The past month has seen one frankly incredible All-Star game (The NBA’s, of which more shortly) and one which, again frankly, I didn’t actually see (the NRL’s). Apparently, according to my source, the Indigenous All Stars vs The NRL All Stars was a thing of true beauty, and as a way to kick off the season it seems like a fine idea. Maybe the promotion was a bit lacking, but baby steps, right? At least it got off the ground.
The NBA’s All-Star game is an established institution, over a half-century old, and appearances in it go a long way toward gauging the relative worth of talents from era to era. The game we saw last weekend was jaw-dropping, groin-tingling sports, with talents allowed to roam free and points piled on from all angles. They played defence and made it a game in the final quarter, so it worked as game too. It was a festival, a celebration of the sport at its most liberated. Then everyone gets back down to business and starts to run at the playoffs (even the Wizards! Three out of four since they gutted their team!).
Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about our own venerable answer to the All-Star game, the North vs South match.
This thing is actually the granddady of them all, older than institutions like State of Origin (1980), the NBA All-Star game (1951), the MLB All-Star game (1933) and the Ryder Cup (1927). If it were still around the North vs South match would be 113 years old, putting it up there with, I don’t know, The Ashes as far as earned gravity goes.
Like many great things about rugby union (rucking, normal haircuts, farmers, Auckland being any good) it died out soon after professionalism arrived and ruined everything for everyone. The last game was in Dunedin in April of 1995, and since then the game has faded into obscurity, along with other great concepts like Possibles vs Probables (how awesome is that name alone?!).
It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. The weekend after the end of Super 14 should have a festival of rugby, played at one stadium, which featured a rookie vs sophomore game (an excellent way to introduce new generations to a national audience), goal-kicking comps, a skills challenge (say 100m run, goal kicks, passes through hoops, line-out take, deadlift etc) all culminating in a North vs South match which could double as a final selection trial.
I think the public would buy into that. I think the players would love it. I think people want to see players returning to their island of origin to battle for something historic, to see the North get smashed by the South for a few years before gradually wrestling back to even. I think it should happen. I have no power, but well, maybe Chris Rattue will read this
(is he the kind of guy who has a google alert for his own name? Hmm how about Richard Boock, Wynne Gray andGregor Paul? No? fair enough) and write about it, or someone from the rugby union. Claim it as your own, I don’t care. Just understand that this moribund sport needs more than post-match ref interviews (great concept, but hardly the revolution required) to get it back to its glory days.