Should the Waratahs build a dream team?
The woeful Waratahs have the Wallabies staring down the barrel (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
On the weekend Greg Growden reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that a senior NSW official was trying “create a 2013 Waratahs dream team revolving around Ewen McKenzie, Phil Blake and Sonny Bill Williams.”
Not one of the three names excites me.
McKenzie has had his time at the Waratahs, he has a role at the Reds and has clear ambitions to be the next Wallabies coach. He should be focussed on the Reds role and looking to prove that this season was an aberration and that the performance of the season before was the norm.
Blake has been an assistant at the Wallabies level and became the caretaker coach at the Force when Rod Graham left mid-season. Maybe he is a good fit for an assistant role but it isn’t for the NSW board to select the assistants, they should be appointing a head coach and having that coach appoint his team.
There is simply no way that picking an assistant coach before signing the head coach is a good idea.
As bonehead decisions go it is up there with re-signing Tom Carter before the new head coach was appointed.
All respect to Carter but he did not challenge for the starting 15 for most of last season. His spot in the squad should be going to a developing player whose best years are ahead of him, rather than being a very experienced training squad member or bench man.
Finally the idea of signing Sonny Bill Williams as the marquee player is madness.
The guy is an outstanding talent but comes with a huge price tag.
The Australian Super rugby sides already operate under a salary cap that handicaps them compared to the New Zealand and South African teams. Squandering a huge amount of the salary cap on a single player – one who will not be eligible for an ARU top up – means there will be hardly anything left for the remainder of the squad.
Further, recruiting a star has not been a recipe for success in the past. Recruiting stars from other teams, whose best days are behind them, or bringing in big names from the NRL and trying to convert them into rugby players has not worked.
You can look back historically at Jason Little and Tiaan Strauss, rugby league recruits Matt Rogers, Lote Tuquiri, Wendell Sailor and Timana Tahu and learn the lesson. More recently, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell provide more evidence.
Sonny Bill Williams is different from the names above in that he is just coming into his full powers as a rugby player. He has just had his breakout season where he has silenced almost all his critics and there is reason to think that he has potential to improve a little more.
But with the coaching that will be offered at the Waratahs, compared to Wayne Smith mentoring him at the Chiefs, does anyone think he would do anything other than regress?
The Waratahs now have the opportunity to bring some new blood into the Australian Super rugby coaching ranks.
The fact that Michael Foley got recruited by the Force after the abysmal season the Waratahs produced shows the lack of depth in Aussie rugby coaching.
There are respected names out there coaching overseas. Michael Cheika and Scott Johnson appear to be the most admired and my personal favourite respectively.
Johnson’s infamous correction that New Zealand was of course “two poxy little islands in the Pacific Ocean” was one of the funniest, most ill-advised sledges I’ve ever heard from an international coach. It makes me smile to this day. I’d love this guy to be at the Waratahs and you know they wouldn’t be playing the bland, beige ‘brand’ of try not to lose rugby that they do today.
As well as bringing new blood into the coaching ranks there is an opportunity to bring new players on.
Michael Hooper is a player they got very lucky with; he is a young guy coming back to his home city and still has plenty of potential to develop as a player.
If you look at the existing Waratahs pack and young players that NSW recruiters and coaches let slip away such as Dan Palmer, Caderyn Neville, Hugh Pyle and Ita Vaea you can see the makings of a sensational pack.
Spending huge on Sonny Bill means there will be less money to pick up the next developing crop of players.
It is a bad move and not one that is needed, the quick fix may get the turn-styles spinning but the Waratahs already have all the ingredients they need to build a champion team. They just have to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
What do other Roarer’s think?
Should the Waratahs be looking at McKenzie, Blake and Williams? Or is investing in a top outsider coach who has proven credentials from Europe, along with a focus on recruiting of future stars the way to go?
Johnson and Cheika as NSW men who have coached at high levels overseas stand out as my preference, along with the youth ticket.
If the NSW senior officials are not on the same page will we continue to get seasons like the one we just had?
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