You can hear the silence if you listen very carefully.
Roughly 12 months ago, the noise was near enough to deafening. Every man and his grumpy old dog wanted Ian Foster out as All Blacks coach. Neither the man nor the dog knew what they were barking about, but you couldn’t move for bumping into a loud critic who claimed to know so much more than Foster himself. They would make idle threats to end their Sky TV subscription and then go off and watch … rugby league. Ouch.
They probably thought such remarks would cut deep, to the very bone, in fact. But, just in case that wasn’t enough to get some attention and the action they wanted, and if they felt like putting the verbal boot in just one more time, they were just as quick to say that Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson should be the immediate replacement. So there.
There was no debating with them, no room for an exchange of ideas. Foster had to go and that was that.
It’s hard to hear those people now. Where have they gone? Perhaps you know one or more of them and have noticed a very subtle change of tune, as have I. Well, not so much a change of tune, but more a change of conversation topic. The subject of the coach has been replaced with a new topic … the referee. Oh, and the lopsided draw. And the yellow cards. And a somewhat disturbing allegation of a racial slur, of all things.
Very little mention of Mr Foster. I guess he could take that as a ‘win’.
We are a fickle bunch, it must be said. Seemingly incapable of taking a long-term view, we want unparalleled success and we want it right now, if you don’t mind. It’s possible, of course, that the impatient among us have not successfully adjusted to the four-yearly cycle that a World Cup brings. The planning and strategy required to win the sport’s ultimate prize simply will not fit in with the expectations that our team should win every match.
Those days went out the window when we hosted the first World Cup in 1987 and the four-year cycle first emerged. Old habits, and attitudes, die hard in rugby circles.
And yet, come Sunday morning, people will gather in large groups and yell at a screen. The ref, again, will cop plenty of flak. There are bound to be a few supporters at the pub, club, or a mate’s place who were calling for Foster’s head last year. Will you be able to spot them? They will likely be incognito in All Blacks supporter’s gear and joining in with the haka.
Through all the criticism, Foster has remained dignified and determined. The rest of us would probably have flipped the bird [or used words to that effect] and stormed off quite a while ago. But not Foster.
I write this with the outcome of the final still a few days away. Whatever the result, this World Cup cycle should be a lesson to all supporters. One we should have learnt by now. Don’t be too quick to judge; you might not know as much as much as you think you do.