The Public Apology has launched yet another absurd, somewhat unnecessary mini-series. In this latest one, we’re brainstorming the analogy that best fits the milieu in which the present-day Wallabies now find themselves. In this second instalment Dave J. Edwards proffers that The Wallabies are essentially U.S. ‘Teen Dramas’ from 1995-2004…
* * * * * *
As you will already have read, TPA senior editor Ben Shine thinks that the Wallabies are the sporting equivalent of 90’s baggy jeans.
The analogy, as always, is pitch-perfect.
Personally, I’m still coming to terms with the shift from baggy jeans to skin-tight leggings. Recently, I read about a new fashion trend called normcore – essentially a movement where people eschew ‘fashion’ in favour of simple clothes that are simply comfortable.
However, I don’t think the Wallabies represent normcore because, well, there’s nothing comfy about getting raped mercilessly at Eden Park. They are, instead, as Shine suggests, a shapeless pair of baggy jeans – once the epitome of cool, but now resigned to the bargain bin at Vinnies.
But there was a time when the Wallabies fit our national psyche like a snug pair of trousers, wasn’t there?
I grew up with the Wallabies. I remember reading Bob Dwyer’s book as a 10-year-old. I had pictures of club rugby players on my bedroom wall, for fuck’s sake.
But I didn’t know any better at 10, did I? I possibly didn’t know any better at 17-18, either, when the Wallabies won the World Cup during the slim stretch of time that, in retrospect, was undoubtedly the greatest period in Australia’s sporting history.
But at 28, I know better. And believe me, I know a fad when I see one.
* * * * * *
For my own analogy, I’ll venture into pop culture territory. It’s not a strength of mine, but I think I can hold my own here.
As such, I propose that the Wallabies are essentially teen/young adult-focused TV dramas screening from circa-1995 to the mid-2000s.
Hear me out.
Like every other dumb-fuck 15-19-year-old in 2003, I sat down every Sunday night to check in on Ryan, Seth, Marissa and the gang.
I’m talking about The O.C. The faddish TV series from 2003-2005 featuring young, beautiful teens living their lives in California’s affluent Orange County.
Just like we sat down to witness Australia’s sporting dominance on a weekly basis, The O.C. provided us with a similar comfort. Familiar faces, digestible story-lines, always a happy ending.
We were all charmed by Seth Cohen’s rapid-fire Jewish-centric one-liners. We certainly fell for Marissa Cooper and that other chick, whose name escapes me.*
Alas, this dominance came and went, just as quickly as the McG-produced drama did.
In the late 90’s to early 2000s, the Wallabies were an unstoppable juggernaut. We didn’t seem slower than the All Blacks, or more susceptible to brain-snaps, which we do now. In the immediate aftermath of the new professional era, the Wallabies were the physical representation of modernity.
But just as viewership drifted for The O.C., leading to its cancellation at the end of series 3**, the rugby landscape changed, too. Some 20 years since rugby went professional, other countries have caught up to Australia.
* * * * * *
Teen dramas exploded onto our screens in the mid-90s, with Beverly Hills 90210 leading the charm offensive. It’s no coincidence that, at the exact same time, the Wallabies (yet to be prefaced in conversation by the word ‘Qantas’) hit the public consciousness with the same enigmatic force.
But while Aaron Spelling’s decision to cast daughter Tori Spelling in 90210 represented a minor stumbling block, the Wallabies had no such casting issues. In this new professional era, each player selected themselves; each player had that rare mix of ability and charisma.
You had David Campese, Tim Horan and Jason Little at 11, 12 and 13. Tony Daly, Ewen MacKenzie and Phil Kearns leading the forward pack. David Wilson and Willie-O binding the scrum.
They were all there on our TV sets each week, just as Steve Sanders, David Silver, and Brandon Walsh were. They were Australia’s Walter Cronkite – delivering the goods every night to a watchful nation when it mattered most.
And under the tutelage of Bob Dwyer – and later Rod MacQueen, sport’s own Aaron Spelling equivalent – the Wallabies went from strength to strength.
But like 90210, the Wallabies are best left as a memory.
Indeed, 90210 did relaunch itself recently, but it just wasn’t the same. The things that made the show so popular – Steve Sanders’ sarcasm, Brandon Walsh’s hair, the fact that Luke Perry was a 46-year-old actor playing a 20-year-old – were no longer present.
And it’s the same with the Wallabies.
The Wallabies, like a misguided TV executive, think that we’re going to stick around. But maybe the sands have shifted for real this time? Perhaps, like character-driven teen dramas, rugby union just isn’t hip anymore?
Perhaps it’s not the Wallabies fault, nor the fault of rugby, but simply the fact that rugby is no longer palatable to a modern audience.
We don’t like comedies to have a laugh track anymore, do we? The Office changed all that. We prefer panning cameras and knowing glances as evidenced on Parks and Recreation, Community, Curb Your Enthusiasm and other such ironic (mostly HBO) TV series.
This smug, ironic, elitist humour is what’s in right now – and the Qantas Wallabies are nothing but a shitty episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. But unlike Ray Romano, not everybody loves the Wallabies. Not anymore, we don’t.
For what was once de rigueur is now simply passé.
By Dave Edwards
* Her name was Summer! Summer Roberts, as portrayed by Rachel Bilson on the popular teen series The O.C. Thanks Wikipedia, what would The Public Apology do without you? Probably cease to exist.
** Just checked; apparently there was a fourth series. Fuck me, it must have been shit.