Wallabies need to embrace professionalism to return to the top
Australia rugby union coach Robbie Deans speaks with players Berrick Barnes and Nick Phipps. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
The past two test matches against the All Blacks have highlighted the fact that there is considerable daylight between New Zealand and well, everybody else.
So pronounced is the All Black dominance that we’ve observed a very strange and entirely unique phenomenon: acceptance of second place by Australians
While we should all encourage an honest evaluation of of the Wallabies’ standing in world rugby, the resigned acquiescence of recent weeks must be resisted. Acceptance of the status quo is the worst possible way to improve.
Number two, second place, runner up or as Jerry Seinfeld describes it “the first loser” is acceptable under certain circumstances.
It’s okay to earn silver when all resources have been exhausted and every last drop of potential extracted.
What’s not acceptable is accepting that it’s acceptable to lose before every effort to win has been made.
Are the Wallabies the most committed rugby players in the world, are they part of the best coached and most professional rugby program on the planet?
Are we working both harder and smarter than all other national rugby teams? Does the ARU create an environment that prioritises the national team and optimises performance?
If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ then not only should we be accepting of number two in the world we should enthusiastically celebrate the achievement.
If forced to make an educated guess I would put that the average professional Australian rugby player is less professional than their South African or Kiwi counterparts. I’d bet again that the Springboks and All Blacks are better resourced than the Wallabies.
If we aim to be the best we should observe the habits of the best and aim not to emulate them but to exceed them.
For two years now the ‘potential’ of the Wallabies has been much vaunted, and yet we seem to forget that potential describes how good something might become rather than how good it currently is.
Make no mistake about it, the current crop of Wallabies can become the best team in the world.
For that potential to be realised the Wallabies must be the most professional team in the world.
It’s a simple solution to write, bloody difficult to do and even harder to accept. 22-0 is the harsh reality of the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
Saturday’s test against the Springboks shapes as a defining moment in the lifespan of Robbie Deans’ Wallabies. A loss will ratchet the pressure on the team to higher levels than at any point in the last five years but a win will buy this group time to turn the corner.
I’m looking forward to being in Perth (which despite what you may have read this week remains an Australian city) this weekend to support the team in what should be a great game of rugby.
Former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone has returned to Super Rugby with the ACT Brumbies, following an injury-forced retirement from all forms in 2009. He writes guest columns for The Roar, and will blog his journey back to professional rugby in 2013.
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