Lay off Deans: blame the three amigos
Australian Wallabies Will Genia (2nd-L), speaks with teammates Drew Mitchell (L), Quade Cooper (2nd-R) and Kurtley Beale. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD
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When Robbie Deans was appointed coach of the Wallabies he was hailed as the Messiah. Immediately adopted as ‘Dingo’. And rightly so given his achievements and record.
Now those who even utter a defence of the man are run out of town by a lynch mob. Either that or they are accused of being his lover or worse still, a traitor. But we need someone to blame don’t we?
Well look no further than the players themselves. Their culture, attitude and desire are behind the decline of the Wallaby aura Tim Horan has spoken about this week.
Let’s start with Deans’s record pre Wallabies. I mean he clearly is out of his depth now, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, was never destined to be an international coach but how did he do before he crossed the Tasman?
Some of you may recall that by 2008 he had been the dominant force in developing and leading a Crusaders side that can lay claim to being the best provincial side of the modern era. Talk to any south islander and they will tell you his talent identification, man management and rugby style were second to none.
He was to Christchurch what Wayne Bennett was to Brisbane. Yes he had the McCaws and Carters to lean on, but he developed them. He was there to identify their talent and cultivate it.
So we turn to the obvious next question: why did he succeed in bringing on the Crusaders and fail with the Wallabies?
Let’s look at culture for one. McCaw and Carter became superstars of the game as well as great team men. Watching Carter interviewed on TV at his old man’s pub in rural New Zealand is refreshing. He shows humility, integrity and selflessness despite being the greatest fly-half of his generation.
O’Connor, Cooper and Beale are talented individuals whose understanding of team doesn’t extend beyond being part of ‘The Three Amigos’. I mean those three are really superb players, just ask them! When they aren’t getting their ‘Figjam’ on, they are developing their rugby brand or living it up at pubs in Brisbane long associated with boozed up bogans.
Which brings me to my next point, selections. Of course Deans can’t leave The Three Amigos out of the side, not with the huge ARU contracts they have. But Deans has been mostly condemned for his other selections. Two in particular, McCabe at 12 and the perseverance with McCalman, have been especially controversial. So let’s look at what those two guys have in common. Work ethic, low profiles, heart. You can say they are boring players but they leave it all on the field.
Similarly, the individuals Deans has left out say something about his selection policy too. Take Giteau for example, it’s difficult to find a rugby insider who will say a good word about him. Modest and low profile he was not. Which kind of player do you want in your national side?
I’m sure you’re all saying, “I want players who can win”. Understandable if not overly moral. So let’s move on to the third point – consistency.
We all know what the Three Amigos and the Wallabies are capable of. There was the decimation of France in Paris following the loss to an average English side at Twickenham. Then the first win at altitude in South Africa since who-cares-when, followed by a comprehensive beating by New Zealand. Or how about having the All Blacks in Brisbane and then losing to Samoa a month later? And the Rugby World Cup, lose to Ireland, beat South Africa. It goes on and on.
Some say these losses were about selections and tactics but those people are absolutely wrong. If his tactics and selections are so wrong, why aren’t the Wallabies losing every week? How can they produce efforts like in Paris, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Bloemfontein? The fact is each and every member in the game day squads was good enough to beat Samoa, Scotland and Ireland. Certainly the team as a whole on each occasion was good enough to win.
The up and down yoyo form is about attitude, not Deans’s selection, not Deans’s tactics, not Deans’s ability. This generation of Wallaby players just doesn’t want it badly enough. They lack a burning desire. They are soft. They don’t get team. They have poor values. Sorry, it’s harsh but true.
Deans has tried to instil in each and every one of them a culture. But he is no miracle worker is he? I mean Cooper is practically being raised by Khoder Nasser (what a fine job that man did with Anthony Mundine). O’Connor and Beale seem to hop, skip and jump to wherever the money is. Worse than that, they then treat us all like fools by telling us they moved to Melbourne for their ‘rugby development’. Start pointing the finger at the Khoder Nassers and James O’Connor Snrs of this world. They are raising their children not Robbie Deans.
And what of the alternatives if Deans does go early? Let’s face it, McKenzie is the only alternative and yes he is a good coach. He was sacked by NSW, sacked by Stade Francais but has worked wonders at the Reds. It just shows how long five years is in Rugby.
Let’s hope the lynch mob doesn’t turn on him without first asking questions of the players if things don’t go according to plan when he gets his chance.
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