It’s all about the coaches

Rhys Bosley Roar Rookie

By Rhys Bosley, Rhys Bosley is a Roar Rookie

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66 Have your say

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article titled ‘Australian needs a champion team not a team of champions‘.

    In this article, I suggested that instead of cutting an Australian Super Rugby franchise in the hope of saving some money to develop grassroots rugby, the ARU should be limiting salaries for ‘star’ players to no more than a set amount, say $500,000 a year, with the savings being directed to improving coaching through recruitment and training of coaches.

    This was based on observations that despite their ‘star’ playing stock, the Wallabies are now on par with teams like Scotland, with the only thing that has changed being that the Scots have recruited a better coach.

    Well, we have just witnessed a Super Rugby final which irrefutably demonstrates my point, as it was played between two teams with very recent head coaching appointments and rosters heavily featuring players few had previously heard of.

    First was the Lions, who hadn’t made a finals series since 2001 under the guise of the Cats, hadn’t been at the top half of the table between 2001 and 2015 either and were relegated for coming last for the 2013 season. Then, in 2016, when new coach Johan Ackerman arrived, the Lions roster of no-names stormed the competition with an exciting brand of rugby that got them into two finals.

    Lions coach Johan Ackermann

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    The second it the Crusaders, the previous dominant team in Super Rugby with seven series wins until 2008 when five-time winner Robbie Deans left the franchise. That is more than three times the number of wins achieved by any other team in the competition, with the coaching appointment of Todd Blackadder leading to nine years without a title and the team dropping to seventh on the competition table in 2015 and 2016.

    Given that their roster at the time included the All Black captain and a sizeable chunk of their starting squad, this represented a distinctly substandard period for the Crusaders. Yet in 2017, with their new coach Scott Robertson and many of the big-name All Blacks gone, the Crusaders have just won the Super Rugby title for the eighth time.

    Seriously, how much more evidence does Australian rugby need that good coaches are far important to winning in professional rugby than star players are? The experience of the Lions surely shows that better coaching will resolve the supposed depth problem that having five Super Rugby teams creates for Australia, with good coaches turning former nobodies into good players.

    We know the benefit of being able to dig deep for talent, the hooker injury crisis of 2014 when Ewen McKenzie successfully used previous unknowns Nathan Charles and Josh Mann-Rea being evidence of that.

    I understand thanks to feedback on the last article that the player’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that players are entitled to 29 per cent of gross player revenue.

    However, the agreement is due for renegotiation at the end of the year and I don’t see why reducing the share of gross player revenue, while stipulating that salaries will only be reduced at the very top end, is an insurmountable obstacle.

    With players as good as Sean McMahon reportedly being offered packages of around $350,000 a year, it is clear that vast majority of professional rugby players in Australia are being paid nothing close to half a million.

    Therefore, it would be in the interests of the majority to vote for a limitation of that nature if it meant keeping a team and their jobs.

    On this issue and others, the Aussie franchises need to stop persisting with a failed, celebrity player based approach to rugby, when there are obvious solutions being demonstrated overseas.

    Spending money that would otherwise be spent on big name players on coaching all our players to success is one of the biggest lessons we can learn, so just do it already!

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • August 7th 2017 @ 10:50am
      Rhys said | August 7th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Have nothing else to say than AGREE on the more investment needed front.

      To my mind, apart from having the very basic qualifications to ensure players are safe, there is too much emphasis on certificate level courses, and not enough on workshop/seminar style sessions that actually provide coaches with the tools necessary to become a quality coach.

      Having done the level 2 course not that long ago, I can tell you I’ve learnt a heck of a lot more from practical coaching, having discussions with fellow coaches and my own research than from what any formal courses have given me.

      • Roar Guru

        August 7th 2017 @ 11:23am
        Hoy said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        I am of the opinion that we need a national coaching agenda. A national direction on coaching. I was told that the certificates are pretty much that, but I just worry that they are coaching by numbers. It’s a bit like getting a bad Personal Trainer. Sure, he/she is qualified… You see them in the park with their charges just going through the motions…

        • August 8th 2017 @ 7:44am
          Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

          Hoy that is being implement now.

          Rhys agreed totally. I have coached overseas but the same occurs too many people try to coach off the manual and make kids run around hats. That doesn’t teach them how to tackle, ruck, pass, etc. I have come across coaches talking about their kids at under 10s level not knowing how to tackle. So if you are stuck teaching them how to tackle you are going to struggle at under 11 and 12s where it gets more physical and come across teams strong in the contact areas

          Some coaches teach off their playing experiences and don’t bother attending the courses and refresher course workshops that are run by the branch. They can’t get their message across to players and don’t work well with other coaches that have different opinions on how to play the game.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 7:57am
            Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

            Bakkies, another issue is that too many coaches are interested in winning in the short term rather tahn developing skills and abilities to a higher standard in the longterm.

            Often the two are actually mutually exclusive and what is successful in the short term produces inferior players in the long-run; and what is successful at building core skills in the longterm doesn’t lead to successful results in the short-term.

            Tennis has the same issue.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 8:02am
            riddler said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

            bakkies.. you may have a valid point..

            but i know kids who were 16 years old coaching kids who were 13 to undefeated seasons and blitzing the opposition who were being coached by well intentioned 40 year old’s…

            personally i think it is a personality/communication thing at that school age and to a greater extent in the big leagues..

            how many years did jones coach manly first grade?

            of course their are exceptions to the rule like him.. but i generally think fitting square pegs into round holes, ie stiles, gibson, foley, mcgahan, o’connor etc is not how our coaching is going to grow,.

            ps disclaimer.. i know stiles, played with and against him, so i can stand on a soap box so to speak.. also have seen foley throw his toys out of the pram as a player when someone took his time spot for a massage with the phyisio.. says a lot about a guy’s character and personality when that happens..

            • August 8th 2017 @ 9:35am
              Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

              Kids unless they have dispensation should not be coaching. As all coaches are Garda vetted in Ireland you have to be 18 or over to coach children.

              As for the 40 year old fathers they are very common as clubs have had to recruit dads and mums to help out with coaching as they haven’t got enough coaches to handle the demand. They often do well with structured coaching in the forwards but it’s the backs they struggle with. Maybe these dads could do a swap with the ARU and they can coach forward play in Australia and the IRFU take some backs coaches.

              The ARU have Rugby Ready which you have to renew annually but I don’t know if it gets followed through with so coaches are doing it.

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2017 @ 11:20am
      Hoy said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      Absolutely a good coach is more important. Over the years, we have had duds on rotation in Australia. Sacked here, selected there, sacked there, selected somewhere else… and around and around we go.

      We need innovative coaches. I think McKenzie was a big loss that we will never quite appreciate, but we will never know either. I think he could have done something very good in time… But again, we will never know.

      The Force show what a good coach can do. It normally takes maybe a year for the team to pick up what the coach is putting down… I would like to see what Wessels can do at the Force next year if they are still here.

      • August 7th 2017 @ 7:30pm
        Jacky said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

        McKenzie was certainly a huge loss to Australian Rugby and I find it most upsetting that he was run out by some current players who have been and are certain selections in the failed Wallabies over last couple of years.The last. Wallaby team that played under Link set a standard that we have not seen since.In those days we went into every game full of hope that we could win unlike today’s foregone conclusions

        • August 8th 2017 @ 6:29am
          riddler said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:29am | ! Report

          link had his positives and negatives.. like most of us.. but he was a very political animal..

          for those with rose coloured or blinkered glasses have a look back through the last year of dean’s reign..

          he also had a big input the selection of spindel from the force.. which the fan boys conveniently forget..

          • August 8th 2017 @ 6:55am
            Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

            I also though link’s behaviour to get Deans replaced by himself set him up for similar treatment. When the Warratah players decided that link needs to be replaced by Cheika, Karma went full circle. Link rewarded them with selection ever since.

            • August 8th 2017 @ 7:07am
              Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

              I can’t agree that the Link case and Deans case was similar. Deans had had 6 years in the job – and more or less free reign to do whatever he liked for an entire WC cycle (07-11), he got rid of guys like G. Smith, Giteau and Phil Waugh amongst others.

              Deans was only replaced once the team had been falling apart for almost two years since the World Cup debacle. So he got a full WC cycle and then another 2 years ahead of what his coaching deserved.

              Link got a year, hardly long enough to affect serious change or see where the team was going. The media was culpable in undermining a Wallaby coach whose results didn’t deserve it in the case of Link; in the case of Deans there were things to be seriously critical about from 2011-13.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 7:19am
                riddler said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

                fionn, link quit… nobody forced him out..

                he got the sack from the tahs and racing..

                he landed on his feet with a team that was improving and admin that was actually looking forward for a few years..

                he might have added the magic ingredients.. who knows..

                as for deans.. smith could have stayed to fight for his place against poey.. and smith is my favourite player of all time just behind herbie and spindel..

                giteau was an arrogant poisonous so and so..

                and phil waugh worked his culo off but was never really international standard.. same height as neil back but nowhere near the impact..

                deans got a fair crack of the whip i agree.. he made his mistakes, like tempo, dwyer, mcqueen and all coaches who have coached..

                but deans is sure looking like a better option now than what has developed over the past 3 years..

              • August 8th 2017 @ 7:54am
                Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

                ‘fionn, link quit… nobody forced him out..’

                I think we’re going to fundamentally disagree here, so we can agree to disagree. IMo after the some papers started spreading those salacious rumours and the ARU didn’t come down hard enough on Beale and after Hooper backed Beale publicly his position was untenable. I see it not as a employee quitting, but as what essentially amounted to a coup.

                Smith was still better than Pocock – he had just won Aussie SR player of the year, and had been as good in every Test. Deans made it clear that he wanted to move the old guard out and bring in the new ones.

                That’s like saying Nic White could have stayed in Aus and fought for his place against Phipps and Genia, it wasn’t going to happen.

                Giteau was no more arrogant and poisonous than James O’Connor or Kurtley Beale or Rocky Elsom or a host of others – that group behind getting rid of Link for example. Giteau’s reputation suffered as a result of being played out of position at 10 for two years under Deans.

                I agree we were better in 2012 under Deans than we are today under Cheika, that being said, the period that we looked the best and looked like we were improving was under Deans from 2013-14, aside from the 2015 blip with Cheika.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 8:08am
                riddler said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report


                am still awake.. so apologies in advance..

                how did the paper’s make link’s job untenable?

                it is the paper, not the public.. the crowds were still in force.. we had had a very good eoyt..

                and almost beaten those supreme rugby gods from across the ditch..

                he quit..

                he hadn’t lost the dressing room.. otherwise why would we have just run them so close..

                try greg smith vs boks circa 1996 to see what losing a dressing room is like.. and he in the end had a valid excuse..

                link pulled the pin and has not been seen of since..

                why, only he knows.. only we can speculate and shout loud enough if we type it enough ie hooper etc.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 8:43am
                Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

                Haha no worries, mate, I think wine and sleep sounds much better than the Link saga!

                I don’t see how he could have stayed when he had his name dragged through the papers and had poisonous salacious rumours spread about him while his captain refused to back him and the ARU protected the man found guilty of sexual harassment and misconduct.

                Link had a family, I don’t see how it could have been fair for him to leave them subjected to what was being said (with no evidence, mind).

                All we know is that he denied an affair was taking place, but that the papers spread the rumours anyway, and that his captain backed Beale.

                Regardless, we can agree to disagree, but the whole sorry affair left a very sour taste in my mouth, and it seems to me that Australian rugby is yet to get over the wounds from the episode.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 1:45pm
                Sage said | August 8th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

                We’re on the same page with this Fionn and I think we’ve paid a price.
                Rugby Karma.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 2:43pm
                Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

                Deans did not have a power base in Australia, he is not from NSW nor QLD so was always a sitting duck.

                Link believed that he deservef the Wallaby coaching role after the Reds won the Superugby trophy. He leaked sensitive information that was discussed between Deans and Link to the papers e.g. why Quade’s was dropped. His hands were not clean when he got the job and it was not a surprise when he lost the support of the playing group and the CEO.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 2:54pm
                Fionn said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

                Hannes, Deans got 6 years.

                He had free reign for the first 4 and went away from the successful 2010-early 2011 tactics and used rubbish tactics that led to a terrible World Cup campaign (despite coming 3rd), and continued his horrendous tactics through 2012-13.

                Deans had a fair chance, I supported him from 2008-2011 WC, but then he messed up. He got 1.5 years longer than he should, as he shouldn’t have had his contract extended after the RWC.

              • August 8th 2017 @ 2:57pm
                Sage said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

                “Link believed that he deserved the Wallaby coaching role after the Reds won the Superugby trophy” – perhaps he did Hannes, I don’t know but how do you know this as fact?

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2017 @ 11:55am
      Ralph said | August 7th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      Hi Rhys,

      I agree with many others that you need much stronger coaching programs over long periods of time. It is alway quite hard to quantify in any specific manner but the smarts of a guy like Wayne Smith, the commitment to team of a guy like Robbie Deans and the sheer volume of positive enthusiasm of a guy like Scott Robertson can make the difference to those top few inches that lift a team above good.

      However, a great coach still only exists within a wider organisation culture. Knowing a little about the history at the Crusaders I questioned whether Robbie Deans strengths would all be able to be brought to bear in the highly political organisation that is Australian rugby. Coaches, like players, bear their best fruit in organisations that create an environment that favours them. It is useful to remember that the down to earth pragmatism and South Island, ‘no one is greater than the team’ culture that Deans brought didn’t really fit that well in Australia and the coach with an unmatched Super record no one has come close to (with almost a decade more water under that bridge) was chewed up and spit out.

      My advise is you should setup the environment before you buy the plant you want to thrive.

      • August 7th 2017 @ 9:44pm
        Rhys Bosley said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

        Interesting observation about the South Island culture Ralph and I agree that culture needs to support coaching success. In reality that is why the Brumbies have done better than most teams over the years too. They bonded in adversity as outsiders when they were established and it has been reflected in their team before the individual ethos ever since. That is why I think that suggestions about scrapping them is tantamount to treason.

        Unfortunately though Australian rugby isn’t run out of Canberra, it is run by Sydney and Brisbane old boys who have a hard time admitting that people other than them have the answers. Until they readjust their attitude or are replaced, nothing will change.

        • August 8th 2017 @ 7:56am
          Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

          Hopefully the appointment of Kafer is a step forward

        • August 11th 2017 @ 1:00pm
          superba said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

          As if to emphasize what is being written about the importance of the coach , one season of Jake White made a big difference to the Brumbies .The forward play in particular improved immeasurably .

    • August 7th 2017 @ 1:38pm
      matt jones said | August 7th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

      How many of the current Australian coaches have you played under? My guess is that you know little of the strengths ad weaknesses of any coach

      • Roar Rookie

        August 7th 2017 @ 7:01pm
        piru said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

        Sucks when you only read the headline and miss the point of the article doesn’t it?

        • August 8th 2017 @ 3:21am
          matt jones said | August 8th 2017 @ 3:21am | ! Report

          the point being that the author thinks he knows what a good coach is

          • August 8th 2017 @ 6:59am
            bigbaz said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

            Well, this is an opinion site, let’s hear yours.

            • August 8th 2017 @ 7:26am
              riddler said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

              baz it is opinion site with a lot of hot air from guys i am sure couldn’t get on a jersey the right way let alone make a play..

              as i like to say.. let’s compare pool rooms!!

            • August 8th 2017 @ 7:59am
              Bakkies said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

              Baz, Matt doesn’t have one.

        • August 8th 2017 @ 7:06am
          Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:06am | ! Report

          I am a student of coaching. You love to read books by coaches and about coaches and ask opinions of players. Some of the fundamentals remains the same, the focus on superior fitness, clarity in the game plan, the development and coaching of skills at individual and team level, the setting of high expectations and standards (a coach cannot have a bad day) etc. The margins at elite sport level is thin and a coach often makes the difference. There is complex chemistry and relationships at work. If you only choose coaches on personal experience you miss out on the wisdom of a Rick Charlesworth, Dok Craven, Buurman van Zyl, Kitch Kristie, etc

          • August 12th 2017 @ 6:09pm
            DavSA said | August 12th 2017 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

            Oubaas Markotter , Izak van Heerden , Bob Dwyer .. Markotter devised the 3/4/1 scrum formation still used today as well as the swing pass. Van Heerden probably more responsible than any other individual for the elevation of Argentinian rugby to top a top tier power.

    • August 7th 2017 @ 4:43pm
      Fionn said | August 7th 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

      Nothing to say except that I concur completely, mate.

      For what it is worth, I would take Ackerman (or White) as the next Wallabies coach or as national director or coaching in a heartbeat, and coming from SA means the foes they’ve dealt with are far more formidable than those they would face in Australia, and there wouldn’t be the same anger from certain small sections of the Aussie community as was directed towards Deans.

      Link was a huge loss.

      • August 8th 2017 @ 6:32am
        riddler said | August 8th 2017 @ 6:32am | ! Report

        i wanted white before cheika.. i dont care about style.. i just want to win..

        but i was shouted down by the small minded who think oz people only know rugby players..

        • August 8th 2017 @ 9:45pm
          Rugby Tragic said | August 8th 2017 @ 9:45pm | ! Report

          riddler … mate, ” i just want to win..” … that’s a pretty noble ambition … we all want that … but I’d question if White was not yesterdays man now … unless he alters his approach the Jake White way might not be as successful as it was in 2007 which was the year he reached his Everest

      • August 8th 2017 @ 7:09am
        Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        I think Ackerman will struggle with Australian culture, the power of the players and individualism. He use his faith and religion to develop a close family like connection between his players that will not be appropriate in the Australian secular society.

    • August 7th 2017 @ 6:49pm
      etienne marais said | August 7th 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

      “…in 2016, when new coach Johan Ackerman arrived, the Lions…”

      Rhys, Ackermann did not suddenly “arrive” at the Lions in 2016. He was appointed head coach in November of 2012 already, after serving his apprenticeship as forwards coach under John Mitchell for two years.

      His appointment coincided with the Lion’s relegation from the SR competition; the lowest low for the team and union.

      [I am not taking issue with your central thesis, just correcting the facts]

      • August 7th 2017 @ 7:09pm
        Paul D said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

        That only advances the suggestion he’s an excellent coach. What has being the progression of the lions on the table under him? Something like 12,8,5,2,1?

        That’s seriously impressive. Real change doesn’t happen overnight. Perhaps Cheika was fortunate with the planets aligning with a good squad in form. And all they needed was a little direction. Perhaps the same can be said for McKenzie at the Reds. The improvements weren’t sustained in either case. Time will tell if the are at the Lions I guess.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 7:21pm
          etienne marais said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

          That’s right, Paul. The incremental nature of the Lion’s evolutionary rise from the ashes supports Rhys’ contention even better. Theirs is a different story from the Blackadder to Robertson revolution though.

        • August 7th 2017 @ 7:26pm
          DavSA said | August 7th 2017 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

          Some of the factors Paul D in that progression that Akkers had to deal with.

          1. Zero spectator and hence sponsor support thus very limited funding . In fact in his early days he took the Lions on a tour to the USA playing minor college teams etc and having to live in Varsity and College hostels …No fancy hotels .
          2. A government that still insisted he stick to quotas .. remember South Africa’s best black players are very expensive .. High demand . So he had to take the best of those nobody wanted.
          3. Salary cuts both from himself and his support staff . So he had to not only contend with those who were willing to do so …. usually those of course that nobody else wanted , but had to also convince them that he could turn it around .

          In a recent interview prior to the Crusaders final he made it clear that no matter the outcome , his proudest achievement as a coach was a full house Ellis park…. I believe him.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 7:15am
            Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

            It is ironic that he is accused of lack of commitment to racial transformation as the Lions consistently has been the least “transformed” SA team as they could not afford expensive black players. This disqualified Ackerman from becoming the Bok coach and why he is leaving South Africa to coach in England.

            • August 11th 2017 @ 1:06pm
              superba said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

              Hannes has it been reported that Akkers has ” been disqualified as Bok coach ” because he did not reach transformation targets ?
              Is that really so ?
              Or just the opinion of some ?

          • August 8th 2017 @ 2:42pm
            Rugby Tragic said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

            Thanks for that DavSA … a great insight. I as aware from reading several of those points but not all … A pity the colour of his skin might prevent him ever coaching the Springboks as I understand it…

            • August 8th 2017 @ 9:15pm
              DavSA said | August 8th 2017 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

              Yes RT , Not just a pity but …. apologies ….a tragedy…Cheers

        • August 8th 2017 @ 7:40am
          Hannes said | August 8th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

          Also remember to give credit to the ex Bok lock, Kevin de Klerk and his team that turned the Lions around after they were dropped from Superugby, could not find a sponsor and was on the brink of bankruptcy to where they are today. He created the stability and had the vision to bring John Mitchell and Carlos Spencer in so that the Lions can play the brand of rugby they are playing today.

          • August 8th 2017 @ 2:45pm
            Rugby Tragic said | August 8th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

            Hannes, reading an interview some time back, Akermann pays a lot of credit for his coaching triumphs to both John Mitchell and Laurie Main, neither of whom I had a lot of time for…shows you what sort of judge I am … LOL

      • August 7th 2017 @ 9:21pm
        Rhys Bosley said | August 7th 2017 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the correction etienne marais, as you say it makes him sound like even more of a champ.

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