You beautiful blue bastards. You wonderful Waratahs. You bloody beauties.
Should rugby in these parts last another 1000 years, men and women, Tah-gics all, will still say this, this victory over the Crusaders to win the Super title by 33-32 was your finest hour. After two decades of disappointment you not only triumphed on Saturday night, you stunned everyone, including the mighty team you were up against. It wasn’t just that you won, it was how you won, the manner in which you played, the derring-do displayed, the discipline delivered, the dogged defence, the skill, the nerve, the chutzpah, the fact you played the game the way it was meant to be played with an intensity beyond our wildest imaginings. Yes, the sweetest victory of all, but it wasn’t just one for the true believers, Saturday night was one for the disbelievers too. I defy anyone serious to look at that match, even the leaguies, and say it was anything other than a sporting spectacle for the ages – a vintage performance to put in a bottle and take out in 30 years. Those of us there on the night will boast about it for years to come. And you beautiful blue bastards did that!
I know, I know, it is unseemly to gush and proper sports commentary goes into every event with one eyebrow raised, and manages to squeeze in at least one cynical comment or outright sneer, but on this occasion I just can’t muster it. Like everyone there, I just want to gush. And I am not alone.
Being a Waratahs supporter has been, at times, a lost and lonely vigil and at one point last season there were only about 12,000 of us left who could be bothered turning up regularly. On Saturday night, however, a record 61,000 were there to see your triumph, and the joy in the stadium, for me, was symbolised by seeing, late in the game, federal Treasurer Joe Hockey and NSW Premier Mike Baird laughing and shouting in unison from their adjoining seats: “Give it to Izzy! GIVE IT TO IZZY!”
And so you did. Time and again. And time and again Israel Folau, you made huge yards, usually sucking in two or three defenders, before feeding your supports. You defused the high-ball, you tackled yourself red-raw. You have been fantastic this season, and rugby is as lucky to have you, as you are to have found rugby. Adam Ashley-Cooper. Mate, you were a stand-out from first to last, not just for the two tries you scored, but for everything else you packed into that 80 minutes of attack and defence. You were the sword.
Nick Phipps. You’ve never played better. After outplaying incumbent Wallabies halfback Nic White last week, on Saturday you seemed to outplay the whole Crusaders backline, with darting runs, scything tackles and most particularly extraordinarily accurate and long passes that would knock the cigarette out of a sparrow’s mouth at 30 metres.
Michael Hooper? You, skipper, were everywhere at once. There must have been three of you out there, surely? Every time we looked up it was “Hooper! Hooper! Hooper!” See Michael tackle. See Michael pass. See Michael chase the ball down. See Michael exhort his troops to ever greater efforts. See Michael lift the Cup in triumph as the crowd roars.
Tatafu Polota-Nau. You gave it your all and even though so injured you could barely walk, you were still there 45 minutes after the final whistle, with the rest of the Waratahs, walking around the field, signing autographs and posing for photographs. On such stuff are dynasties built.
Benn Robinson. David Brockhoff would have been proud of you. You have been the anchor of that pack since the Tahs were lost and bleeding behind Uluru, and no one has made a longer journey to get to the Promised Land. Congratulations.
Dave Dennis. Though badly injured a few weeks ago, meaning you couldn’t take the field, it was a great thing you lifted the Cup with Hooper. When the Waratahs wobbled earlier in the season, you were the one who got them back on track.
Will Skelton. More than a mere revelation, you’re close to being a revolution. You are the one, and we want to see you unleashed against the All Blacks.
Bernard Foley. Champion. Don’t speak. Not a word, I said! Champion. Great kick.
Michael Cheika. Miracle man. You’ve given starch to the pack, champagne to the backs, and transformed an entire culture. You’ve taken off the shackles and made the Waratahs the strongest province of rugby in the entire world. You deserve all the accolades coming your way.
And one more word to those who have done so much work off-field. I can never quite work out the dual board structure of the NSWRU and all its chairmen, presidents, directors and so forth, but obviously to my eyes all of Roger Davis, Sally Loane, Nick Farr-Jones, Tim Gavin, Mick Mathers, Michael Miller, Jason Allen and all the rest deserve great credit for taking what was a basket case and turning the whole thing around. It is for the rest of us now to honour your efforts and the efforts of all the Tahs and turn up in force next season. Can’t wait. This is just the beginning.
I’ll say it again. First we take Manhattan. Then we take Berlin. Christchurch is done.