we know that the All Blacks will go on their end of year tour and most likely win all their games.
As a spectator and fan, it takes some of the fun out of rugby. I know of people who have given up watching games because they know the All Blacks are going to win. That is bad! As a nation we are rugby mad, and it's the way it should be, but I think in some ways we have become victory snobs. Subconsciously we think we are too good for the rest of the world, and that is proven by the way we presume an All Blacks game means an All Blacks win.
The All Blacks, the men's and women's sevens teams, the Black Ferns, they all excite me. I love Super Rugby and the ITM Cup. I have immense respect for what the Ranfurly Shield symbolises. Every July, for one day, I fondly remember my alma mater and cross my fingers that our brother school, Waitaki Boys' High School, wins the 1st XV blood-match (the 'blooder' as it is known) against St Kevin's College.
New Zealand generally dominates world rugby, but it is time we, as a nation of rugby fanatics, acknowledge that other countries are worthy opponents, and that it is a reality that sometimes New Zealand won't win. Rather than hurling abuse at the teams who do lose, we should be proud of the team for representing to New Zealand, and being human.
We need to remember rugby players are human. They are not superheroes, they are not freaks of nature (OK, some are), they have their off days.
We need to remember that rugby is a competitive game. Competition is a good thing. Competition is exciting for spectators, and it is what keeps players striving to play the best they can. It is what improves the game, and makes it more exciting to watch.
As rugby fans/obsessives, isn't that a good thing?
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