Coming 24 hours after the Socceroos’ horror show in Norway, it did the football team an unexpected diversionary service. More on that later.
While the narrative and media cycle will swiftly move on – it always does – it feels as though the unique bond between the public and the Australian cricket team, which has been fraying for many years, was irreversibly damaged on Sunday.
There’s been a few echoes of “what-about-the-other-cheats” but the broader reaction of the Australian public has been strong: this is so far out of bounds that we can’t be associated with “that” team.
The public uses words like “we” and “us” to describe our affection for sporting teams and yet the national men’s cricket team has now become a “they”. How sad.
Quite frankly, the actions of the side have not been in sync with our collective values for about 20 years. I’ve long wrestled with the sledging issue but came to the viewpoint about a decade ago that it’s simply unacceptable.
Some occasional friendly banter is part of the game, but a systematic plan of “mental disintegration” is no way to conduct yourself on either side of the white line.
It’s against that very backdrop that the ball-tampering issue is compounded and multiplied. I don’t want to be represented by a sporting team that not only tolerates but actively endorses these ideas.
And before anyone describes it as a “brain fade”, these guys hatched a plan in the dressing room to alter the state of the ball. That it was somehow considered a good idea is beyond the pale of good judgement, ethics and morality.
Which leads me to the Socceroos. They aren’t restricted to ex-Commonwealth countries; they have to play the whole world. They are our most important international sporting ambassadors.
Now is as good a time as any for a tune up. Granted, the Socceroos are generally good in this space, and Ange Postecoglou worked tirelessly to ensure the players understood that the jersey carried a great weight of responsibility beyond the 90 minutes. This was one of his finest achievements.
But it would be rewriting history to say the Socceroos always behaved well before he arrived. They didn’t cheat – thank God – but they didn’t always behave how international ambassadors should.
The arrogance that imbued the squad in the late 2000’s grew from confidence to entitlement. Some would act as though they were rock stars.
That whole period only ended because the players either grew old or were finished off by Postecolgou. It’s a tricky one, because they really were the best group of players we’d seen – and that machismo was part of the reason many of them made it to the top of the sport.
But when you’re a Socceroo, you must check your ego the moment you get handed the national tracksuit. There’s no room for discussion on this.
Heading into tomorrow’s game against Colombia, less than three months before a World Cup, the Socceroos will soon become the most monitored sporting team in the country.
Not only do we need a response in London for sporting reasons – it would be a disaster to suffer another defeat like the shellacking in Oslo – but we need an Australian team to quickly step up to the mark as national representatives.
It’s not about capitalising on cricket’s actions – we’re from the same country, remember – but about representing the nation in the correct manner.
Play to the limit but not beyond it, and regardless of what the opposition will do or have done, it’s the only way an Australian team should ever play.
If that’s the lesson we had to learn the hard way during these shameful past few days, so be it.