Points for trying!
Given the debacle that has been the Wallabies over the last few weeks, I thought it was time that we had a look at what has to happen for them to progress as a sporting team and an organisation.
There are few key changes that have to be made, and quickly, in order for the Wallabies to rise above the latest off-field issues.
1. Appoint Michael Cheika as coach
While this point is the most galling for me to make, Cheika is clearly the best coach available to the Wallabies at this point in time.
Failing to appoint him would be making rugby decisions for political reasons, which would hurt the Wallabies and continue the divide in the team. He’s the best man for the job, and has done nothing wrong, so pick him, and then hold him accountable.
2. Sack Adam Ashley-Cooper and Michael Hooper
While Cheika should not be punished for the deeds of his Waratahs malcontents, the fact remains that Ashley-Cooper and Hooper both spoke in the media against the direct instructions of the coach and team management.
For Hooper and Ashley-Cooper (the captain and most-capped player in the team respectively) to do something so stupid and immature spells out how bad the Wallabies culture really is.
While sacking them might seem counter-productive in rugby terms, the simple fact is that rugby is a team game, and both of these two placed their personal opinions at a higher priority than the good of the team. If you think the All Blacks or the Springboks would keep such players then I suggest you look at their track record.
Maybe bring them back after the spring tour if their replacements don’t perform but they must be disciplined for bringing the team into disrepute.
3. Appoint Stephen Moore and James Slipper as captain and vice-captain
Until Moore is available to return from injury, Slipper must be named as Wallaby captain to stop the revolving door. Aside from being the first two names on the team sheet, Moore and Slipper are proven and consistent performers who direct traffic and demand excellent standards of behaviour. At no stage have either of them been in trouble or involved in the internal squabbles of the team.
4. Bring Will Genia back at nine
While Genia has been injured and down on form from his previous best, he is still a class above the other Wallaby halfback options. His passing and game management are a level above Nick Phipps or Nic White and his leadership brings something that the Wallabies desperately need, particularly in the absence of Moore and David Pocock.
5. Improve the Wallabies’ training facilities
Reading Eddie Jones’ comments the other day that Brumbies players bemoan the poor quality of the national setup in terms of facilities, is simply unacceptable. The Wallabies need to have the best facilities and support team available if they are ever going to topple what is arguably the greatest All Blacks team ever.
6. Employ a hard-nosed team manager
This is the coach’s right hand when it comes to sorting out off-field issues and getting everyone going in the same direction. This gives the coach a degree of separation from the day-to-day issues of the team and the rugby issues.
This delineation that is currently clearly missing is a major part of Ewen McKenzie’s demise as he got drawn in to the petty squabbling that should have been dealt with by someone else on the spot.
7. Ruthlessly enforce the ideals of the Wallaby jersey
This point is the most important, as without it we are condemned to years of the same rubbish from the Wallabies. Whether it is training intensity, wearing the right uniform, following team orders or just being a decent human being, the Wallaby jersey must have its aura restored.
The only way to achieve this is by setting standards and ruthlessly enforcing them. Didn’t wear the right uniform? Fined. Spoke out against the directions of management? Stood down. Sexually harassed a staff member? Contract torn up.
Whoever the incoming coach (or coaching team) is, I wish them all the best. As a rugby tragic, I can’t help but feel despair that the Wallabies are one controversy away from losing me. I just hope that the team can grow up, knuckle down and play some rugby.