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Are Australia's coaches really developing the players they're working with?

6th January, 2019
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6th January, 2019
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When Jordan shocked the defending Asian Cup champion Socceroos 1-0 last night, coach Graham Arnold joined cricket’s Justin Langer and rugby’s Michael Cheika in the cross-hairs of critics with a genuine beef.

How on earth could the 102nd ranked Jordan topple the 42nd ranked Socceroos?

The same questions have been asked of why the baggy greens have only won one of seven Tests since Langer took over, or the Wallabies winning just four of 13 rugby internationals under Cheika last year.

Not acceptable.

Sure, Arnold can say he was minus Aaron Mooy, Daniel Arzani, Andrew Nabbout, and Mat Leckie on the injured list, and Langer can lament Steve Smith and David Warner are under suspension, but all that proves is there’s no depth in talent.

Cheika has no excuses, the Wallabies just played bloody awful rugby.

Michael Cheika

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

But there’s one key element in all those losses – lack of basics.

The Socceroos had plenty of possession, plenty of territory, but failed to find the net against a minnow nation.

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They lacked the basics.

As someone tweeted, the Socceroos should train on a farm so they could hit a barn door, as Australia’s shooting accuracy rate was only 31.6 per cent, while Jordan’s was 60.

Now the Socceroos have to beat both Palestine and Syria, or they won’t progress, and that would be humiliating on the world stage for the defending champions.

Cricket’s basics have been clearly defined since the first Ashes Test at the MCG in 1877.

The batsmen to treat every ball on its merits, the bowlers to concentrate on line and length, and the team to take the catches.

So why has the Australian top order consistently self-destructed with the bat, while the tail has wagged with far less natural ability?

That’s a coaching problem.

Why has Nathan Lyon, and to a lesser extent Pat Cummins, been the only bowler to value line and length?

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Nathan Lyon looks on

(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

That’s a coaching problem, and it’s also a coaching problem that catches haven’t been taken, or the fieldsman has been too slow to react to turn a tough chance into a dismissal.

It’s been the same since 1877, catches win matches.

And there are two more basics the Australians are falling short in: running between wickets, and the bowler standing behind the wicket for the return from a teammate.

The current Australians are all ball-watchers, the non-striker doesn’t react to the call until he sees there’s a run in it, and precious seconds are lost that could result in a run-out.

They should sit down and watch footage of Bobby Simpson and Bill Lawry run between wickets, they turned it into an art form, and are rightfully regarded as the best of all time.

Statisticians lost count of the number of times they turned ones into twos and twos into threes by constantly being switched on and not ball-watching.

Rarely these days do bowlers camp behind the stumps awaiting a return for a run-out possibility, invariably they are either between the fieldsman and the stumps, or not even in the frame.

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Poor cricket, a coaching problem.

And that leaves the Wallabies, who throughout 2018 butchered the basics of pass, catch, support, retain possession, and tackle.

The turnover, and missed tackle, counts went through the roof in 2018.

Which begs the question, how did so many of the current Wallabies reach international status when their basics were missing in action?

And who taught them the dreaded “no-look” pass?

Obviously, their previous coaches weren’t up to speed on the basics either, which is a debit mark on the code in general.

But there’s a change in the wind with the appointment of Scott Johnson as the new director of rugby, and a selector.

Scott Johnson.

(Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

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That means Cheika has lost his sole selection role, he’s answerable to Johnson, and there will be a third selector who must be Rod Macqueen, the most successful Wallaby coach of all-time.

And before the naysayers start chirping, believing Macqueen has been out of the mix for 16 years, and therefore out of touch, basics have never changed in nearly 200 years.

If you can’t pass, catch, support, retain possession, and tackle, you can’t win rugby games.

That’s why the Wallabies won four of 13 last year.

So Graham Arnold, Justin Langer, and Michael Cheika, it’s time to raise the basics bar, or there’s only one alternative.