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With the 2018 international season now done, and the pain of watching the Wallabies ruin rugby behind us yet again, it’s time to reflect on where the Wallabies are at and the success of the coaching staff.
The job of any coach is to teach or instruct their team, so as to improve their knowledge and skills and achieve their goals. After nearly five years as Wallabies coach, it is clear to the most casual of observers that Michael Cheika is failing at this fundamental requirement of his job.
It’s hard to think of a single area in which the Wallabies have improved in the last five years of Cheika’s stewardship and obvious to see many areas in which the team has gone backwards.
It’s important to note that this is not just an article about how I wish the Wallabies were winning more. Results are hugely important absolutely, but I like many Wallabies fans, don’t mind if the Wallabies are losing quality games while playing well.
The simple fact is, that this is the most inept Wallaby team I have ever seen, in nearly every facet of the game.
Here’s a quick snapshot of some key areas.
Australia used to be renowned for their creativity and attacking flair. These days, opposing defensive coaches are probably more frightened of a wet lettuce leaf.
Put simply, the Wallabies currently look completely disjointed in attack. With the backline running moves and decoys sometimes 15-20 metres behind the advantage line, their opposition has huge amounts of time to see what is happening and shut it down.
More often, our players simply confuse themselves, overrun the pass or flat out drop the ball.
Statistically, Cheika owns the worst defensive record of any Wallabies coach ever. For all of Cheika’s talk that defence is easily fixed, and just about attitude, the Wallabies under Cheika own the three of the four worst years defensive record of the professional era.
The Wallabies have conceded consistently high numbers of points (2016 – 27.13, 2017 – 28.29, 2018- 24.69) with only 2013 (@ 25.73) breaking Cheika’s claim on the worst three defensive years of the professional era.
I don’t even know how to sum up how badly our lineout has deteriorated this year. While it improved over the last few tests, our lineout in the Rugby Championship was beyond embarrassing.
After a few years of scrum parity and even occasionally dominance, the Wallabies scrum has again descended into mediocrity. This is in spite of having arguably the strongest starting and reserve front rows we’ve had for a decade. Simon Raiwalui may well be a great bloke, but during his time as our forwards coach, the Wallabies have gone backwards quickly.
Even with skills guru Mick Byrne on board, the Wallabies side looks completely lost and lacking ball sense. From dropped balls, to support players overrunning the ball carrier, the inability to pass left-to-right and incompetent kicking in general play, the Wallabies lack the fundamentals required of an allegedly professional side.
For all the commentary around a supposed fact that Australia does not have the cattle, player development is possibly the key responsibility of any coach in any sport.
Can anyone honestly tell me of a player that has improved noticeably under Cheika in the last five years? Compare our backward trend with the development of key position All Blacks, and it’s clear that their coaching structure has an immensely positive impact on players. However, the Wallabies seem to convert skilled players into confused ones.
Jurgen Klopp once said, “I believe in training, sometimes I feel I’m the only one in this country who believes in training, only others believe in transfers. I love this game because training can make a difference.”
There’s simply so much to write on selection, but it’s all been covered by Roarers previously. Cheika’s selection policy is so hopelessly confused, I’m genuinely surprised that we haven’t seen Michael Hooper playing at 13 yet.
It was crazy to pick Bernard Foley at 12 in a test match.
This is not a direct responsibility of the coach, but it is a corollary to all of the coach’s other responsibilities.
Rugby in Australia is struggling, and as the main revenue generation tool of Rugby Australia, the Wallabies need to be winning and packing out stadiums to have any chance of remaining solvent, let alone relevant.
Put simply, except for the absolute tragics among us, the Wallabies have become irrelevant. Worse, for we the tragics, watching a Wallabies game has become a torturous way to ruin an otherwise perfectly good weekend.
There is not a single area in which the Wallabies have improved over the last five years. More terrifying, there does not seem to be an area in which we have not regressed.
The state of affairs is so dire, that regardless of the cost, Cheika and his assistants must go. There will be a cost, but people are going to pay more in lost ticket sales, broadcast revenue and complete sporting irrelevance if he is not let go.
The job of any coach is to teach or instruct their team so as to improve their knowledge and skills and achieve their goals. Cheika has failed so badly at this, it is not only incomprehensible but unconscionable that he keep his job.