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Advance Australia Fair, please

Bledisloe Cup week used to have more mind games than a Harry Potter convention. Eddie Jones toying with John Mitchell. Graham Henry doing Crocodile Dundee shit to Robbie Deans. Steve Hansen crushing Ewan McKenzie like a bag of Maltesers to drizzle over ice cream for a quick and tasty desert. 

It was fun for a while with Cheika too. His willingness to take the bait from Hansen, reporters, cartoonists and the guy who puts the Powerade out on the tables was legendary.

Fighting with Cheika is no fun any more. He's beaten the All Blacks twice in 12 goes, and the Wallabies haven't won the Bledisloe since 2003. There was a game attempt to get a rise with a throwaway comment Hansen made six months ago, but that's about it. You take no pleasure beating up an opponent ill-equipped for the fight, it's like winning the pub quiz at an Instagram influencer conference. 

We could try and make mind games great again by introducing coaching throwback week, with Graham Henry chuckling out the insults at Alan Jones, or Cheika getting to bring his mum, but it all feels a bit flat. 

I stand to have massive egg on my face, but this week feels a bit like every other the last few years, with the All Blacks doing their best to talk up the opposition, the Wallabies trying to be bullish, but we're almost certainly going to win, well, and will very quickly be on to the next proper challenge. 

There are many reasons for the Australians becoming bad at rugby. With league, AFL and football all scrapping to be second place to cricket over there, watching their domestic and international teams flattering to deceive is a tough sell, to fans and sponsors. 

Rugby's answer to problems seems to be 'more of the same' for most things, and it hasn't helped the Australians one bit. The Bledisloe used to be a massive occasion with hordes of people going over to drink Sydney dry, but it's not felt like that in a while.  Rugby is better with friends, and I sincerely hope the Australians can pull it together and be genuine rivals again someday soon.  

Thanks for reading - Richard
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The week's best NZ sport content

SKY Sport are making a firm commitment to bringing women into the commentary box, with Ruby Tui and Honey Hireme the first on the microphone [Newsroom] 

Radio Sport fixture Goran Paladin did deadly impersonations - on his last day, the tables were turned [Radio Sport]

Gregor Paul reckons playing good players out of position is a lolly jar the All Blacks have opened too many times in the past with sickly results (he's right BTW) [NZ Herald]

Sport finance is tough - a Deloitte report showed that NZ Rugby lurched from a $30m profit to a $17m loss in the last year [Stuff] 

David Leggat on the women's rowing eight, who are desperate to put the big boat on the podium at the Olympics [Locker Room] 

A breezy look at NZ's rugby grounds and how they rank - good for arguing over if you can be bothered, my only real nitpick is just about every ground is great when it's full, unfortunately it's rarely a danger in domestic rugby [Stuff]

BONUS LINK - here's an addictive football game for your lunch break.

Video nasty

Skiing on snow is for amateurs. 

Long read

Stan Smith was a competent tennis pro in the 1970's - but the Adidas shoes that took his name ensured he's more well known now than when he swung a racquet [Esquire]

Selected weekend fixtures 

  • It's All Blacks v Wallabies from Perth tomorrow night at 9.45pm in the first Bledisloe cup match, it's on SKY
  • Warriors play the Sea Eagles tonight at 8pm from Mount Smart, it's on SKY
  • The Premier League is back, opening round fixtures include Man U v Chelsea, Newcastle v Arsenal and Spurs v Aston Villa, NZ times are here, it's on Spark Sport

Bring back the gif 

When anyone starts eating Marmite.
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