Monday, February 09, 2009

The idiocy of the "rolling maul"

Metaphors are funny things, in response to the economic crisis, we've had talk of Obama's Large Stimulatory Package and K-Rudd administering an "amphetamine shot" to the Australian economy.
Yet here in New Zealand we shy away from metaphors evoking the mainlining of hard drugs or large Presidential appendages. As a group of simple folk we prefer more earthy metaphors, be it weather, food, or of course Rugby. John Key's so-called "rolling maul" of "economic initiatives" appears to be the brainchild of a "marketing expert" who thinks that Rugby is synonymous to the national identity of NZ but does not actually follow the sport himself.

The rolling maul is a tactic that in modern times is used occasionally by skilled teams such as the All Blacks. However it is more commonly employed as a "go-to" tactic by distinctly average teams like England or East Coast. This tactic enables a team to achieve far more against superior opposition than they would have otherwise.

Even though NZ has a Rugby team that doesn't rely on the rolling maul to succeed, perhaps Key's metaphor makes sense in the spirit of the "little Kiwi battler", but in that case who are NZ's superior opponents? Our trading partners, Australia and China? Venezula? Iran? The invisible hands of the global economic crisis that are all around us? If so, shouldn't we be playing touch?

But whoever the opposition is, what happens when NZ finally collapses on the line to "score"? Do we get back up? And if so will we revert to the exciting back play NZ is renowned for or will we be forever condemned to playing the economic game in the style of Clive Woodward?

But the main reason John Key's metaphor is so bad is that there are currently experimental rules in international Rugby (ELVs) that include changes specfically designed to counteract the "rolling maul" tactic. The rules allow the defending team to collapse the maul without penalty, thus making the tactic far less useful, especially for a mediocre team like England.

So the "rolling maul" is not only ill suited to NZ's modern style of play, it is ineffective in the new global enviroment. Our "opposition" can collapse the "maul" stranding us far from where we want to be and we lose possession.

In the end, perhaps the "rolling maul" will turn out to be an apt description of his government's approach to the economic crisis though maybe not in the way Key intends.

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