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Pray! Only divine intervention can reverse black tide of Bledis-woe

August 7, 2019 — 8.00pm

Travelling along in an old steam train bound for nowhere are a Wallaby, an All Black, a young blonde woman and a much older, wonderfully robust woman. After several hours of the trip, with no words spoken between the four strangers, the train happens to pass through a very dark tunnel. Now, despite the almost deafening noise in this total black echo chamber, the unmistakable sound of a very hard slap is suddenly heard. And when they leave the tunnel, the All Black has an enormous red mark on his cheek in the exact shape of a hand.

The blonde is thinking, “That horrible All Black wanted to put his hand on my knee and, by mistake, he must have put his hand on the old woman, who in turn must have slapped his face.”

Familiar sight: The All Blacks score in Yokohama last year.

Familiar sight: The All Blacks score in Yokohama last year.Credit:AP

The old woman is thinking, “That dirty All Black laid his hands on the blonde and she must have smacked him good ’n’ hard.”

The All Black, still reeling, is thinking, “That bloody Wallaby put his hand on that blonde and by mistake she slapped me!”

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The Wallaby is thinking, “I hope we go through another tunnel soon so I can smack that stupid All Black again.”

You see, friends? We can still win the jokes!

And we might even win the toss, when the first Bledisloe Test is played on Saturday evening in Perth.

But the rest? My friends, as we all know, in the past two decades with very rare exceptions – every time the moon is blue, and pigs fly past – we goodies have been on the losing side of just about every stat going bar “missed tackles” and “unforced errors”.

How to beat them, at last, this time?

Well, we could try, one more time, any one or several of the remedies I have proffered over the years.

I could exhort the coach to, #FFS, pick mercurial fire-crackers in the hope that the mercury will be high, that all the fire-crackers will go off at once, that all the passes stick, all the chip-and-chases bounce beautifully back into the arms of the chipper just before he steps the fullback.

No retreat, no surrender: The Wallabies must treat the haka as mere pre-match entertainment.

No retreat, no surrender: The Wallabies must treat the haka as mere pre-match entertainment.Credit:AAP

I could plead with the players to take no prisoners, tackle themselves red-raw and first build victory on demolition of all things black, the way the Farr-Jones Wallabies so famously did in Wellington in the Third Test of 1990, which proved to be the beginning of a whole new era.

I could pick out particular players and recall the greatest bit of rugby advice ever given, by an eight-year-old boy in a fax to the All Blacks, just before the 1995 World Cup Final: “Dear All Blacks, Remember, rugby is a team game. All fourteen of you, pass the ball to Jonah!” In the absence of Israel Folau, our closest equivalent would be to get the ball to Kurtley Beale.

I could insist – as I have many times over the years – that if the Wallabies haven’t sorted out how to win their own lineouts, their own scrums and secure kick-offs sent their way, then there is no point turning up because it would be like a carpenter turning up to do a job without a saw, hammer and nails.

I could even be so presumptuous – as I also have many times in the past – to give bits of advice based on my own limited experience at that level. (“Fer Chrissakes, you either do kick-offs to land just beyond the 10-metre line to smash 'em, or right into the corner to pin them down there, but you NEVER kick it 30 Metres, so the receiver is beyond your forwards and still has plenty of time to give it to the fullback to reef it downfield!”)

I could even try the second-last card I have in my deck, strongly predicting an All Blacks victory in the hope that my undoubted powers as Captain Kiss Of Death would bring them down.

I could do all of these things, just as I have done so many times.

But the obvious problem beckons.

None of my advice, none of my exhortations, have had the remotest effect. We’ve still been losing the bloody thing for 20 years, did I mention?

It's a miracle: You see, it can be done. The Wallabies win in Brisbane in 2017.

It's a miracle: You see, it can be done. The Wallabies win in Brisbane in 2017.Credit:AAP

So, I give up.

This time, it’s over to you religious types, who dinkum believe there is some kind of spirit up there, taking notes, working out who goes to the naughty corner to beat them all, and who gets to live an eternal life happily ever after, somewhere above the clouds. This great being, many believe, can turn a blind eye to the starving in Africa; terrible tsunamis in Asia; and the election that put Malcolm Roberts back in the Senate – but can also focus on sorting out tries for believers who point to him in the sky in thanks for delivering another five-pointer, and can turn whole matches for the true believers.

I have gently derided your collective absurdities for years.

But, I told you, I give up.

Friends, it’s time to PRAY for a Wallaby victory.

See if that works.

Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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