Why the Wallabies really are “the kings of the false dawn”
Paul Cully – one of rugby’s pre-eminent scribes – has labelled the Wallabies “the kings of the false dawn.”
There is much truth in this – the Wallabies in one week can defeat a tier one rugby nation (i.e. All Blacks, South Africa or Wales) and in the next week lose to a lowly ranked side such as Samoa or Scotland.
Why is this so?
For me, it comes down to the variable of inspirational leadership.
In the military soldiers ultimately have to be prepared to die (39 have been killed in action in Afghanistan so far) to win the battle. Soldiers ultimately are inspired by the leadership of those above combined with the camaraderie of their mates and they are supported by a military that is fixated in developing potent leaders.
In playing rugby there is little difference, except players do not face death.
Leadership in rugby, however, is a different matter and is more about chance.
The last time Australia had an extended period of success was during the Macqueen, Eales and (at the time) a new and energetic CEO – John O’Neill era.
Macqueen – a successful business man in his own right – is a master of building sound, sustainable and emotionally intelligent personnel structures. He is a master of tactical and strategic planning, as well as being a personable and potent leader.
Eales, who is now revered by many, provided the on field leadership and became one the greatest Wallabies as well as being an inspirational on and off field leader.
John O’Neill provided the corporate leadership that ensured that Macqueen and Eales could get on and do their jobs unobstructed. This made a potent inspirational leadership package that translated to results on the field.
The second iteration of John O’Neill saw him return and default to his banking background. Where all was viewed as a cost centre and the focus was almost solely on how overheads could be reduced.
The impact on all in this environment was far from inspirational. Robbie Deans has struggled to fully comprehend the Australian psyche, which hails back to convict origins – where we only really front up when we really have our backs to the wall.
The Queensland Reds won the 2012 Super Rugby title with McCall, Carmichael and McKenzie at the helm.
Ewen McKenzie, with a degree in town planning, knows how to build and better understands the Australian psyche than most coaches. Michael Cheika is showing signs of being able to do the same.
Taking a quick look at the All Blacks, McCaw with Henry, Smith and Hansen made for a potent playing/coaching mix and Tew provided the necessary corporate governance, combining to win the last RWC. Now McCaw, Hansen and Tew are continuing on their winning ways.
So much depends on the new ARU CEO in being a visionary. Pocock presents with the potential to be an outstanding long term leader. As much as I like and respect Robbie Deans, I feel that his time has come and gone. David Nucifora has fomented player revolts at the Brumbies and Auckland Blues. In this matter Ewen McKenzie stands alone.
It is time for a new management team capable of inspiring us all to take Australian Rugby forward.
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