The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Debugging the Robbie Deans myth

Robbie Deans looks on as the Wallabies take on the Lions, in what was one of his last games in charge. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Guru
4th September, 2013
267
4473 Reads

In December 2008, the ARU appointed Robbie “Dingo” Deans as the manager to oversee the Wallabies through to the next World Cup.

For the next few years we saw this decent human being descend from adoration (as the next Australian rugby saviour, including the baiting of New Zealand for letting him slip through their fingers), to nasty criticism, authority undermining, ridiculing and eventually outright hatred.

He is now gone, but a proportion of the Australian public and media still seem to take perverse pleasure in sticking the boot in.

Comments such as “Link will need a long time to repair the damage Deans has caused over the years” are common, especially following a defeat. Deans has maintained a dignified silence through all of this.

Just in case (heaven forbid) the Wallabies lose again this weekend, let’s debug what I call the Robbie myth and address some of the criticisms levelled at him.

One of the things that seemed to irk the media in particular was his communication style, which tended to be rather emotionless and monosyllabic. Most successful New Zealand rugby managers tend to be the ‘strong silent types’, more substance than show.

If you look at the crop since the first World Cup (Brian Lochore, “Grizz” Wylie, Laurie Mains, John Hart, Wayne Smith, John Mitchell, Graham Henry and Steve Hansen), none of them were the talkative, laugh-a-minute type.

The closest you would get to ‘talkers’ would be Hart and Henry, but they would still be a distant second to Australian managers in the verbal stakes – Alan Jones, Bob Dwyer, Eddie Jones and Link to name a few.

So my argument is that the ARU knew exactly what they were getting media wise. They would have observed Deans in action over the years and I doubt that during the interviews they had problems shutting him up, so this criticism doesn’t wash with me.

Advertisement
Advertisement

And for the record, they headhunted him and pursued him until they secured his signature.

Now let’s come to his much-maligned record. I investigated his tenure and this is what I came up with.

Win Lose Draw

Argentina 2 0 0
England 4 2 0
Fiji 1 0 0
France 6 0 0
Ireland 2 1 1
Italy 5 0 0
Lions 1 2 0
NZ 3 13 1
Russia 1 0 0
SA 9 4 0
Samoa 0 1 0
Scotland 0 2 0
USA 1 0 0
Wales 8 1 0

TOTAL 43 26 2

Now this might not set the world alight, but it’s acceptable for an international coach who is trying to return a rugby power to its former glories. Of note is his outstanding success against the Boks.

When you remove the ABs (unfortunately Australia’s most frequent playmate) and the easybeats, the record transforms somewhat.

Win Lose Draw

Advertisement
Advertisement

Argentina 2 0 0
England 4 2 0
France 6 0 0
Ireland 2 1 1
SA 9 4 0
Scotland 0 2 0
Wales 8 1 0

TOTAL 31 10 1

Well it doesn’t look too bad to me. As a matter of fact, it looks quite flash.

In the losses to Scotland and Samoa at home, the two low points of his career, the ARU set him up with an impossible assignment – to play Scotland with a second rate team four days before a full Test against a very dangerous Welsh side.

The gale that night didn’t help.

The Samoa debacle was just that and is indefensible, but the Samoans are good and they will keep on catching one of the major powers every so often.

If Deans was specifically employed to get the better of the ABs then he failed, but he is in very good company. The ABs have moved to a different level.

So on results alone I don’t consider him a failure. Beating SA in the QF of the World Cup was a massive achievement, and losing the SF to a rampant AB side on home soil was no disgrace.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Outside of his honeymoon period, I feel that Deans was vilified and hounded by a section of the media and undermined by some players and managers, including Link.

To use an Australian phrase, he was never given a fair go.

Where did he go wrong? He wasn’t ruthless enough in weeding out the toxic elements (ironic choice of phrase). He got rid of Giteau and was heavily criticised.

Andlook what happened when he dropped QC, with sections of the media aiding and abetting.

He should have been stronger in my opinion and cleared a few more out (permanently or temporarily), but I don’t think he was exactly blessed with a lot of quality alternatives.

I don’t know what he did for grassroots rugby and growth of the game here. I would be surprised if he didn’t do unglamorous and unseen work – perhaps somebody can enlighten me?

Biggest mistake? Discarding George Smith, but I think he knows that by now.

Biggest farce? The ARU extending his contract before the World Cup.

Advertisement
Advertisement

I have no issue with Deans being replaced. Although I disagree that he wasn’t a competent coach, my gut feeling was that he brought the Wallabies as far as he was going to and some fresh ideas/approach were needed.

I take issue with the matter of his dismissal, so close to the end of his contract, and I have it on good authority that he was aware he was going to be replaced during the Lions series.

What I find increasingly tiresome is the residual and continuing vitriolic attacks on him every time something goes wrong with the Wallabies.

Time to move on and allow a dignified and decent man to fade into the past of Australian rugby history.

Future results and history will be a better judge.