With part one of the series under our belts, we continue with the coaches of the Wallabies, starting with Daryl Haberrecht.
DARYL HABERECHT (1978).
Famous inventor of the “up the jumper” tap penalty move. This move, which succeeded beyond expectations in securing a last minute try and win for New South Wales Country over Sydney in 1975, was flashed by TV news agencies around the world.
In 1975, Australia was a small fish in the large world pond, and rugby union was an even smaller fish, but the tap penalty move was a huge hit. The IRB outlawed it immediately as being against the spirit of the game. Killjoys!
This is how it worked, as best as I can remember. The entire team stood in a semi-circle around the halfback. They had their backs to the opposition with their hands tucked inside their jumper. When the ref blew ‘play on’, the team would turn and take off in all directions, like a starburst.
The halfback would pass it to a designated player who would immediately return it under his jumper and takeoff downfield. In the few seconds it took the defensive team to figure out who actually had the ball, it was often too late. To see it was to see something truly sublime, deemed illegal or not.
So obviously Haberecht was a deep and innovative thinker of the game. He had succeeded in making New South Wales Country the best provincial team in Australia by 1975. Better than Sydney, better than New South Wales, better than the soon to be dominant Queensland.
His first surprise when named Wallabies coach in 1978, was to appoint Tony Shaw as captain over Mark Loane. Not only was Loane the Queensland captain since 1976, he was the best rugby player in Australia.
So for Haberecht to choose Shaw over Loane was a huge call. But Shaw turned out to be an inspired choice as captain. He was a more inclusive type of leader to Loane, and a good mentor, whereas the taciturn, dogmatic but lead-by-example Loane was seen as a bit aloof (but still a hero of mine all the same).
His next action was to invite captain Shaw and vice-captain Paul McLean to Sydney where he handed both players dossiers on every Welsh touring player and to discuss strategies and game tactics. Shaw recalls that Haberecht was light years before his time in his thinking and approach to coaching.
He was doing something right because the Wallabies won both tests against the Welsh, albeit with some luck. Then it was off to New Zealand for a three test series. The Wallabies lost the first test by the odd point, with Ken Wright missing a late and awkward angle penalty that would have won the game.
The Wallabies were trounced in the mud and rain of the second test before pulling off a stunning 30-16 romp in the final test.
Before this test, Haberecht suffered a heart attack which brought his brief but spectacular coaching of the national team to an end. This final test was known as ‘Corny’s test’ when eightman Greg Cornelsen crossed for four of five Wallaby tries. Incredible to believe, but he never ran more than one metre (with ball in hand) for any of those four tries.
BOB DWYER (1982-83).
The problem with Bob Dwyer is that he wanted to change the way the Wallabies played, overnight. Dwyer’s intent was demonstrated in his selection of his first-ever Wallabies team to play Scotland in Brisbane.
He relegated form Queenslanders and local heroes Paul McLean and Roger Gould to the bench, while bringing twins Mark and Glen Ella into the starting team. But then he did a few other curious things, choosing Hawker on the wing and also chose him as goalkicker ahead of O’Connor. It was messy to say the least.
Yet, this was not as messy as the disgraceful reception the Ballymore crowd gave the Ella twins every time one of them touched the ball.
Glen particularly, suffered enormous emotional trauma, and his career was pretty well cooked even before it began.
You could be excused for thinking that Scotland was the home team, considering the disgraceful exhibition of the crowd.
The Wallabies lost narrowly 12-7, and the fact they bombed about four tries and really blew a game they should have won, added to their collective misery.
In the next test, McLean and Gould returned for the Ella twins and the Wallabies won handsomely 33-9, scoring three tries to none. McLean ended his career with a distinguished 21 points from the match.
That evening, a staggering nine leading players, soon to be ten, made themselves unavailable for the tour of NZ – Mark Loane, Tony Shaw, Paul and Peter McLean, Brendan Moon, Mick O’Connor, Tony D’Arcy, Bill Ross, Stan Pilecki and also Gary Pearse.
The fact that they were now touring again after just recently returning from a long tour of the British Isles gave many a legitimate excuse that they simply couldn’t take any more time off from work to commit to touring.
But there was great uneasiness in the fact most were Queenslanders, who were perhaps privately resentful of Dwyer’s expansive coaching style, and perceived insensitive man-management.
Bob Dwyer was an intelligent coach and a perceptive strategist. But he also lacked patience and tact, trying to change too many things too quickly. The way he wanted to play rugby – the Randwick running style – was highly admirable.
But like a new CEO in a business environment, unless you can take your people with you, make them feel part of the process, you will meet resistance. Having a great idea doesn’t mean much unless you can convince other people to be part of the process.
When Bob Dwyer returned as Wallabies coach from 1988-95, he was a wiser, more humble man (assuming that was possible for him!) and a much better, more circumspect coach.
ALAN JONES (1984-87).
I’ve often thought if it had been possible for Alan Jones and Bob Dwyer to work together, they would have made a formidable combination. They were like ying and yang, two halves of a perfect whole.
With Dwyer as head coach, Templeton as assistant coach, and Jones as manager, and the three of them as co-selectors, you pretty well have the perfect coaching/management set-up. Dwyer and Jones would each have been able to curb the excesses in each other with Tempo playing the role of moderator and peacemaker.
In any case, Jones was a brilliant coach in his own right. Apart from Rod MacQueen, no other Wallabies coach has enjoyed his record. Jones was a great motivator.
I remember this as one of his earliest quotes on assuming the national coaching position – “If you aim for the stars, you’ll get your feet off the ground. But if you aim for the floor, you won’t even get out of bed”.
Spiro Zavos has previously argued that perhaps Jones’ greatest gift was in making the right selections.
Jones has often told the story the first player he wanted in his team, when appointed national coach, was Steve Cutler.
In those days when lifting in the lineout wasn’t allowed, the giant beanpole Cutler was essential for ensuring a regular supply of lineout ball. And he could contribute around the ground too.
The next thing he did was ask the recently arrived emigrant to Australia – ex-Puma Topo Rodriguez – if he was willing to pull on the number one jersey (loose-head prop) for the Wallabies. “Si”, replied Topo!
Then there was the controversial decision to strip the captaincy from Mark Ella and hand it to Andrew Slack. While Ella has indicated his hurt in losing the captaincy, and Jones has tried to shy away from being personally responsible for the decision, it was the right decision anyway.
Slack was a wonderful leader, a man deeply respected by all for his personal qualities of integrity and character, and for his committed ability as a rugby player.
And Ella, despite what he might personally think, was a much better player unburdened by the captaincy and free to express himself as only he could.
Jones was willing to refine his coaching methods. Three things stood out from the loss of the home series against the All Blacks in 1984, a series the Wallabies could have, and probably should have won.
Firstly, there were three headstrong midfielders and personalities in Ella, Hawker and Slack, who each had their own ideas on on-field tactics.
During the series, there was too much dithering. This was solved by ensuring Slack made decisions like kicking for goal, or for touch, but Ella decided which backline moves would be used. Hawker lost his place for the next reason.
Secondly, Jones realised any international team must have a recognised goalkicker. During the All Blacks series – Ella, Campese and Gould – all part-time kickers, had mixed performances.
This was solved by promoting Lynagh into the team at the expense of Hawker.
Thirdly, Jones realised having two fetchers in Poidevin and Roche was a luxury the team couldn’t afford. They needed a fourth lineout jumper at blindside flanker. This was solved by dropping Roche and promoting Codey.
Finally, Jones brought more security to the scrumbase by promoting the chunkier Farr-Jones for the slightly built Phil Cox.
With these changes in place, the Wallabies thrilled crowds throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, winning all four tests comfortably and generally with style.
When Jones lost his coaching position at the end of 1987, it was unfortunately and entirely his own fault. In early 1987, as the inaugural World Cup year was looming, Jones began a career as a radio talk show host (shock jock) that saw him become today the most listened to, most influential and by extension, the wealthiest radio personality in Australia.
But back in 1987, Jones was distracted by his new career, lacking focus on training and preparing his team for the World Cup.
The Wallabies were aware of this, and became resentful, disillusioned and fractured.
The rest of the history you mostly know – Bob Dwyer’s second coming in 1988-95; Greg Smith’s hellish illness in 1996-97; Rod MacQueen’s majestic romp from 1997-2001; Eddie Jones’ journey into darkness 2001-05; John Connolly’s bid for redemption (2006-07) and Robbie Deans’ Galahad-like quest for rugby’s holy grail (2008-11).
Below are the records of the continuous regular coaches from 1962 to the present.
Bryan Palmer (1962 and 67) – 4 tests, nil wins. 0% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 3 tests for 0 wins.
Alan Roper (1962-67) – 20 tests, 8 wins. 40% win ratio.
Versus All Blcks: 3 tests for 1 win.
Des Connor (1968-71) – 14 tests, 2 wins. 14.29% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 2 tests for 0 wins.
Bob Templeton (1971-73, 76, 79-81) – 29 tests, 13 wins. 44.83% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 6 tests for 2 wins.
Dave Brockhoff (1974-75, 79) – 15 tests, 7 wins. 46.67% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 4 tests for 1win.
Daryl Haberecht (1978) – 5 tests, 3 wins. 60% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 3 tests for 1 win.
Bob Dwyer (1982-83, 1988-95) – 73 tests, 46 wins. 63% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 20 tests for 7 wins.
Alan Jones (1984-87) – 30 tests, 21 wins. 70% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 8 tests for 3 wins.
Greg Smith (1996-97) – 19 tests, 12 wins. 63.16% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 4 tests for nil wins.
Rod MacQueen (1997-2001) – 40 tests, 32 wins. 80% win ratio!!
Versus All Blacks: 7 tests for 5 wins!
Eddie Jones (2001-05) – 57 tests, 33 wins. 57.89% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 11 tests for 5 wins.
John Connolly (2006-07) – 22 tests, 14 wins. 63.63% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 5 tests for 1win.
Robbie Deans (2008-current) – 46, 25 wins. 54.35% win ratio.
Versus All Blacks: 13 tests for 2 wins.