If the last week has taught us anything, it’s that the Marsh brothers have firmly returned to being the nation’s current number one (and two) whipping boys.
And it’s a credit to them.
Shaun and Mitch fell off the perch during last summer’s Ashes, after flaying the Poms to all parts during a dominant series win. Combined, they scored more centuries than England. We were baffled.
I never ever ever thought I would gain such pleasure watching the Marsh brothers bat together. #Ashes
— Sportsbet.com.au (@sportsbetcomau) January 6, 2018
But as 2018 has worn on, they’ve regained their mantle in stunning fashion. Combined, they’ve managed one fifty from the last 24 test innings, and the cricketing public have had their whips at the ready.
The fact that they’re almost always viewed as a pair doesn’t help the brothers from WA. If Mitch is bowling well but Shaun’s failing with the bat, armchair experts will still be grumbling that ‘the Marshes need to go’.
But it got us thinking – while their current status as national whipping boys is unrivalled, are they our favourite ever? To be a national whipping boy (or girl – remember Jana Pittman?) you must represent Australia.
Yes, footy clubs are full of them. But we need ones with national cut-through. That’s the only pre-requisite.
Certainly the only athlete to rival the Marshes in 2018 is Socceroo Robbie Kruse, who copped an absolute barrage on the back of Australia’s (expected) World Cup failure in Russia. Football fans displeased with Kruse’s output in Russia turned on him like few others. Yes, he didn’t have a great World Cup and yes, he wasn’t up to standard. But he somehow came to embody all the combined frustrations with the Socceroos into one.
It’s arguable that the only player to challenge the Marshes is former teammate Shane Watson. Cricket is unique in that, as a country, we dissect just eleven players, during a time of the year with (at times) little competing sport. It’s a razor-sharp focus on a small group of players. If the team is winning – happy days. We don’t need a whipping boy. When things turn sour, however, the Twittersphere want blood. Watto’s career really kicked off when the Australia side were – following mass retirements of all-time greats – on their way down.
Nathan Hauritz picked up the whipping boy mantle for a short period, but Watto picked it up with aplomb. Everything about him was prime for picking: blonde hair, sculpted rig, injury-prone, tendency to be hit on the pads. But the biggest contributor was the introduction of video reviews for lbw decisions, which he used with stunning incompetence. Personally, Watto was one of the most underappreciated cricketers in the last 20 years and a genuine all-round gun. But his tendency to review Every. Single. Decision. Probably didn’t help him.
Just as the Marshes are viewed as a pair, so too are Bernard ‘Count my millions’ Tomic and Nick ‘IDGAF’ Krygios. Yes, they’re low-hanging fruit, but they deserve a mention. Some – in fact most – whipping boys I have a soft spot for. Those who genuinely try their best, love their sport, and through circumstances beyond their control, cop it from the public. The same probably can’t be said for this pair.
Back in 2009, shortly after turning professional, Bernie was asked by Lleyton Hewitt to join him on the practice courts during Wimbledon – a generous gesture by a tennis icon. Bernie’s agent proceeded to tell the Hewitt camp that his client wouldn’t be joining him, because “Lleyton’s not good enough”. Nice one, Bern.
Kyrgios’s demeanours don’t need actually need repeating – just check the news. Like all whipping boys, however, there are wider reasons they are the brunt of frustrations. Australia’s inability to produce a grand slam winner in recent years (aside from Sam Stosur in 2011) means they have become scapegoats for our slide as a tennis nation.
Racking our brains, other prominent whipping boys include Quade Cooper, Brett Holman and James Magnussen. Oh and remember ‘Lay Down Sally’ Robbins? What a story.
We think, however, the Marshes may take the mantle as the nation’s favourites.