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Wallabies remain maddeningly inconsistent throughout 2016

Elisha Pearce Columnist

By Elisha Pearce, Elisha Pearce is a Roar Expert

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64 Have your say

    The 2016 season finished like it started for the Wallabies. With a loss to England.

    On June 11 the Wallabies got off to a blinder against England. Quick passes. Players in position. Winning their rucks. Using the width of the field.

    Then everything fell apart, and the England went on to win that match 39-28.

    Six months and seven days later, the Wallabies got off to a blinder against England. They retained possession. Recycled the ball quickly. Got into formidable attacking patterns. Changed the point of attack. Got all their strike players involved.

    Then England pulled the handbrake, and slowly suffocated Australia, before running away 37-21 winners.

    There is a small amount of improvement between those two scenarios. In the first match at Suncorp Stadium the implosion was more pronounced. At Twickenham it was a slow burn and fade.

    The Wallabies started brightly. After a few minutes I wrote “great continuity to start. Can they keep up, or is this just momentary, like so many other games this year?”

    The answer was yes, it was only fleeting and the fast and cohesive start wasn’t matched with enough steely determination to sustain it.

    If one were to look at the statistics, having not seen the game, the 16-point margin might seem a little unfair to the Wallabies. Possession, territory, run metres, tackles, scrum and line out wins – all are very even.

    But the Wallabies just disappeared for large parts of the second half. Disappeared. Whole passages of the game took place without a single player stamping their name on proceedings or the team producing any rigid and competitive structure.

    The same problem has plagued them all year – it is a clear pattern.

    We know the Wallabies have skillful players. We know they have attacking brilliance. We know there is defensive starch is there. It’s all been on display this year, but it hasn’t lasted.

    The good sides have simply matched and outlasted them, on every occasion.

    It took the Irish almost 80 minutes to squash the resistance.

    England ground down the flair after 20 or 30 minutes most times this year.

    And New Zealand crushed their spirit in five or 10 minutes on some occasions.

    The Wallabies season was defined by another pattern, between the players’ ears, which hints at the reasons for the on-field patterns – lack of belief.

    I’ve written about it twice before now, but leaving Kafe’s halftime commentary out of any end-of-season would be remiss of me. After the break in the Wallabies match against South Africa in Brisbane, Kafe said the halftime message to the players was not to be surprised if they played well.

    The Wallabies were so full of self-doubt someone had to remind them not to be shocked when they played some good rugby.

    Looking at the results – five losses in a row to start the season – it’s not hard to see the lack of self-belief.

    It’s right there, screaming at you through the inconsistency and disappearances. It’s on the face of a bewildered Israel Folau. It was on the faces of Wallabies forwards pushing people and pulling jerseys instead of letting their game do the talking.

    Israel Folau Australia Wallabies Rugby Union 2016

    When Bernard Foley faced the media as the team arrived back in Australia yesterday he basically admitted on camera that the Wallabies lacked belief.

    “You can’t say the belief’s there because there’s been so many changes, so many new faces, so many guys, you know, playing Test rugby for the first time,” he said.

    There’s enough in there that you could read it to mean the players didn’t trust themselves because they were new, they didn’t trust other players that were new or didn’t believe the team could work because there were so many changes. Or perhaps all three could be true.

    Either way, that’s bad news for a team trying to compete at the highest level.

    The truth is other top teams experienced a lot of turnover this year as well. That’s natural in the first year after a World Cup.

    The All Blacks have whole blocks of new players. The Springboks have a lot of change as well as a new coach, and that has contributed to their struggles. England hasn’t had as many players change over, but they’ve got a new coach and had to come back from humiliation.

    After losing more matches than they won, the Wallabies 2016 season can’t be classified as anything other than a failure.

    The test now is whether the team rebounds from that like England did. It’s unlikely the Springboks will have a second year at such a low level, the Wallabies shouldn’t either.

    Finding new belief in themselves needs to start in Super Rugby. All the Australian teams had dismal seasons in 2016 and that had to contribute to a tentative and brittle team this year – the “find a way to win” pattern of 2015 had been replaced by one of inconsistency.

    And there’s something more to what Foley told the media today: Next year the Wallabies team needs to be a more consistent line-up than this year.

    Some experimentation and combination swapping was essential, and it has unearthed some quality second row stocks, but next year the team needs to settle and find an identity.

    Besides Will Genia – behind whom is an empty cupboard of high class halfbacks – I’d try to stick with Australian based players who have a chance to play with and against each other more often where possible.

    Onwards and upwards in 2017 for the Wallabies. They can’t leave it to the Aussie women’s sevens team to be the only shining light in Australian rugby for another year.

    Elisha Pearce
    Elisha Pearce

    Long-time Roarer Elisha Pearce joined us as a rugby union expert in 2015. He also works for Fairfax Media and has confused more Roarers with his name than anyone in the history of the site.

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    The Crowd Says (64)

    • December 7th 2016 @ 7:53am
      PiratesRugby said | December 7th 2016 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Consistently inconsistent?

    • December 7th 2016 @ 7:56am
      mania said | December 7th 2016 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      but consistently inconsistent
      agree about genia. he’s the only overseas player that has deserved his jersey this year.
      boks have an excuse. theyre putting up with quota’s, political interference and the white players feeling screwed over and heading overseas.

    • December 7th 2016 @ 8:08am
      Karl Knuth said | December 7th 2016 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      I think they lack leadership on the field. It’s almost as if they are lost now without Cheika there telling them what to do. The team is lacking natural instinct and is trying too hard. There has been no flow to our game this year. It’s all stop start, little bits of good and then switch off again.
      It points to a lack of maturity and leadership, especially Foley’s comments re the new young guys. It is up to senior players to show them the way, not get frustrated or uneasy about them. The lack of trust is obviously going to have a detrimental effect on performance. Why there is a lack of trust though, would baffle anyone. The new players to the team have largely been some of the Wallabies best all year.
      I’m not sure of the answer, but I do believe we need a new leadership group urgently.

      One other thing that I believe delves into their current detrimental mindset is all of the scuffles we have read about during training. Fighting for a spot in the team is one thing, but to take that aggression and channel it towards your team mates? Certainly not a team I’d like to be involved with. You’re called team mates for a reason, you are mates and you trust each other. You’re not trying to whack each other to show off your aggro. Leave that for the opposition.

      • December 7th 2016 @ 2:30pm
        Sul said | December 7th 2016 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

        Most of these players have been in the professional system since school boy days where everything is micro managed for them including on the field. Its like their preprogramed before they run onto the field, we are coaching nous, instinct and the ability to think and react out of our players.
        From my observations the rot seems to start at school boy level (the preferred ARU pathway)
        Firstly you basically now have profession coaches coaching school boys that are adding to their resume for bigger things later.
        The players only get around 9 completion games a year and train all year for this.
        They are stopped from playing club rugby in most cases.
        In a lot of cases they would rather take a good athlete and teach him to be a rugby player and not take a good rugby player and make them a better athlete
        They play the game under very strict game plans and look out if a kid uses a bit of grey matter and decides to mix it up a bit, they usually find them selves dropped especially in the younger age groups. By the time they get to the firsts they have bashed it out of them and they have a team of robots.
        And if anyone thinks the schools have are doing this for the betterment for a Australian Rugby think again. Its all about promoting the school, besides a fair percentage of these boys end up in league anyway.

        So I think Australian Professional Rugby’s problems are a lot more ingrained then we think.

        • December 7th 2016 @ 10:13pm
          PiratesRugby said | December 7th 2016 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

          Are you saying they should learn to just “play what’s in front of them”?

          • December 8th 2016 @ 8:04am
            Sul said | December 8th 2016 @ 8:04am | ! Report

            Yes it would be a good start but we seemed to have lost that ability
            Interesting enough I watched an interview with the rugby director of a leading NZ rugby school (produce 36 AB’s).
            What he said and he was generalizing “we want the kids to learn to be able play whats in front of them and think on the run”. And you only have to look at how the Kiwi’s play,
            Totally opposite to what I see here in school boy rugby and professional rugby in general.. We have plenty of kids with those abilities but it seems to be trained out of them. The mindset to me seems to be use the power play and stay on plan and if you think and don’t stay on course your out. Hence our future professionals loose their Rugby Smarts.

            And yes school boy rugby is great to watch but you have like playing like”.

    • December 7th 2016 @ 8:34am
      bigbaz said | December 7th 2016 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      The 10 is the quarterback of a rugby side , he’s gotta run it on the front foot , save it on the back foot , change things up or down. Until we have a decent 10 we will be a mediocre side at best.

      • December 7th 2016 @ 8:44am
        mania said | December 7th 2016 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        kind of bigbaz. however in rugby the linemen, receivers and runningbax are more than capable of scoring without the QB.

        • December 7th 2016 @ 9:04am
          bigbaz said | December 7th 2016 @ 9:04am | ! Report

          Of course, but show me a great side without a great 5/8 creating , organising, kicking and generally causing havoc.

          • December 7th 2016 @ 11:24am
            mania said | December 7th 2016 @ 11:24am | ! Report

            u can have an average 1st5 and win if you have an awesome dominant forward pack.

            • December 7th 2016 @ 12:29pm
              Jacko said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

              Rugby and NFL are two different sports

              • December 7th 2016 @ 3:38pm
                piru said | December 7th 2016 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

                NFL is not a sport – it’s a league

            • December 7th 2016 @ 12:32pm
              bigbaz said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

              show me a great side with an average 5/8 and I’ll agree, I’ve seen average sides dragged up by great 5/8s but not the other way round.

              • December 7th 2016 @ 2:59pm
                carnivean said | December 7th 2016 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

                The ABs won a test with Tom Taylor at 10.

              • December 7th 2016 @ 3:23pm
                bigbaz said | December 7th 2016 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                come on, understand the problem, we have won tests with a variety of poor 10s, but none of those sides have been considered great.

              • December 7th 2016 @ 3:27pm
                Kiwi in Europe said | December 7th 2016 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

                The Hurricanes are a great example of this. For years had x-factor everywhere with an average 1st 5. Now we have Barrett playing to his potential as a world class 1st 5 and look what has happened the last 2 years.

              • December 7th 2016 @ 3:35pm
                zubrick said | December 7th 2016 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                also if you look back at all RWC championship winners since inception in 1987
                the team with the most outstanding 9 & 10 has won the cup
                possibly 1995 is the exception

              • December 7th 2016 @ 3:45pm
                Jerry said | December 7th 2016 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

                2007 had a great HB and a very average 10.
                2011 finished with a 4th string 10 and a very good HB who was injured before the final kicked off…

              • December 8th 2016 @ 9:07am
                Jonesy said | December 8th 2016 @ 9:07am | ! Report

                2009 springboks

              • December 8th 2016 @ 10:20am
                mania said | December 8th 2016 @ 10:20am | ! Report

                jonesy – they had morne steyne.
                a lot of people bag morne for being one dimensional but when it came to kicking there were only ever 2 or 3 players who were on par with morne. to his credit he always did what the coach asked of him and did it with accuracy and consistency.

      • December 7th 2016 @ 9:03am
        Darth Vader said | December 7th 2016 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        Partly true. A QB without a OL to protect them and a defence to defend a lead wont win too many games. Sort it out up front and on defence and your QB only has to be competent. Look at the Ravens in the early 2000’s for memory.

        The same goes for rugby. Win the gain line and add a choking defence and your 1/2 way there.

    • December 7th 2016 @ 8:49am
      grapeseed said | December 7th 2016 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Yes it really was a turbulent year of highs and lows.

      There were the crushing defeats, the historic and unprecedented three nil whitewash by England on home soil, the record home defeat by the All Blacks in Sydney, losing to a woeful South Africa and once again not firing a shot against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe, going down 0-3.

      But then there were the giddy highs, like our one point win against Scotland, our two point win against France and defeating giants of rugby Argentina at their home fortress of Twickenham.

      So you know, swings and roundabouts.

      • Roar Guru

        December 7th 2016 @ 11:16am
        Joey Johns said | December 7th 2016 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        A turbulent year of high’s and lows?

        Our high’s weren’t very high. A win against a feeble Wales,Scotland, France, Argentina x2, & the worst South African team ever?

        The biggest high of the year was France & that’s because we tried our hardest to throw the game before the ball had been kicked

        • December 7th 2016 @ 12:23pm
          grapeseed said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

          Yes. I was using the lowest form of wit.

          • Roar Guru

            December 7th 2016 @ 12:29pm
            Diggercane said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:29pm | ! Report


            • December 7th 2016 @ 12:31pm
              grapeseed said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

              Yes / No

              • Roar Guru

                December 7th 2016 @ 1:15pm
                Diggercane said | December 7th 2016 @ 1:15pm | ! Report


              • December 7th 2016 @ 1:25pm
                grapeseed said | December 7th 2016 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

                Look, it’s possibly yes and/or no but probably not maybe. Possibly likely though, not inconceivable.

              • Roar Guru

                December 7th 2016 @ 1:47pm
                Diggercane said | December 7th 2016 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

                Perhaps, highly improbable and sub optimal, though I agree it is neither impossible nor inconceivable, maybe.

    • December 7th 2016 @ 9:40am
      Republican said | December 7th 2016 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      For a code that is way down the pecking order of Australian sporting patronage, it certainly dominates the Roar content, for reasons unbeknowns to myself.

      • December 7th 2016 @ 9:59am
        grapeseed said | December 7th 2016 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        I know!

        And every time I read car mags I’m all like “why do these guys keep talking about Lamborghinis and Ferraris?! Don’t they know that the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra are the most popular cars on earth?!”

        If you ever figure it out, please explain it to me.

        • December 7th 2016 @ 12:45pm
          Big Dog said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Gold, grapeseed ?

        • Roar Guru

          December 7th 2016 @ 1:29pm
          Poth Ale said | December 7th 2016 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          10/10 grape seed.
          Have a beer on me.

        • December 8th 2016 @ 5:47am
          Taylorman said | December 8th 2016 @ 5:47am | ! Report

          Hey, my first car was a Corolla!?

          • Roar Rookie

            December 8th 2016 @ 10:52am
            Dwards said | December 8th 2016 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            Worryingly high use of emoticons in use through this otherwise excellent appreciation of sublime sarcasm. 😉

      • December 7th 2016 @ 12:31pm
        Jacko said | December 7th 2016 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        Haha and yet republican here you are again running down the sport

      • December 7th 2016 @ 1:06pm
        Bill said | December 7th 2016 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

        New Zealand produces the most vocal and invested rugby supporters.

      • December 7th 2016 @ 1:29pm
        wally said | December 7th 2016 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

        i think it’s because the popular media is the most biased and deluded in Rugby vs other Australian football codes. Roar offers an outlet for some discussion without agendas being pushed…. as much.

        And on that note, “But the Wallabies just disappeared for large parts of the second half. Disappeared.” – good point, and if you watch each and every game of Foleys from an objective/unbiased view, the same comment can be made of how his performance in each and every game. If Beale isn’t there to direct the team during Foleys moments of absence, the team just goes missing for large swathes of the game.

        • December 7th 2016 @ 10:18pm
          PiratesRugby said | December 7th 2016 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

          So your answer Wally, to the problem of an underperforming Wallabies team with too many Tahs is more Tahs?

          • December 8th 2016 @ 12:32pm
            wally said | December 8th 2016 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            ha ha ha, oh lord no. It highlights Foleys shortcomings. How many times have you heard tahs fans say… “Foley is clearly the best 5/8th in Australia” and “he struggles at times without Beale there”…. they haven’t had a good 5/8th since mark ella so it’s somewhat understandable that they don’t know what they’re talking about mind you.

            I’d go with QC over Foley and Pocock/Gill/Faingaa/Hodgson/McMahon over Hooper. Some tahs deserve their spots however.

        • December 9th 2016 @ 11:26pm
          Vic rugby said | December 9th 2016 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

          Try watching the world cup

      • December 7th 2016 @ 6:35pm
        Nigel said | December 7th 2016 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

        But yet..and yet Republican, you came on and commented on a Rugby article and added to the hits of this particular article. How do you put your shoes on in the morning? by using a crowbar?…. Someone stop the planet, i want to get off!

      • December 8th 2016 @ 5:32am
        Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | December 8th 2016 @ 5:32am | ! Report

        Grapeseed. Republican has been running this ‘populist’ argument for about 10 years. Well done.

        “See! no one wants real food options.Look at how many people are eating Maccas. Obviously they want it!”

        While all the while ignoring the structural context of access. Rugby, with limited exposure in the major sports pages, and zero free to air coverage at any level is running only fourth in OZ popularity. Wow? Obviously, even rugby people ‘prefer’ to watch the three other codes now. It’s in the ratings.
        No it’s slim pickings.

        And obviously the people ‘want’ to know about every NRL player’s contract machinations, and AFL player’s nosebleed, and want zero rugby coverage most days in the Telegraph.

        Popularity as an indicator of quality? Hitler was popular.

        • December 8th 2016 @ 5:53am
          Taylorman said | December 8th 2016 @ 5:53am | ! Report

          ABs are popular?

        • December 9th 2016 @ 11:29pm
          Vic rugby said | December 9th 2016 @ 11:29pm | ! Report

          Got your excuses all lined up.
          Well done

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