It’s well known that Australians are perhaps toughest on their athletes, maybe second to only England.
“Having a go” used to be a defining characteristic of an ordinary Aussie, let alone our premier athletes, and for that we loved them.
Without boring you with a psychoanalysis on 21st century attitudes, that seems to have changed.
The Australian “can-do” spirit has been replaced with a lethargic, “do what’s easiest” and “play it simple” notion, with anyone stepping outside this framework panned where they would once have been applauded.
Case in point, the man everybody now for some reason loves to hate, Jarryd Hayne.
Hayne’s switch from league to gridiron was always going to be controversial, if for no other reason than he’d just won his second Dally M Medal as the best player in the NRL, and was coming into his own as one of the all-time greats.
However, it seemed from day dot that when he announced his switch, it was received not with “I wonder if he can do it, good luck to him” to “there’s no way he can do it, why even try”.
Apart from that being the worst possible message we can raise our kids and young athletes by, what happened to the Australian spirit that once would’ve backed Jarryd to the end to achieve one of the most ambitious goals in Aussie sporting history?
Why has this now been replaced with cynicism, tall poppy-ism and a lack of enthuse for a great exponent of sport in Australia and a fantastic ambassador for the rags to riches story.
This was not everyone – I met plenty of fellow Hayne Plane enthusiasts such as myself, who would wake up at the usual start time of 1 AM for his games, with interest only for a sighting of the man and disregard as to whether he’d get on the field or not.
But the very fact that even a noticeable amount of Aussies, let alone the large amount that it is are so keen to tear down Hayne’s achievements is plain sad.
I will myself admit that his latest decision to “quit” the NFL and join up with the Fijian rugby sevens side has more than a few question marks attached, but what do we care?
It can even be argued that joining up with the world champions to learn and play rugby sevens in an attempt to win a gold medal may be a bigger achievement than playing in the NFL.
Even more peculiar is how equally slobbery some Australians get at the mention of the name Sonny Bill Williams.
A man who has trekked the globe in a quest to achieve his many dreams seems to only be welcomed back with open arms upon returning home, whereas our very own Aussie SBW is the punchline of an unfunny joke.
What’s the real difference between these two? Williams has been in twice the amount of jerseys as Jarryd has, and in my opinion, his achievements, as lofty as they may be, are not in the same trophy cabinet as the boy from Minto.
Is it the fact that Hayne dreams bigger than Sonny? Is it that Hayne does not go about life with the same faux-humble cock-sureness?
Or is being from Australia and following your dreams not as good as being from somewhere else and following your dreams?