I don’t know who the new Wallabies coach will be, and I don’t know who it should be. Maybe it will be this guy Dave Rennie. Maybe it will be this other guy Eddie Jones.
Who knows, maybe they’ll go back to the glorious past and choose Eddie’s famous grandfather, Alan.
Personally, the best rugby coach I’ve ever seen is early 1990s Bob Dwyer, but whether Raelene Castle will be willing to take a punt both on a coach who made his name in the amateur era, and untested time travel technology, is uncertain.
The point is, I have no idea. I’m not privy enough to inside information to know, and I’m not expert enough in coaching to judge.
But I do know one thing about the new Wallabies coach, something inevitable and irrefutable.
Whoever the new coach is will be either a lunatic or a moron, and probably both.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been watching the Wallabies over the last 15 years, and nobody who is in possession of all the standard mental faculties of an adult human being could possibly wish to coach them.
Seeking out the best possible man to coach Australia’s rugby union team is like seeking out the best possible man to set himself on fire and run nude through a state funeral: you may get many enthusiastic applicants, but you won’t get any whose judgment can be described as sound.
What would a job ad for a Wallaby coach look like? “Wanted: obsessive workaholic with no sense of perspective to spend several years attempting to defy reality. Must enjoy being constantly abused in public and stomach ulcers.”
There is no way anyone with any knowledge of Australian rugby could think that the job will bring anything but prolonged and relentless pain, so the only people who will ever put their hands up either have no knowledge of Australian rugby, or are peculiarly dedicated masochists.
I’ve no idea which of these applies to Michael Cheika, but his press conferences never suggested a man especially keen to avoid punishment.
It’d be bad enough if the job was just coaching the players. Getting a group of men together who have spent most of their lives playing rugby, and are considered the best in the whole country at playing rugby, and finding that your first order of business is teaching them how to catch a ball, is a dispiriting experience.
Even worse must be finding that four years of detailed explanations of the laws of time and space have been insufficient to teach grown adults the principle that if you’re standing still five metres behind the advantage line when you catch the ball, the defence is going to get to you before you reach that line.
How many years of watching lumpen front-rowers acting as tackling bags can a man stand before his senses desert him?
Applicants for the Wallabies coaching job will presumably be asked to present their ideas on tactics and strategy to the board, although it will also be a requirement of the position that the successful applicant have the capacity to accept with phlegmatic calm the fact that their tactics and strategy will never be put into practice.
They are coaching the Wallabies. The team is never going to progress past a gameplan of ‘try not to wet yourself when the black jumpers appear in front of you’.
Of course, some people might think the team plays this way because of the coach, but if that’s true, it’s a pretty huge coincidence that the last four Australian coaches have all subscribed to the Blind Panic school of rugby tactics and believed that adapting play to changing circumstances is for sissies.
As I say, if the only element of the coaching job were the task of attempting the penetration of brains congenitally incapable of absorbing new ideas with some semblance of sporting intelligence, it would be bad enough. But of course that’s only half the job.
The other half is presenting the Australian media and rugby-watching public with a billy-club and inviting them to have a bash at your crotch for several years.
The deal goes like this, when you’re Wallabies coach: when you lose, you will be savaged because you lost. When you win, you will be savaged because you didn’t win by enough, you didn’t win in the right style, or your next game is going to be harder and you’re definitely not going to win that one.
Every game of your time in charge will be followed by an outpouring of public angst and savagely depressed punditry that will make the twin observations that a) the players are woefully unfit for purpose, and b) the coach is criminally culpable for not turning a rabble of talentless hacks into a world champion team.
This will happen week after week, month after month, year after year: a stream of invective and increasingly shrill demands for you to find a way to defeat teams with much better players.
On the odd occasion, the better teams will have a night off, and your team will defeat them, which will cause the commentariat to declare a New Dawn, following which the better team will pull itself together, do what teams that are good at rugby usually do to teams that aren’t, and the commentariat will curse you to Hades for giving them false hope.
All of this will add up to you, within a few short weeks of accepting the job, achieving the impressive feat of causing the entire nation to further lose interest in the game, and also becoming the entire nation’s most hated person. All of which you’ll have to block out when you get down to training and try for the 80th time to teach the players the difference between running forwards and running sideways.
So yes, it is with complete confidence that I say the next coach will be a heady mixture of as-yet-undetermined proportions of stupid and crazy.
In fact, the best way to judge whether someone is qualified to coach the Wallabies is to check whether they want to: if they do, you know they’re not. But hey, that’s rugby for you.
My advice to fans would be to take some deep breaths, watch a few videos of the Wallabies in the ’90s, and try not to cry.