Phil Gifford: Keith Quinn Tweet a reminder of how far we’ve come

Keith Quinn no doubt learned a valuable lesson during the week. If you’re an old guy going on line, get a grand kid to check it out first, to see if he or she picks up the attempt at irony.

His suggestion in a tweet to “Harden up—blokes of New Zealand” after seeing rugby and other sports stars cry, was no doubt intended as a light hearted dig, but to say the message landed with a tone deaf clunk would be to vastly understate the reaction.

In an odd way though, it was a reminder of how much better All Blacks, in particular, and hopefully New Zealand men in general, have become about talking about emotions, and mental struggles, and sometimes needing help to cope.

Just about the saddest memory I’ve got of how hard older generations of Kiwi males found it to express feelings came in a 1990 interview with a great All Black fullback from the 1940s and 1950s, Bob Scott.

We were at Scott’s home in Whangamata, filming for a television series, “Mud And Glory”. Scott was one of the most humble and sweet natured men I’ve ever met. So I was horrified to see tears well in his eyes when I raised what was obviously still a hugely emotional issue for him of how, in South Africa in 1949, his team-mates had gathered round him to try to raise his spirits after a 9-3 loss to the Springboks in Durban. Okey Geffin had kicked three penalties for South Africa, but that day Scott, usually an impeccable kicker, couldn’t land one.

How had the other All Blacks tried to cheer poor Bob up?If it wasn’t so heart rending, it’d be comical. They’d linked arms and sung “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.”

As you sift through the rubble of the two All Black losses in Australia, going back to the future for quickfire ways to get back on the winning track offers few hints.

These All Blacks can’t take a three month boat trip, like the 1924-25 Invincibles did on their way to Britain.

Fifty years after that epic tour George Nepia would tell me, “It could have been a disaster, all that time spent together, but by the time we got off the ship we were all good friends. It was like playing in a very good club side.” The Invincibles played 32 games on tour and won them all.

Ian Foster can’t fib to the players.

In Australia in 1968 coach Fred Allen was concerned that some of his veterans, like the great Colin “Pinetree” Meads, were a little too casual about playing the Wallabies.

In the shed before the first test in Sydney, Allen fixed his most fierce look on Meads, and snarled, “They (the Wallabies) were using a sack of sawdust for rucking practice yesterday. Do you know what they were calling it? Bloody Pinetree!” The All Blacks won the test, 27-11.

They can’t get the team drunk.

In 1988, after drawing the second test in Brisbane, 19-all, the All Blacks flew to Sydney

Coach Grizz Wyllie, as grumpy as the team had even seen him, told them to take their training gear in the cabin with them on the flight down to Sydney. “We’ll have training as soon as we get off.” After a bus trip over the harbour bridge, they stopped at the Eastwood club’s ground in Terrogal, where the players were told to put on a training jersey, but leave on their long trousers and street shoes.

Thoroughly bewildered, when they walked into the clubrooms they found rows and of full beer glasses. With the exception of Michael Jones, whose tee-totaling beliefs were respected, the rest of the squad drank until they can barely walk.

“It certainly blew the drawn game out of our system,” said one of the senior players, Mike Brewer. Thirteen days later the All Blacks thrashed Australia 30-9.

On the other hand, the players of 2020 might help work out themselves what went wrong.

In 1977 the All Blacks led by two highly astute men, captain Graham Mourie and coach Jack Gleeson, discovered in the first test in Toulouse, lost 18-13, that they had no answer to the brutal power of the French pack. “It was decided to play a game (in the second test in Paris a week later) that moved the French round the paddock,” Mourie would say in 2006.”We talked through the options and got the team to come up with ideas.”

One was to play two man lineouts, and run the big Frenchmen off their feet. No.8 Lawrie Knight would recall that “The short lineouts were really a result of the forwards getting together and saying, ‘This is the way we can beat ’em'”.

The All Blacks knew the game was in the bag when Gerard Cholley, a massive prop who was the cornerstone of the French scrum, lumbered to a lineout, saw the All Blacks only standing two men on the line, and gasped in French (translated for the All Blacks by a delighted, bilingual Andy Haden), “Aw shit no, not again.”

The All Blacks won going away, 15-3.

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