<
>

Wallabies need help from All Blacks to avoid Bledisloe bloodbath

play
Ruck'n Maul: Shades of Campo in magical McKenzie (5:25)

Greg Growden and Sam Bruce laud the amazing skill set of Chiefs flyer Damien McKenzie, likening him to Wallabies great David Campese when the winger was in his prime. (5:25)

The relationship between the Australian and New Zealand rugby unions has been hot, cold and often in between. Despite New Zealand's on-field dominance, they have still at important moments been an important ally to their trans-Tasman rival.

When Australian Rugby was in dire straits after World War I, New Zealand agreed to tour New South Wales in 1920 -- hoping in the words of their team manager, Captain T.H Jones, it would be the turning point "in the road to renewed popularity".

The All Blacks' visit, on top of a successful tour by an impressive Australian Imperial Force (AIF) team the previous year, helped to revive the game in NSW at a time when it was under serious threat of being swallowed up by rugby league.

That came a decade or so after grandiose but ultimately doomed plans for Australia and New Zealand to combine and be a joint Australasian union known as the ANZRFU.

Australian and New Zealand officials, led by Sir Nicholas Shehadie and Dick Littlejohn, also worked brilliantly in tandem many years later to overcome the pig-headed attitude of their northern hemisphere counterparts to ensure the Rugby World Cup tournament came into being in 1987. Despite many in the north later carrying on as if the World Cup was their invention, it must never be forgotten it was Australia and New Zealand's baby.

Nowadays the relationship between Australia and New Zealand is lopsided. New Zealand are mighty. Australia are mice and again the nation's rugby scene is in a mess due to appalling administration, misguided goals and an unforgivable disregard for the grassroots of the game.

As Australian crowds and interest plummets, New Zealand is laughing at the fact that their neighbour failed in every one of their 25 trans-Tasman Super Rugby encounters this season. So now every Australian spectator is dreading the part of the season they usually look forward to: The Bledisloe Cup series. Despite some hiccups during the British & Irish Lions series, the All Blacks still look at least a 20-point better side than the Wallabies. And I'm being conservative.

So again, Australia may be forced to seek a helping hand from New Zealand to make the series competitive rather than a sheer waste of time.

Why not relax the Test eligibility rules, and allow the Wallabies one player the New Zealand selectors seemingly don't want? After all there has been a healthy number of New Zealanders who've played for Australia, vice-versa, and even both -- such as Des Connor.

One All Black will do. Come on New Zealand Rugby Union, to revive an ailing beast please, loan us Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie for a month or so.

The ever-widening gap between the All Blacks and Wallabies is on show when you consider McKenzie. Not wanted by the All Blacks during the Lions Test series, if McKenzie were Australian, there is no doubt he would be the first player picked for the Wallabies.

This is not just an indicator of how so many leading Australian players are currently on the nose, but also what an extraordinary footballer McKenzie is.

Anyone who questions McKenzie's abilities should watch a replay of the Chiefs win over the Brumbies in Hamilton on Saturday. Not for the first time in his career, McKenzie transformed that game. He did everything -- made the breaks, made the telling pass, trusted himself, overwhelming all with his pace and panache, breaking through at least a dozen failed Brumbies tackles. Along the way were several classic moments and some marvellous behind-the-back passes that always found a mark. On top of that, he is one of the best goal-kickers going around.

Australian rugby lacks players you want to go and watch -- and McKenzie would immediately fill that void. There's a touch of David Campese about McKenzie, forever wanting to do something different, testing the boundaries, and confounding his opponents because they have absolutely no clue what he is up to.

McKenzie, a decidedly better defender than Campo, has exceptional pace off the mark, impeccable running lines, faultless ball-handling skills which involved one excellent one-handed scoop up from behind the ruck, and clearly a wise rugby brain.

Everything the Wallabies lack at the moment.

Sure, sure, sure the McKenzie in the green-and-gold plea is a silly, misguided fantasy. But you have to be forgiven -- as that's the environment Australian Rugby currently finds itself in.