Foley between a rock and a hard place
NSW Waratahs coach Michael Foley is under pressure after a tough season (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Michael Foley has spent the last two nights sizing up the Brumbies, and the Reds. His livelihood depends on it.
The beleaguered Waratahs coach must beat both over the final two rounds of the Super Rugby schedule to survive. And in the process decide which franchise finishes on top of the Australian Conference, and automatic finals qualification.
If the previous 14 rounds are any indication, there will be a new Waratahs coach next year. Just four wins and a historic 10 losses, with the last six a record losing streak, doesn’t cut the mustard.
It’s been a wretched season, but why?
The Waratahs provided nine Wallabies in the 3-0 series win against Wales. The entire front row of Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, and Sekope Kepu, plus Sitaleki Timani, David Dennis, Wycliff Palu, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper, and Rob Horne.
Nine Waratahs, six Reds, five Brumbies, and two each from the Force, and Rebels.
Foley has spent an eventful week trying to justify to his bosses why he should be retained as coach, while denying his Waratahs play better for the Wallabies than they do for him.
It’s hard to imagine he won his point on either count.
Former Wallaby turned television commentator Rod Kafer summed up the Waratahs Super history best since 1996 – “They originally had a three-year plan that hasn’t worked for 17 years”.
There have been seven Waratah coaches in that time, and not one has been able to bring home the bacon.
Ewen McKenzie was by far the most successful with two losing finals, both against the Crusaders, and a losing semi against the Hurricanes, in five seasons from 2004 to 2008.
Yet he was punted, which doesn’t say a lot for the decision-making qualities of the backroom boys at the Waratah bunker.
Bobby Dwyer, the Wallaby World Cup-winning coach in 1991, took the Waratahs to the Super semis in 2002, only to be thumped by the Brumbies 51-10.
And Chris Hickey made the semis in 2010, to lose 25-6 to the Stormers, and the inaugural qualifying final last year to lose 26-13 to the Blues.
That’s a dismal record over 17 seasons – just two losing finals, three losing semis, and a losing qualifying final.
But it’s never too late to rectify a wrong.
Over the next two Saturday nights, the Waratahs meet the Brumbies at ANZ, and the Reds at Suncorp.
Two wins would do wonders for severely dented pride and passion and bring some long overdue respite for the bitterly disappointed supporters.
Whether double success will save Michael Foley’s neck is debatable.
But it’s vital the Waratahs don’t kick off next season coming off eight losses on the trot.
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