After losing to Argentina and watching Lukhan Tui get involved in a scuffle with a fan, the Wallabies have being doing plenty of soul-searching this week. In a first-person column for RUGBY.com.au, senior Wallaby Will Genia explains why.
"It’s been a tough week. Really tough.
I just have an overwhelming feeling of having let people down. I can speak for the other guys and say they feel the same.
It's been tough just because of the result and our performance against Argentina, and obviously with what happened with Lukhan, too.
They’re linked of course.
We were outplayed and at certain parts of that game we were out-enthused, and people will say: "Hold on, how can that happen when you’re playing for your country?"
And it’s a great question, because it shouldn’t.
That should never happen when you are out there playing for Australia.
You can lose playing good rugby and be okay with that. You can walk off and live with it.
When we played New Zealand in Dunedin last year, we lost that one but I felt like it was the best game we played all year. We left it all out there.
But that Pumas loss - I still haven’t let go of it.
What happened afterward with Lukhan and the fan, he’d obviously had too many beers, but it just highlighted the fact that we'd let people down.
I look at that and think: “That guy is a really passionate Wallabies fan. He wants us to do well”.
That is what makes me feel down.
Support means everything to us. To make our fans proud is at very heart of what we do, and our identity.
When Cheik came in, we did a lot of work on what we stood for. Why we are out there playing.
Trust me when I say making Australians proud is at the very top of that document.
When it is after the game and you see you’ve made people happy; grown men and women, kids, all the bruises don’t matter. All the pain doesn’t matter, because you know you’ve made people happy.
But after a night like on the Gold Coast, it’s the opposite.
There is a huge sense of disappointment. It was a game we should have won.
It always hurts when you lose, when you are representing your country, double it. Triple it.
I just felt hollow.
PLAYING FOR AUSTRALIA
When I put that gold jersey on I feel like Superman. I really do.
That sounds really corny and cliched and people can laugh at me, but I do. I never take it for granted.
I have had the enormous privilege of being selected to play for Australia 94 times now and that buzz has never gone away.
If I am being completely honest, I appreciate it more now than I ever have. You never know when it is going to end.
I get my jersey and I read out what’s written on the jersey, who we are playing, the number, the date. And when I put it on it feels like I am Superman because I know I have put in so much hard work to get an opportunity to wear the jersey. And you have a country behind you.
It means everything to me. When you put in on you are representing your family, your friends, your teammates and obviously the whole country. When you put it on and go out there, you want to make everyone proud.
There is a distinct responsibility to wearing the jersey, too.
Rugby has a different dynamic to, say, rugby league or AFL, where it is all about the clubs.
The Wallabies are seen as the flagship of the game and when they’re doing well, the rest of the game gets a kick along. People are lifted.
That is a responsibility that I definitely feel, and I can only speak personally, but for me it is an amazing responsibility.
I enjoy the fact that you have the opportunity to go out there and play well, and then see kids wearing their Wallabies jerseys, loving the game and getting out playing it.
Supporters are at the heart of what we do as Wallabies. They’re why we do it.
So my message to fans right now is this: I completely understand your frustration. I share it. We are not performing consistently.
We play one good game and then a bad one. Or a few bad ones, even. I completely understand the frustration.
I would also say don’t ever doubt that we have an incredible sense of pride in representing our country, and that we bust our arses at training. We work hard.
We are genuinely putting in - cliche alert - the blood, sweat and tears.
When you put that jersey on you know it’s about more than just yourself.
And as Aussies, you want to see guys have a go. That’s what it is all about right? Guys having a genuine go. Playing with intensity, heart, determination and courage and having that never say die attitude.
And when it comes down to it, that’s how we have to perform.
If we show those traits in our games, then we can lose and live with it. But if we show those traits in our games, we won’t be dropping many.
That’s why losing on the weekend was probably the hardest loss I have ever had.
Because why didn’t we have that enthusiasm? Why didn’t we have that energy?
Moreso than anything, that’s the question that we are asking ourselves.
What’s happening out there?
There’s a lack of clarity under pressure, and under pressure, we lose focus.
You just can't do afford that in Test rugby. Teams are too good these days.
I read that there is pressure on Cheik and honestly I feel sorry for him because he is not the bloke who should be copping it.
I have been part of the Wallabies now for ten years, and had a few coaches along the way.
But I have never been involved with a coach who cares so much about the team as Cheik.
To the point where he gives everything of himself: physically, mentally, emotionally.
He loves the team so much.
He has given so much to not just the Wallabies, but Australian rugby.
He has created a culture and an environment that was just not there before.
And I don’t think that’s something he gets enough credit for.
Yes, we are not performing well and he’s copping it. But that’s on us. It’s our responsibility to make it happen.
His job is to prepare us physically, mentally and emotionally and I can tell you - he’s the best at doing it. Better than anyone I have been involved with, to be honest.
LUKHAN AND THE FAN
I am assuming the guy after the game had too many beers, and he has gone way overboard in how he responded to the loss. It was an unfortunate episode.
But I am pretty sure I can speak on behalf of everybody on this, and say we all, to some degree, appreciate his love and passion for the game.
More than anything, to me it just showed how passionate he is about rugby in Australia.
He was there in a Wallabies jersey, so he bought a ticket, came out and sat in the stands to support us.
Our job is making all those people proud. Him as much as anybody else.
People who come out and watch us play, and show that much love and passion for the Australian rugby team, we want to make them all proud.
We have an opportunity to go do that in South Africa and Argentina.
We are in a tough place, and we have to respond. We will respond."