Dull Super Rugby coaches equal dull rugby
Ewen McKenzie. AP Photo/Francois Mori
The professional era has heightened a coaches’ fear of failure, as now a Super Rugby coaches livelihood is dependent on results achieved.
It is a primordial fact that there is safety in numbers. This is how bureaucracy thrives; making decisions can go wrong, so it is better/safer to spread any decisions across a group (backs coach, forwards coach, kicking coach, throwing coach, defence coach, sport psychologist etc).
However, making sure to speak up and take credit when all is good and slink back and spread the responsibility when all is not good. Hmmm, excuse my cynicism but is “Yes, Minister” alive in Super Rugby?
The great World Cup winning coaches (Henry, Dwyer, McQueen, Woodward and White) are strong fearless individuals who led from the front and imposed their own culture on their sides.
Indeed, White has very quickly taken on an imploding moribund Brumbies culture and turned it around by force of personality (and a now deferential Brumbies board), deft recruitment and appointments, coupled with player development – a potent and successful mix.
In the process White has demonstrated that as a foreign coach he has delivered a host of new contenders for Wallaby selection. Brumbies supporters are flocking back and new ones being recruited.
The Waratahs chose to give Chris Hickey, a local coach with Shute Shield success, a chance in Super Rugby. His appointment was made more difficult by the presence of Phil Waugh whose strength of personality and desire to put-the-ball-in-front-of-the-pigs with forwards dominated play dictated how the Waratahs played, and drove crowds away in the process.
Sadly, Foley is offering more of the same. Foley must be nervous now that Jason Allen – Tahs CEO – has come out and supported his appointment – is this bureaucratic speak for meaning the opposite? Waratah supporters are staying away in droves.
By the time Ewen McKenzie arrived at the Reds he had taken the Tahs to the finals (for which he ultimately got shunted by an ungrateful and arrogant Waratah Board) and had further honed his coaching skills in France.
The Reds had imploded and McKenzie, a town planner by qualification, set about building a team and a winning culture. With no board to hobble him, the rest became history. Reds supporters are flocking back and new ones being recruited.
The Force and the Rebels are still evolving as clubs and both have had their share of teething problems with coaches.
The Rebels cleverly recruited Rod McQueen who has built a marvellous culture at the Rebels and have eased in Hill – a Shute Shield successful coach, the jury is still out.
At the Force, nobody could have foreseen the dramatic defection of Richard Graham.
Recent history would suggest that some of the ingredients for a successful rugby coach are; strength of personality, people management skills, team cultural development skills, a supportive – none interfering board and a successful record coaching at the professional level.
All true but for whoever coaches the Tahs, Force and perhaps the Rebels there is one missing ingredient: will the supporters come back and new ones be recruited?
Coaches will only overcome their fear of failure when their remuneration is indexed to the number of bums they put seats.
Then and only then will we see coaches committed to playing attractive “bums on seats” rugby rather than low risk fear of failure kickathons now being delivered.