As the All Blacks prepare for the Bledislow Cup Test, Jody Barrett has time to check out other sports.photo/photo campaign
From dominating the front and back to relative obscurity. In a city gripped by Aussie rules frenzy, the arrival of the All Blacks in Melbourne is more of a concern than another passing tram.
There are six days left until Thursday night’s unusual Bledislow Cup test at Marvel Stadium, which is said to be close to selling out of 53,000. Few cities in the world embrace sport like Melbourne.
At this point, though, the All Blacks are not so much flying under the radar as they are on the local agenda.
A weekend newspaper ran 16 pages devoted to the Queen’s death, with seven sports pages covering the AFL Finals series.
With the AFL season in full swing, the rival oval code is third locally – as evidenced by Saturday night’s home NRL final against the Canberra Raiders at Melbourne Storm’s home, a little story.
The All Blacks and Dave Rainey’s Wallabies, who strangely didn’t arrive in Melbourne until Tuesday, five days after Ian Foster’s men, for no reason worth mentioning.
Such a backdrop is a far cry from the scrutiny the All Blacks have endured during this year’s turbulent Test campaign with four losses and three wins.
In this case, the chances of avoiding the spotlight and walking down the street unrecognized are really rare.
Before getting ready for the Wallabies, many of the All Blacks travelled to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday night for the AFL semi-final between the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne Devils.
More than 90,000 locals will gather at the same venue on Saturday night, with Collingwood Magpies fans hosting a packed event at Fremantle Quays.
With his size and booming boots, All Blacks defender Jody Barrett won’t look out of place in the AFL. While he was delighted to see Brisbane upset at Friday’s game, Barrett made it clear that the lack of local attention to the All Blacks would not translate into complacency of any kind.
“It’s AFL finals week so there’s a lot to do, but more importantly, we have a Bledisloe to win,” Barrett said. “We got our spirits back, we had a few days off, we had an Australian team that was injured after the loss to South Africa, so it felt good in training camp.
“It’s cool to understand a different game. It’s an interesting concept to capture the whole city’s craze for a sport. It’s a very physical sport and they have great skills, so as a guy who likes to play football And the outside linebacker who catches the ball is fun.
“It’s great to get a taste of this, get out of the environment and go back and prepare for the Australians.
“I don’t think it has an impact on us and how we want to prepare. Whether or not everyone is talking about us, we have work to do and we need to prepare accordingly. There’s the Australian side that hasn’t tasted Bledisloe in a long time. So if we have any gaps in preparation, we open up, so we’re going to be ready every day of the week.”
While they emerged from a 53-3 demolition of the Hamilton Cougars, the All Blacks knew they had to restart effectively to break the cycle of their frantic form fluctuations as they tried to extend their run in the coveted Brady The Slough team dominated for almost two decades and went on to fight for an unlikely rugby title.
Trying to replicate the attack that produced seven attempts against the Cougars wasn’t as simple as rolling out the same blueprint.
“It’s every week,” Barrett said. “The wallabies may present something completely different from the way we previewed them. The lesson we learned between Argie Tests one and two is that we need to make these shifts and try to execute them during the game – not a week later .
“There will be a trend and we will be looking to test Australia through their defence, but if they do something different we have to be able to adapt and come up with a plan in the game.”
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