The events of the last few days in the Wallaby camp have opened a tin of worms such as Quade Cooper’s infamous quote on September 23 last year, describing the Wallabies as a “toxic environment”.
Maybe it wasn’t so infamous, maybe it was right on the money and nobody, including me, wanted to believe it.
Let’s relive it:
“There’s a lot of people who are afraid to say what they feel, so they just go along with it and nothing is going to change.
That’s why I feel so strongly as a player, I don’t want to be involved in the toxic environment and that’s how I feel at the moment.
“It’s an environment where things aren’t going according to plan and everyone is looking to point the finger”.
Now the dust has long settled on that blow-up, maybe it was Quade Cooper pointing the finger at reality?
In many ways that explains why so many of those punished by Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie for a boozy night in Dublin last week were out of character.
The culture surfaced, not the individual.
Adam Ashly-Cooper, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Nick Cummins, Liam Gill, and Paddy Ryan were each suspended for a match, Not one of them would I have expected to create trouble at any time.
And the suspensions have come at a time when McKenzie could ill-afford them, but it was his first strike against a team culture that’s obviously been far worse than ever envisaged from the outside.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled over the years with such great team culture as the 1991 Rugby Cup champions under Bobby Dwyer, the 1984 Grand Slammers with Alan Jones the coach, or the two Rod Macqueen milestones – the 1999 Rugby World Cup and beating the Lions for the first time in 2001..
The captains of those milestones were highly instrumental in an unblemished team culture – Nick Farr-Jones in 1991, Andrew Slack in 1984, and John Eales in the two Macqueen successes.
Unblemished team culture usually win games, unhappy sides invariably don’t.
Maybe the “toxic” culture was responsible for the two shock losses to Scotland, the shock loss to Samoa, and the loss to Ireland in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
And maybe Cooper didn’t join half the squad last week in Dublin to prove a point.
Put all the maybes aside, and the strong stand Ewen McKenzie has taken will be the biggest wake-up call any of these Wallabies have ever had,
There are no maybes in the future, the next one will join James O’Connor in the torn up contract brigade.
And somewhere down the track there may be some other Wallaby who will support Quade Cooper’s “toxic” comments.
Whether that happens or not really is immaterial, because there can be no denying who is the boss of the Wallabies, and from here on in under the Ewen McKenzie watch – it’s shape up, or ship out.