Aussie baiting: A Proud Englishman Writes

15 04 2010

Bradders writes: This article is in response to Dingo’s original ‘English Baiting: A proud Aussie Writes’ post. I suggest you read it first if you haven’t already….

Firstly, I suppose, we ought to do the ‘English’ thing and thank Dingo for his efforts on putting together a well written and lucid article castigating the English. Now, however, the niceties are out – let the Aussie bashing begin!

I am simply going to come out an say it! The team, to whom I hate watching England lose the most, is Australia. These feelings, inevitably, are strongest in the rugby and cricket arenas, yet in any sport and in any circumstance, losing to an Australian just shouldn’t be done. Sadly, of course, it happens far more than I would like it to; yet, I believe somewhere around 2000, English sport turned a corner and we are now on the up!

Growing up in the nineties as an English sports supporter was an often fraught affair. If we weren’t losing to Germany in the football, we were coming 36th in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics medals table (below such great sporting nations as Kazakhstan, Turkey or Poland to name but a few) or being pounded in the semi finals of the 1995 Rugby World Cup by New Zealand. Of course the flagship bearer of English incompetence during this time was the national cricket team who lurched from one disaster to the next, reaching a nadir in 1998 by losing to New Zealand at home. During this period we were officially ranked the worst test playing cricket team in the world other than Zimbabwe, and even they ran us close. So there you have it, a lifetime growing up supporting a nation who at that time had only one claim to sporting glory, which was all of 30 years previously, and who ever since had been harking back to those brief glorious days.

This harking back was, of course, no more than a tonic designed to assuage all the hurt that had been piled on ever since. Speaking for myself though, I never quite bought into this looking back technique, preferring  through my teenage years to delve each time into my own personal pot of optimism, each time coming up with arguments as to why English sport has or was about to turn the corner.

Throughout this time, and as a direct consequence of not winning as much as I would have liked, inevitably I developed fairly strong views as to where some of the blame should be apportioned. Naturally enough, and without much thought into the matter, I blamed Australia.

The main reason for this blame is of course our travails on the cricket field. For 10 years from around 1995, when the Aussie cricket team beat the West Indies in an unofficial world championship decider, through to 2005, the Australians ruled the roost. Blessed with a collection of  all time greats, in the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, and Shane Warne, along with world class players like Matt Hayden, Justin Langer, Jason Gillespie and Damien Martyn, it is little surprise that whenever England’s collection of hard working, but essentially mediocre (Graham Thorpe excepted) players came up against them, the results only went one way. The Ashes pain had actually started back in 1989, although back then it was inconceivable that it would take  a further 16 years to reclaim them and so it was only by the mid to late nineties that this pain really started to hurt.

This all changed, though, in one glorious Summer when the one of the best sides to visit English shores was soundly beaten by a Flintoff inspired England. After all the years of hurt at the hands of these Antipodean maestros, this was truly a sweet reward, and justified all that previously unwarranted optimism.  With the Ashes safely back in English hands following the extraordinary 2009 series, I am even able to gloss happily over the horrific aberration that was the 5-0 thrashing in Australia during 2006. With the next series coming up later this year, I am finally confident that we will be able to do what no English side has done since 1986, and win away from home.

One area in which I do feel confident in having a little crow is on the rugby pitch. Not you understand because of the current state of English rugby compared to the Aussies (sad to say on that basis there would be no bragging rights at all), but in the ability of England to put paid to Australian hopes in World Cup competitions. Since 1995 when Rob Andrew’s drop goal sealed a remarkable 25-22 win, England have beaten the Aussies in the final of 2003 and the quarters of 2007. Depending on results, there is a very real chance that the 2011 semi final could be another England Australia affair, which for most English would be an ideal result. As Dingo pointed out in his article, England are about to tour Australia this June and in all likelihood will lose, yet other than the normal pain of losing to Australia, this will not deter me to much. Martin Johnson is, after all, working towards a plan that will come to fruition at the next world cup meaning that we can carry on this fine tradition. Isn’t he?!*

Having sat down to write this piece it occurred to me that as I had got older, perhaps I had experienced a slight mellowing in my attitudes towards Aussie sports teams. For instance I remembered no longer always supporting the opponent in games not involving England, (I recently supported Australia during last years Tri Nations competition), yet I still admit to a vicarious pleasure on hearing an Aussie side has lost. For example, you may have been of the opinion that Britain’s 2008 Olympic medal targets were a somewhat arbitrary figure decided by our medal prospects, yet in reality it boiled down to, what at the time was thought of as slightly fantastical, beating Australia’s collection. And as history can relate, unexpectedly Britain achieved this, winning not only more golds but more medals too.

It must be said though that despite this mellowing, that certain Australian’s and noted ambassadors for Australian sport don’t always endear themselves to the English people or me in particular. Ricky Ponting for example, as much the English admire him as a player, it would be a major turn around for him to be loved over here. Ponting has an extraordinarily annoying habit, almost perfectly designed to rub the English up the wrong way, of promoting the ‘spirit of the game of cricket’ and then seemingly doing anything but that in a game situation. Whether it is putting undue and highly aggressive pressure on the umpires, to showing dissent, (hilariously from an English point of view) shouting at the English dressing room having been run out in 2005, or acting hurt and surprised when yet another opposing test captain declines to take up his offer of the batsman accepting the fielders word with regard to catches; he just gets under our skin. Which of course makes it all the more delightful that he is one of only 3 Australian captains to have lost he Ashes twice.

All this said however, I do have a great respect for Australia as a sporting nation and they are inevitably the contests to which I look forward the most. In summation though, we’re no longer scared of you, so bring it on!

There is of course a huge degree of irony intended throughout this article, none more so than here….

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