Gus got it right on Mal’s Kangaroos
GUS Gould is not everyone's cup of tea, particularly those north of the border.
And his opinion should never be taken as anything other than just that - his opinion.
But the vitriol aimed at Gould following comments he made during Friday night's Trans-Tasman Test is absurd, and unfair. Like me in this column today, Gus Gould is paid to offer an opinion on rugby league.
And irrespective of whether we like the bloke, the consensus is that the former NRL player and coach has a pretty good handle on most aspects of the game.
Mal Meninga, in his first outing as coach of the Kangaroos, took umbrage at comments Gould made during the Test match telecast about the performance, and age, of the Australian team. His most telling comment was "we're kidding ourselves about winning the World Cup if this is the best we can produce".
Meninga responded by saying he was disappointed that someone of Gould's ilk would make such an observation, and then slipped in a deft left hook by reminding us that Gould never played Test football.
"You don't really understand Test football if you haven't played it", was his rather terse response.
Now, three days since the Test, I wonder if Big Mal feels the same way.
Does he still believe, after reviewing the game and speaking to a multitude of people, that Gould's comments were as confronting as he first believed?
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Meninga can put whatever spin he likes on Friday's Test, but as entertainment, the game was a bludger. And that opinion would almost certainly be shared by the 27,724 who saw it live at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle and the millions who watched it on TV.
Sure, it was tough, it was rugged, it was physical and it was dour - all the adjectives Meninga trotted out - but the bottom line was that the Test was sub-standard.
And on a fair dinkum basis, it was the least exciting of all games played over the rep weekend.
For pure entertainment value, the Pacific Island Tests on Saturday night were far and away top billing. Both games had the toughness and physicality of the Trans-Tasman Test, but dour they definitely were not.
Meninga appears to have taken Gould's criticism personally, which is understandable for a winning coach making his national debut. And, with the Kangaroos having lost their past three Tests to the Kiwis, it is absolutely reasonable for him to be particularly buoyed by the victory.
But the cold, hard fact remains that the Kangaroos were mediocre, despite their 16-nil win. And that is the opinion of someone who as a kid dreamt of pulling on a green and gold jersey, but only made it to first grade in the bush.