Rebels at a crossroads

The Melbourne Rebels head into their Good Friday clash with the Queensland Reds desperate for victory at a ground they have not won at since Good Friday 2014.

Jack Debreczeni has stood out for the Melbourne Rebels in 2015

Jack Debreczeni has stood out for the Melbourne Rebels in 2015

The Reds and Rebels don’t have a whole lot in common. Despite this the last two weeks have seen both sides lose to the Lions in a game they should have won. For the Reds it was poor execution in their attacking half after the hooter that let them down, while the Rebels combusted in what was arguably their worst performance ever.

After beating the Crusaders away from home it is fair to say that my hopes were high for the Rebels in 2015. Now the calendar is ready to flip into April, we’re 2-4 and need a lot to fall our way to secure our first finals appearance. To be any chance we need to win on Friday night.

In the last two weeks we have played some of the most fluent rugby I’ve ever seen from a Rebels outfit. In that time we’ve only scored one try. Simply not good enough.

Another lackluster performance on Friday and the scene is set for the rest of the season – disappointment as we try to fight ourselves out of a hole we shouldn’t have been in to start with.

A win going into the bye week offers a glimmer of hope as we travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies (a team we have always given trouble), followed by a clash against the Waratahs (another team who are having a slower 2015 than anticipated) , before returning home against the Chiefs in the first week of May.

Anything less than 3-1 over this period is unacceptable and we must kick into gear on Friday night.

Since our inception our home record against the Reds (who to their credit have won a title in that period) does not make for pretty reading:

 

2011 : Reds 33 – 18 Rebels

2012 : Reds 32 – 17 Rebels

2013 : Reds 23 – 13 Rebels

2014 :  Reds 36 – 20 Rebels

Being the optimist that I am it’s easy to say that I know what I’m in for on Friday night. History tells me the Rebels are going to lose by two converted tries, but history doesn’t matter. I honestly believe the 2015 crop of Rebels are a different proposition for their opponents.

The two faces that I have been impressed by the most this season are Jack Debreczeni and Lopeti Timani. Debreczeni has stood out because he has shown consistent glimpses of his NRC form, while Timani has a great case of try-line fever. The closer he gets to the try line the faster I’d be moving out of the way if I was on the other side of the ball.

Sadly though the efforts of two are reduced by the all-too-frequent shortfalls. It was on show again against the Hurricanes where we went into the break with a lead and might as well not have come back out after the half time oranges.

So what do we need to do against the Reds to get our season back on track? Use the ball we have.

It seems simple, but if you hold the ball for 7+ phases and don’t do anything with it you aren’t going to win. The Rebels have been guilty of this on countless occasions in the last fortnight, all to often when they are within ten metres of scoring.

I have no doubt this is going to be a focus on the training track this week and I look forward to seeing the results on what will hopefully be a very Good Friday at AAMI Park.

The Cricket World Cup is bad for the game

There. I said it. The World Cup was bad for the game of cricket.

AustraliawinWC

There is no better feeling in sport than winning. Australia lifting the World Cup for the fourth time in my life was a sweet as any other occasion. Despite this I can’t help be left with a sour taste about what the tournament does for the sport.

Crowds were wonderful, upsets were had and close games were more frequent than they had been at past tournaments. All fun and games, or was it?

The tournament was a success, but the barrage of high scores combined with the “new batting textbook” commentators ranted about leaves me feeling sour.

There were 23, 531 runs scored in the tournament at an average of 500.65 per game. When you factor in that England were playing and they were hopeless, this is a high scoring outlay from the more successful teams in the tournament.

There is a great skill in scoring 400 in 50 overs, there’s no denying that. But it is a skill which is demonstrating that 50% of the game isn’t valued under the current ODI format. If you’re a bowler you’re on a hiding to nothing. Powerplays, No-Balls, Wides and the new rules surrounding the bouncer have all been altered to ensure that runs are scored with ease.

When I first watched cricket a wide was a ball you couldn’t play a shot to with a regulation stance. Now a wide is something that’s either 75cm outside off or anything down the leg side. Two bouncers an over, anything over waist height and a full toss is a no-ball (unless you’re India), and don’t get me started on fielding regulations.

ODIs are successful because they have what the general observer classifies as “constant entertainment”. In a market when the forms of the game are getting shorter, entertainment comes through big hitting rather than a tight bowling battle. If people want big hitting you can replace bowlers with a bowling machine. The majority of bowling were half-volley’s outside off throughout the tournament, so why not give people more of what they so clearly want?

Cricket is one of my favourite sports. I’ll watch any form, but the shorter the game gets the less I care. ODIs aren’t a battle between batsmen and bowlers for the mental edge to get runs on the board. It’s a test of how long a batter will wait for the bowler to start bowling rubbish. If the batter can wait out the two over period at the start of a spell they are going to get runs.

The focus on attack hurts me as a fan, but it also hurts the next generation. Our future test cricketers think watching guys like Brendon McCullum is the way to build your technique to a level where you deserve a Baggy Green. No, it isn’t. McCullum is a wonderful cricketer with one fault – a severe inability to distinguish between forms of the game. Thank you very much short-form cricket for creating a monster which ruins it for the traditionalists. If you want to build an arsenal which will see you become a test great I suggest you YouTube guys like Doug Walters and Steve Waugh. They are the sorts of players we need to develop. I don’t need you scoring 15 an over on the first morning. I need you averaging between 47 and 60. That’s how we win tests, and reach the pinnacle of the sport.

For a pro-hitting rant you’d assume that I think there is never any smart bowling in the shorter forms. I know that Australia won the final with a fantastic bowling performance. Clarke for all of his faults devised a plan to beat an unbeaten team and pulled it off with apparent ease. Credit to him for that, but that performance alone doesn’t swing back to bowlers having a prominent role in the current form of ODIs for mine.

Is anyone else wishing The Ashes would hurry up and start?