Wallabies: A is for Attitude

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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    This is a heartfelt article from a long-suffering fan who has also been a critic of the underperforming Wallabies.

    It’s been about a dozen years at least when we could say the Wallabies approached anything near ‘great’. That’s too long in anyone’s book.

    The one significant word that describes the 2015 Wallabies compared to previous recent years, is ‘attitude’. Yet there have been individual Wallabies who have always possessed the requisite attitude.

    The first current player that springs to mind is David Pocock. Yet head coach Michael Cheika’s great gift has been in permeating the rest of the team with the same attitude that those like Pocock possess.

    How has he managed to do what Ewen McKenzie, Robbie Deans, John Connolly and Eddie Jones before him have been unable to do?

    Before returning to the discussion of these coaches, I would like to digress briefly.

    I’ve been wondering how best to begin this post so I will use as my opening analogy a long ago episode from the TV Western Bonanza.

    The family patriarch Ben Cartwright is standing with his sons Adam, Hoss and Little Joe in their living room as they discuss one of the many moral dilemmas of life.

    Ben hands each son a single chopstick and asks them in turn to snap it in two, which they easily do.

    He then hands each son in turn a whole bunch of chopsticks tightly bound together and asks them to snap the bundle in two. But they are unable to do so.

    Ben quickly arrives at the poignant punch-line: “Individually, each of us can be easily broken. But together, united, we remain unbroken”.

    I’m sure Cheika found his own analogy to motivate this Wallabies team, but whatever it was, it has worked a treat.

    It is often said that attitude is the single most important characteristic an individual can possess. Have the right attitude, and you can achieve almost anything.

    I have a favourites folder tucked away in my computer full of motivational sayings, which I rarely look at but now will have to give closer attention to.

    Many of these Wallabies players are the same who have been underperforming in the gold jersey under Mckenzie, or Deans, or Connolly, or Jones.

    But it seems they are willing to give everything for Cheika. How did he achieve this?

    I profess I don’t really know, but I certainly have a new found respect for the power of attitude.

    Cheika’s two immediate predecessors McKenzie and Deans possessed outstanding coaching credentials as well as rugby pedigree.

    McKenzie is not only an-ex Wallaby, but is regarded as the finest tight-head prop produced by this country. He won a Super Rugby title with the Queensland Reds.

    Deans is also an ex-international with the All Blacks, and his ancestral rugby pedigree traces all the way back to the 1905-06 Originals that toured the UK, Ireland and France.

    Deans won five Super Rugby titles with the Canterbury Crusaders. At the time of his selection as Wallaby coach in 2008, Deans was considered the best qualified provincial coach in the business.

    Unlike McKenzie and Deans, the closest Cheika got to experiencing international rugby was as a member of the Randwick district club against the All Blacks back in 1988.

    Cheika forged a reputation as one of the hardest, and according to some, dirtiest players of his time in Sydney Shute Shield.

    But none of this would bother Cheika. In order to win, you do what you need to do.

    Yet neither McKenzie nor Deans, nor Connolly nor Jones before them, for all their impressive personal records and reputation as decent men, have been able to achieve what Cheika has achieved.

    By his own account Cheika set out to provide the Wallabies with their own identity and culture, which borrowed from the All Blacks but at the same time, sought to be unique to themselves.

    He has quickly given his players a self-belief, and provided an environment whereby the players now are willing to give everything to the team, to each other and to their coaches.

    Cheika has surrounded himself with a coaching staff in which each man has contributed significantly. In a short time, four different personalities have gelled into an incredibly effective coaching force.

    Head coach Michael Cheika has provided the clear direction, operating blueprint and delegation of responsibility that has been enthusiastically accepted by everyone in the squad.

    Backs coach Steve Larkham has been instrumental in nurturing Bernard Foley’s attacking instincts and giving a polish to a previous rough diamond. Clever tries were executed against England.

    Defensive coach Nathan Grey’s hand was seen in the defensive screen applied against Wales when the Wallabies were two men down. Every man covered for each other and trusted implicitly the man next to him.

    The defence moved up quickly to cut down the thinking time of the attackers. Tackling technique is text-book and effectively strong.

    Scrum coach Mario Ledesma has been able to teach old dogs new tricks. He has imparted knowledge to the forwards that there is more to scrummaging than just good technique.

    Against England we saw how the Wallabies were wise to what England was trying to do and negated their effectiveness with counter-tactics of their own. The scrum is ‘hip’ again.

    However, I’m not yet sold that the Wallabies are the ‘real deal’. There have been too many false dawns for me to get ahead of myself.

    The Wallabies’ rate of improvement is astonishing. But is the winning post approaching too quickly?

    As a patriot I hope Australia can go all the way.

    But as a citizen of the world, and a lover of rugby, if the All Blacks and Wallabies meet in the final, I would like to see the All Blacks triumph, assuming each plays to their best.

    The ABs have a clutch of the greatest players to play the game, including arguably the greatest rugby player of all-time in Richie McCaw.

    They also deserve to be rewarded for their standard of high consistency year-in, year-out. No country exemplifies rugby better than New Zealand.

    If there’s any justice in the world, the All Blacks will be deserving word champions and the Wallabies will be honourable runners-up.

    But of course, as we well know, fate tends not to operate on checks and balances. To the winner go the spoils.

    Nevertheless, the Wallabies journey of 2015 has been truly remarkable to witness.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (91)

    • Roar Guru

      October 12th 2015 @ 3:30am
      Joey Johns said | October 12th 2015 @ 3:30am | ! Report

      The greatest player of all time is already David Pocock.

      The next 4 years and 4 weeks is just more sauce to his chunky beef pie. ‘

      Wallabies are terrible without the Goatcock. No coincidence we lost to the Welsh Lions with Smith/Hooper and 2014 was less than ideal, and was further compounded the loss of the Goatcock.

      • October 12th 2015 @ 8:28am
        tvwatcherintheweehours said | October 12th 2015 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        Agree… but duration will be Pocock real challenge. His commitment open the door to injuries. McCaw has known how to last.

      • Roar Rookie

        October 12th 2015 @ 2:39pm
        Jackie Estacado said | October 12th 2015 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

        Not even close. He may be the King of Pilfering, but there are plenty of better players over the years in other aspects of the game. Being a flanker isn’t just about pilfering the ball.

      • October 12th 2015 @ 6:52pm
        Rugby Tragic said | October 12th 2015 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

        WOW Joey Johns! ….. ” The greatest player of all time is already David Pocock…” … of all time …really?

        Big big statement and I’d suggest that maybe those who have witnessed some of the great players of past generations might have a differing opinion. While subjective, it has been my opinion that Pocock would be a deserving recipient of the International Player of the year adjudicated on by stalwarts of our game who are much better qualified than I to make such an assessment.

    • Roar Guru

      October 12th 2015 @ 3:46am
      DaniE said | October 12th 2015 @ 3:46am | ! Report

      As I was watched the game yesterday I couldn’t help but forgive the mistakes and the deficiencies in the Wallabies’ game, solely because of the incredible passion, focus and teamwork that they had in those crucial minutes in the second half. I know that there are problems with parts of their play – but I don’t care! This team feels so different to those of the past few years. I feel that they want to improve.

      Regarding Cheika, I remember him vividly as a Randwick player of the 90s. Anyone who watched Shute Shield in those years can’t forget! His passion to play and to win was so evident. He was very rough, god he drove me mad sometimes as a Randwick fan, with the penalties and send-offs. But to have had the journey he had, in his career and in rugby, leading up to the Waratahs coaching job, demonstrates an amazing learning curve and an ability to learn, adapt and focus. Much like the Wallabies right now. Starting rough and working towards polish.

      If anything, at the risk of sounding twee and possibly nauseatingly feminine, I think his love for rugby is the difference. Not to say previous coaches didn’t, but he seems like a special individual. When he played back in the 90s you felt he truly believed that rugby is a combat sport – fun but fierce. He has the viewpoint of the fan, who wants entertainment and an experience to remember. He wants the fans to tune in and to love the team again. He cares for his players. They look after each other more. It shows on the field.

      Anyway to end this post, I only hope that this continues on, but for now I’m just enjoying the moment.

      • October 12th 2015 @ 12:14pm
        RT said | October 12th 2015 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

        Cheika was a pretty good player not great but kept out of rep teams by very good players (Tim Gavin comes to mind). Whilst he wasn’t the dirtiest player I ever encountered he was very tough (not grubby like Knox). He was a member of a very good Randwick pack that included two of his predecessors (jones and McKenzie).

        I think he started coaching the Wicks in 97. He was always a good reader of the game and he certainly got the most out of his players who seemed to respect him.

        Got to agree that drawing coaches only from the ranks of former players is like saying to be a good sprint coach or swimming coach you’ve got to have been to the Olympics. It’s myopic and strange that such a cerebral game doesn’t get it.

        How many NFL head coaches played NFL? How many premier league managers played top level soccer? Truly odd.

    • Roar Guru

      October 12th 2015 @ 4:43am
      Harry Jones said | October 12th 2015 @ 4:43am | ! Report

      Good to read this, sheek. Positively ebullient!

      Looks like you’ll play Gaels and Celts en route to seeing the Boks or All Blacks in the final.

      Australia won’t be an underdog until the last match, and that’s only if you face NZ.

      Cheika deserves a great deal of credit, but so do Moore, Fardy, AAC, the overseas boys, and Pocock; no-nonsense senior guys.

    • October 12th 2015 @ 5:10am
      joe b said | October 12th 2015 @ 5:10am | ! Report

      Wanting NZ to win over AUS?
      Fair call if you are a kiwi supporter, bloody shocking submission if you follow the Wallabies… especially in their current form. Thankfully, romanticism doesn’t determine who is the top dog.
      It might sound a little harsh, but 11 years or so with out the bledisloe stings a bit.

    • October 12th 2015 @ 6:14am
      John said | October 12th 2015 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      Where to begin?


      A stunning 12 month turnaround warrants whatever spoils befalls it ……

      An All Black Wallaby final – in current form – would be a gift from the heavens, with the best scrums, the best lineouts, the best breakdown threats, and the best back three trios two finalists could offer.

      North versus South …

    • October 12th 2015 @ 6:57am
      Connor33 said | October 12th 2015 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      Great read. Every team has their leader. Some teams have C next to his name. Some don’t. Take the leader out of the team and the bundle of chopsticks fall in a heap–as has been the case with the Ausralia the last 2-3 years with no Pocock. And the synergy he creates with Hooper and Fardy ensure the chopsticks are made of stainless steel

      But it’s been crazy, though, the chest beating by some teams over these years when Australia has been at their darkest hour(s).

      The greatest teams beat the greatest teams on turf other than their own. If the abs can do just that on, at least on neutral turf, thenMcCaw’s team will go down as the greatest (ever). And I’ll be the first one to say it. But this is all crystal ball gazing. It’s a big what if. Because after seeing what Ireland did today against France and given that the Boks look ominous and will be playing a tired Welsh team, I think these great dark horse(s) of this WC may push everyone right up to the finish line…

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