Woeful Waratahs cruelling Deans’ Wallabies
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The woeful Waratahs have the Wallabies staring down the barrel (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Towards the end of the woeful Waratahs’ 33-12 thrashing by the young, enthusiastic Hurricanes side, the excellent Fox Sports game caller Greg Clark paused from his commentary.
He asked fellow commentators Phil Kearns and Rod Kafer what the Waratahs franchise needed to do now.
Clark prefaced his question by explaining that both of them had done unpaid advisory work for the Waratahs.
The context was the fact that on a slippery, muddy field and with rain falling often during the match the Hurricanes had scored four tries, the last of them from a short lineout set move on the Waratahs’ try line right on time.
The Waratahs had once again this season lost the second half, this time by 20-3.
A crowd of 13,347 watched the home team show no enthusiasm for hard-shouldered play, with the forwards reverting many times to the pick-and-drive (dive?) option.
This was the Waratahs’ smallest ever home crowd.
The backline with four past and current (as from next Tuesday) Wallabies in it (Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne and Drew Mitchell) hardly threatened the defensive wall of the Hurricanes, which has been leaky many times this season.
The loss was the 10th for the Waratahs this season and sixth in a row. And there will undoubtedly be more when the Super Rugby tournament returns after the June Tests.
And what was the reply from Kearns and Kafer?
I couldn’t understand the points, if any, that Kearns tried to make.
Kafer, who has one of the shrewdest rugby brains in Australian rugby and is a terrific commentator on rugby, gave an answer about how changing coaches hadn’t worked in the case of the Waratahs with Ewen McKenzie. I took from this that the Waratahs franchise should be wary about sacking head coach Michael Foley.
Whatever we were meant to read into the somewhat cryptic comments by the two former Wallabies, neither of them expressed what is becoming a consensus within the Australian rugby community.
The Waratahs franchise needs a clean-out, root and branch, starting with the board and purging on through the support, medical and training staff, the coaching staff and a number of senior players.
What I found more troubling than what Kearns and Kafer had to say is that they are actually on the Waratahs’ Rugby Advisory Committee. This seems to be a formal part of the Waratahs franchise.
The Sunday Telegraph ‘revealed’ that they have had three meetings of ‘frank and open assessment sessions’ in the last six months on what is happening with the Waratahs.
Troubling? Because as broadcasters they should really disclose the appointment (even though it is unpaid) when they talk about the Waratahs on the Rugby Club and on the excellent Fox Sports rugby broadcasts.
For an ancient journalist like myself, there is an obvious conflict of interest of any broadcaster who has a sort of official connection with an organisation involved in running a franchise that he comments about.
In the same Telegraph article (which was written by James Hooper) the Waratahs chairman Ed Zemancheff ‘broke a four-month silence’ to assure supporters that the entire organisation would come under review as ‘clarity’ is sought on another season ‘punctuated by bitter disappointment.’
I believe that this review will be self-serving.
What really needs to happen is that the board that runs Waratahs Rugby P/L (which for practical purposes behaves like a self-perpetuating oligarchy) needs to dissolve itself and return the running of the Waratahs to the NSWRU board which is chaired by Nick Farr-Jones and has Tim Gavin as President.
The NSWRU gave Waratahs Rugby P/L a licence to run the Waratahs as a separate organisation. This licence needs to be revoked and the sort of clean-out the Queensland Reds did a couple of years ago should now be applied to the Waratahs.
Waratahs Rugby P/L has clearly failed NSW rugby and Australian rugby.
The Waratahs have become a joke as a rugby team. We are talking about one of the greatest provincial sides in world rugby here.
Even worse, there is culture of entitlement within the Waratahs franchise that starts with the board (who seldom engage with the media, on or off the record) and with coaches (why wasn’t there a contest when Michael Foley was appointed?) and players (who was responsible for paying a large amount of money to bring back Rocky Elsom?).
The impact of the poor coaching and the entitlement environment at the Waratahs can be seen in the disastrous performances of senior players. Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polata-Nau and Benn Robinson have been left out of the Wallabies side to play Scotland. Admittedly, the three-day turn-around has something to do with this. But it will be interesting to see if any of them – or all of them – make the squad to play Wales next Saturday.
Dave Dennis is one Waratah who starts on Tuesday night for the Wallabies. It is interesting to note that if the entitled Elsom hadn’t been injured for most of this season, Dennis, one of the few Waratahs to have played splendidly all season, wouldn’t be where he is now.
Similarly, Sitaleki Timani had to wait his time while the entitled Dean Mumm held down the second row position, until he was injured.
Berrick Barnes is the last flyhalf standing. But his flighty play will have to improve (as it might in the well-coached Wallabies environment) if he is to stay in the Wallabies squad.
The sad fact about the Waratahs in the last few years is that the state that provides a third of all the rugby union players in Australia has not produced a potential champion since Kurtley Beale. And it is history now that Beale has gone to Melbourne, for the money admittedly but also for the chance to play some running rugby.
The case of Adam Ashley-Cooper is indicative of the problems the lacklustre Waratahs system is creating for Robbie Deans. As an inevitable Wallaby who can fill any position from inside centre to fullback, Ashley-Cooper was always somewhere in the starting backline.
But at a time when two of the X-factor players are out (Quade Cooper and James O’Connor) it is an indictment on the Waratahs system that Ashley-Cooper is now only a reserve for the Wallabies on Tuesday.
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Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.