Almost one year ago the Queensland Reds partied like they had won the World Cup when, in fact, all they had done was beat the best of Australian rugby.
Less than a week later, they arrived in Dunedin and returned feeling sorry for themselves after being beaten by the Highlanders.
It was a bad case of mismanagement from the Reds, who failed to keep a lid on their celebrations.
Brad Thorn’s side missed the moment and never recovered as they won one of their next four matches.
The Brumbies, meanwhile, were bruised and battered and too struggled across the ditch as they were given the rough end of the stick with their draw. But at least they could not blame a hangover for their underwhelming results.
Their failures left Australian rugby embarrassed on either side of the ditch, with the other three franchises not much puff.
After two months of playing each other, with the welcomed addition of the Fiji Drua and Moana Pacifika on each side of the Tasman, the crossover has at last arrived.
Once again, Thorn’s Reds are under the microscope after a week of distracting and unfortunate headlines.
The Reds might not have played at their best against the Rebels during their late win on Friday night, but, given the week off distracting headlines, they took a big step forward by coming back to win after switching off early in the second half.
Forget all the talk about who will succeed Dave Rennie and coach the Wallabies, the results will dictate that honor.
Beating New Zealand’s sides, especially in knockout matches, is the biggest measure of who will one day take over from Rennie.
As Michael Cheika benefited from in 2014, winning is just as important as timing and more than a year out from the World Cup, one which will likely see Rennie continue in the role should the Wallabies reach the semi-final stages of the 2023 tournament, it is far too early to talk about any heir apparent.
The All Blacks would probably not be in such a muddled state 17 months out of the World Cup had their heir apparent Ian Foster not been appointed to the role.
And who is to say that Stephen Larkham, Cheika’s heir apparent before being shafted following the 2018 Spring Tour, won’t be knocking on the door by then either?
After three seasons at the Irish heavyweights in Munster, Larkham returns to the Brumbies next season with Dan McKellar moving full-time into the Wallabies just as the former World Cup-winning playmaker did in 2017.
Waratahs coach Darren Coleman is the bolter of the lot, too.
It seems far-fetched at this early stage, but much in the same way Cheika transformed the Waratahs from pretenders into premiers and timed his run to the Wallabies perfectly, Coleman has changed the culture at NSW.
After going winless throughout 2021, Coleman, in his first year in charge, has overseen five wins from eight starts.
They won’t be world beaters over the next two months, but Cheika’s Waratahs didn’t make the finals in his first year in charge either.
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The Reds and Brumbies remain Australia’s best chances of going deep into the competition, but all five of Australia’s sides are in a stronger position than 2021.
The key for both the Brumbies and Reds is remaining as injury-free as possible and discipline.
On the first ledger, the Reds are without key players at hooker but otherwise are well positioned while the Brumbies are missing their two biggest attacking threats Noah Lolesio and Tom Banks.
But as was plainly obvious again over the weekend, the discipline could make or break Australia’s hopes.
The Reds were given their 10th card of the season against the Rebels on Friday night, while across the ditch Scott Barrett was shown a red card for a brutal and reckless tackle where the All Black’s shoulder collected his opponent’s head during their 27-23 defeat to the Blues.
Importantly, both the Reds and Brumbies have Test players littered throughout their squads.
Just as importantly, nor are they pups either.
Players like Fraser McReight, who has less than a handful of caps under his belt, are showing that they are Test ready and matchwinners.
The rising openside flanker has been left to bid his time behind Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, but he showed his prowess and game-changing abilities against the Rebels with an extraordinary breakdown turnover and a fabulous left-to-right pass.