Worst run rugby team in Australia?
The NSW Waratahs is possibly the worst run super rugby franchise in the Australian conference at the moment. I’m not talking about the people who get the results on the field. I’m talking about the staff, the ones calling the shots.
It seems they don’t know their head from their tail sometimes.
It is easy to say the Brumbies or the Force could possibly have a worse staff. They each have their own problems though.
The Waratahs office is blessed with the biggest fan base and usually the best pick of players.In my opinion that means they should be held to high standards.
I read today in Rugby Heaven that the Queensland Reds have secured the services of three great players for two years: Jono Lance, Beau Robinson and Radike Samo have all scribbled on the dotted line. As a Waratahs fan that news hurt.
I have to applaud the Reds on getting some important deals done early in the piece. The froth on their celebratory beers had barely enough time to subside before they were buying in again.
In contrast the Waratahs, Australia’s other well entrenched team, have no idea what they are doing to sew their side up for the future.
Why don’t we examine the way staff has organised the back-row for their teams so far?
Beau Robinson, one of the standout Super Rugby players this season, was taken off the NSW “not wanted because we already have another blond number 7” list to play for the Reds, dirt cheap.
He has proven himself at this level and has deserved his new contract. The Waratahs had an ageing stalwart in Phil Waugh who spent a lot of the last few seasons on the sideline.
This was a quality chance for the Waratahs to plan for the future in that position, yet they chose to put all their chips in on one player – Pat McCutcheon – he of leadership qualities.
The only problem is they had Chris Alcock on the sideline missing out on playing time. He may not be the leader McCutcheon is, but he can do some interesting things like run the ball, catch, tackle and fetch the ball – possibly important for an open side breakaway.
Late in the season we got to see the future in Alcock, a great future, but it could have already been here if they knew the talent in their own team.
Recently the Waratahs said they were no longer pursuing the services of Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom. Then the ‘Tahs office let everyone know that Ben Mowen is surplus to requirements, and he went off to sign with the Brumbies.
So now do we assume that Elsom is back as an option? Or will they create a Kieran Read clone to come and play in the sky blue next year?
Let’s just say the Waratahs do sign Elsom. That would leave two of the three back row positions (Elsom and Palu) filled by players who have spent more of the last two years on the outside of the white lines than in.
NSW fans had better hope our reserves are very, very good.
I read the very interesting baseball book ‘Moneyball’ by Michael Lewis recently, and one thing I took from it was the importance of seeing the market inefficiencies for a sporting team front office to be effective.
The Reds have outplayed the Waratahs in the back-row in that respect.
There are other areas where the Waratahs have dropped the ball too.
Luke Burgess was plucked out of semi-obscurity by Deans to play half-back for the Wallabies and has since proven his is a high level rugby player.
All the Waratahs managed to secure from him is one great contract year, failing to sign him as one of the key pieces for the future of the team.
What other player does the first half of that picture sound like? Will Genia, maybe? Picked out of relative obscurity to play for the Wallabies by Robbie Deans and became a high class player with further development.
The critical difference is the Reds are not about to go and let Genia run off to France now.
The Reds keep stockpiling talent in the back three, an absolutely vital area of talent if a team wants to score points.
They have Digby Ioane, Luke Morahan, Rod Davies, Lance and others. The Waratahs have Kurtley Beale, Drew Mitchell, Lachie Turner, Atieli Pakalani and had Sonesi Anesi.
Anesi was one of the Waratahs main answers at full back when Beale couldn’t play there over the last two years.
Now they don’t even have the option of signing him. It would be great if someone in the staff had realised this and planned accordingly.
Before we move on to coaching, come back to Kurtley Beale for a second. What were they doing?
How in the world do the Waratahs let Kurtley Beale leave this team? He was their best player – heck, on some nights he WAS their team.
How does a reasonably competent front office let Beale leave one of the premier teams in Australia, a team in the play-offs four out of five years, for a side who won three games last year? So what if there was more money in Melbourne?
Wouldn’t you do whatever it takes to keep the best fullback in the world? Offer him a 10 year guaranteed deal!
I would offer him an ownership stake in the side if that’s what it took.
Ok, we said we would come to coaching.
The Waratahs lost a good coach in Ewen McKenzie a few years ago. On the back of this they sign a relatively untested at this level coach in Chris Hickey.
The Reds on the other hand got rid of their relatively young coach and brought back McKenzie, at a time where he IS the tried and tested option.
Chris Hickey is unproven and hasn’t given any signs that he knows what to do with the future. His work with the front office hasn’t exactly left the team roster in a better state than what he inherited.
The Reds realised they needed to choose a well proven coach to run a successful team in a very tough competition. The Waratahs staff seemed to appoint a coach that will listen to their voices when needed.
On the coaching side of things, the Brumbies are probably a worse off side from a management point of view – but at least they make a decision.
Waratahs don’t know what is happening in their coaching ranks. Possibly Hickey will stay on. Maybe Foley will get his turn, or someone might come home from Europe.
Safe to say the players walking away in their prime isn’t the best sign that the team is headed in a specific direction.
The Brumbies at least appointed a coach quickly, in Jake White. Players can stay or sign knowing there is a man running the ship.
I am a Waratahs fan and I always will be.
However I don’t know how the Waratahs will ever turn the corner with the current people making these decisions.
The Waratahs will always have the pick of the talent in Australia and will win enough games to make the playoffs regularly. It takes more than that to win a premiership though.
Reds fans know it now and so does this Waratahs fan.