Greg Growden writes
Adam Scott inspiration for Australian rugby
April 15, 2013
Robbie Deans and israel Folau are in the spotlight at the moment © Getty Images
As part of the television promotion for coverage of The Masters golf tournament, the station kept mentioning that Australia had been involved in many sporting conquests but never one that involved the wearing of the green jacket. The TV golf spruik included listing IRB Rugby World Cup victories among Australian sports most extraordinary achievements. The message was that if poor old Australia could win something like that, Masters success, which had eluded so many exceptional Australian golfers, should be a breeze.
Adam Scott, on Monday morning (EST), at last achieved what so many Australian golfers had aspired to by winning the Masters through sheer belief and his ability to turn a perceived weakness - his putting - into strength when it mattered.
Much as the Wallabies' victories in the World Cup had the desired effect of dramatically boosting the profile of a sometime forgotten winter code in Australia, Scott's triumph in Atlanta will see hundreds of youngsters heading to golf courses around the country - using him as an inspiration as they tackle one of the world's toughest sports. Golf will get an immediate lift, and the sport's ability to build on that will depend on the hard work and drive of the level below the players- in particular the administrators.
Australian rugby has also had those green jacket moments - particularly straight after the 1984 Grand Slam success and the 1991 and 1999 World Cup triumphs, which saw the game's popularity rise substantially; it got to the stage where rugby administrators were brazen enough to say they could threaten the AFL and rugby league as Australia's premier winter sport. That did not happen due to a multitude of reasons, including Australia's failure to work on its success, the nation got distracted by the top end to the detriment of the grass-roots level of the game, and the sheer laziness by administrators who failed to stop youngsters heading to other codes.
Nowadays rugby union remains a sometimes-followed Australian winter sport, with serious concerns over falling television ratings and spectator numbers- especially in its largest province New South Wales. Still it doesn't take much for all that to change. And it all revolves around success. As with any sporting code, people love hanging around winners - and Australian rugby has an enormous opportunity when the British & Irish Lions are in town.
Success during that three Test series will have the roll-on effect of improving the image of the game, and at last give it a profile on commercial television. At the moment, rugby gets as many mentions on mainstream Australian TV as topless darts: virtually zilch. And then if they can follow it by actually winning a Test series against New Zealand (yes, I know I am starting to head towards the twilight zone), maybe the Wallabies jersey will again be sighted in the streets of Sydney, Brisbane and further afield.
The first sign towards seeing whether that is achievable came with the announcement of the 30-man squad for the latest Wallabies logistics camp. Robbie Deans came up with a reasonable group - many names bleedingly obvious, some pleasingly new ones such as Brumbies backrower Fotu Auelea, but not exactly a mob that would have the Lions shaking with fright.
Then again, no one should be bluffed into believing this will be the squad that encounters the Lions. There will be changes, and it must be remembered the first Wallabies squad announcement of the year is always used as a PR exercise - this time revolving around convincing Israel Folau that he is the big rugby hope. Deans has been over the top in his praise of Folau - and there are substantial reasons, including that the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs NRL club is hovering.
But Deans is misguided if firmly believes Folau is ready for the Lions; Folau has still a long way to go before even being considered for Test selection. Also the best form forward is missing. George Smith should be the first name picked, but there is clearly a problem in getting clearance from Japan; surely the ARU must make Smith its No 1 priority - because the Wallabies with him in the back row may actually have a chance of beating what is bound to be big, imposing Lions opposition.
The other name missing is a motivator. The Wallabies have used many over the years, and often from other sporting codes. So why not go left field and get Adam Scott involved. Unlike numerous Wallabies, he certainly knows how to handle pressure; he also looks decidedly fitter than some who made the 30-man cut.
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand