Deans is the right man at the wrong time
Robbie Deans could be gone from the Wallabies at the end of the 2012 Rugby Championship (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
As a long time Robbie Deans supporter, it pains me to agree with those baying for his blood. Before I tell you why, let me say right now that Deans is not a bad coach.
Certain radio broadcasters appear to have been trawling the streets of Kings Cross to give predictable journalists cheap headlines.
Deans deserves more respect. He is a great rugby man.
That said, Deans’ position has become untenable. So how did this fall from grace occur and why am I changing my tune now?
There is nothing wrong with being second best in the world unless you are Australian or a member of the Chinese Olympic team.
As shown during the Olympics, Australians demand success. A silver medal is awarded to the first loser. Sport at the elite level is about winning and we certainly don’t tolerate ‘missiles’ who talk it up but lose.
Deans’ teams have regularly beaten the Springboks, decimated the French by 50 odd points in Paris and produced stirring performances against New Zealand in Hong Kong and Brisbane.
They can do it when they are up for it but lack consistency. Samoa, Scotland, Ireland and England have all won games against the Wallabies they had no right to.
Yet Deans cannot unlock the mystery of why consistency is lacking, much less rectify the problem. Why?
As so often is the case with Generation Y, they need a touchy-feely motivator to produce consistently. Someone who tells them how good they are.
A mentor who breast feeds them right up until the point they get the shiny new keys to the Porsche or, in this case, Bledisloe Cup.
We can now say definitively that Deans is not that guy. He got the best out of wholesome, modest, rural boys from Generation X.
Dan Carter isn’t flashy. He has absolutely no interest in tainted Akai stereos on the Gold Coast. I never once heard Todd Blackadder or Brad Thorne getting mouthy about being ‘meaner’ to their opposition.
His number 8s never looked liked Tarzan and never played like Jane.
They certainly could catch. Deans is about understatement, work ethic and doing the simple things right.
Deans has the correct philosophy. It would have been perfect for managing the Wilson’s, Horan’s, Little’s and Latham’s of this world.
They didn’t believe their own hype. It is just wrong for managing the prima donna cattle the Wallabies have right now.
Unlike Wayne Bennet, Deans can’t rotate the problem children out. While Bennett rules with an iron fist, the ‘Three Amigos’ are on the ARU protected species list.
Food fights, rugby brands and disagreements with bouncers outside ‘The Victory’ (how ironic) to name but a few, indiscretions have blighted the team.
Seriously, how much do these Test beginners get away with? Perhaps that is to do with depth in Australian rugby but it is more likely a product of the ARU protecting valuable marketing commodities.
It is also his attraction to rugged, rural rugby work horses that has shaped Deans’ selections at the Wallabies and doomed his reign.
This was most evident when the World Cup rolled around. Perhaps over compensating for the problem children, Deans became preoccupied with Ben McCalman and Pat McCabe.
This obsession ended our cup charge for different reasons. No back up seven could be accommodated due to McCalman’s selection and no ‘Plan B’ was available with McCabe at inside centre.
However, it hasn’t stopped there. Robbie now sees things in Rob Horne that nobody else does.
The team selection for the crucial opening Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks was all wrong.
From Polota-Nau’s selection ahead of Stephen Moore to picking Adam Ashley-Cooper on the wing to accommodate Horne, Deans sent the wrong messages both on and off the field.
He has begun to doubt himself. He’s making decisions that fly against his philosophy.
Even in his own mind, he no longer has the answers. How can you pick a hooker to start who is perilously poor at line out time? The dictionary definition of ‘impact player’ reads ‘Polata-Nau’ after all.
Why select two 13s in an unproven centre combination while plonking Ashley-Cooper out on the wing?
The group, the basics, attention to detail, what happened to those?
This week we have finally got the Aussie backline that most of us wanted to see from the start.
Sure, in a perfect world Adam Ashley-Cooper should be slotting into the centres and Beale should be at fullback but the inclusion of Cooper, Barnes at 12 and the return of Mitchell on the wing are positive selections.
I fear though, that with Deans doubting himself and seemingly forced into the ‘right’ selections, it is a case of too little, too late.
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