Barack Obama famously wore grey or blue suits almost every day of his presidency – with so many big decisions to make each day, he didn’t want to waste his brainpower on something as trivial as his clothes.
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Decision-making can be exhausting. I recently made one of the biggest decisions of my life, to propose to my partner, and I couldn’t make another decision for days.
Athletes are forced to make countless decisions in games. Decisions decide games. These decisions often fall at the feet of the captain.
In order to share the burden of decision-making, we’ve seen the adoption of leadership groups in the Australian cricket team, the Wallabies and the league State of Origin teams. The Australian cricket team have adopted a collaborative approach when deciding to review LBW decisions, including the square leg, bowler and wicketkeeper.
Sometimes to lighten the decision-making load, these in-game decisions may be predetermined by coaches. This was Michael Cheika’s predetermined mantra of running rugby and declining penalty shots.
Even in my professional life as a doctor we utilise a team-based approach, including nursing staff, allied health, and junior and senior doctors.
The value of making the correct decision is often amplified in the closing stages of a match. I wanted to take a close look at five key decisions that were made in the final 15 minutes of the Australia-France Test.
First decision: opting for the try
With the Wallabies down 21-13 and only 11 minutes on the clock, Michael Hooper went for the sideline. Teams often make this decision, and I don’t understand it. Australia needed two scores to win the match. Ultimately the try he scored validated this decision, but I think it’s smarter to take the three points, then you can run overtime trying to score the more difficult five-pointer.
There didn’t appear to be any collaboration, so it was either a captain’s call or a predetermined verdict.
Second decision: early clearing kick
Following the try, Banks took the kick receipt and kicked early. He knew that France wanted to play territory and to force a penalty to retake the lead. He had a good angle on the sideline and he has the best boot in the team. I loved this decision.
Third decision: Hunter Paisami cross-kick
Following the Taniela Tupou linebreak in the 78th minute, the retreating French defenders were scrambling to cover the defensive line. Outside Paisami there was two French defenders defending six Wallabies. Paisami decided to attempt a cross-field kick rather than passing the ball through the hands.
It’s easy in hindsight to criticise his decision, but we would have been better served through the hands. This kicking was compounded by a subsequent aimless kick by Paisami in the 79th minute down the middle of the field. I love his skill set and that he is prepared to back himself, but he must be more considered with his kicking, especially against the All Blacks, who punish wayward kicks.
Fourth decision: attack strategy
In overtime Australia had a penalty advantage right in front of the posts.
They wanted to keep it in tight to set themselves up for a drop goal. This is a reasonable strategy, although the combination of Tate McDermott’s pass and Noah Lolesio’s drop-kicking is not the strongest combination for a drop goal.
France recognised this and compressed their defence. Their defence was so compressed that most of their players were between the posts. Generally, in attack you want to manipulate the defence and go where the defenders are either not present or vulnerable. Given we had advantage, I wouldn’t have minded a wider pass to the backs with a rampaging Tupou off someone’s hip. He would have been irrepressible in space on in a one on one.
Fifth decision: set-up
Before Noah Lolesio’s match-winning penalty, too many players had their heads down and some even had their back to the goalposts. It appears the players had decided the ball was going over and they needn’t worry about the alternative possibilities. This is a schoolboy mentality, and I would hope that if this was the Bledisloe decider, we would be better prepared.
What if it had hit one of the uprights?
I know it sounds like I’m being critical, particularly in the context of a win. Australia hasn’t had many wins, so it’s important to celebrate them well. However, I do think there were some incorrect decisions in the final ten minutes, and Australia should be thankful they didn’t cost them the victory.
The Wallabies practice their physical skills at training, but how much do they practice decision-making? Can you teach decision-making? In medicine, tech developers are building simulator headsets to emulate emergency resuscitation scenarios so health professional can practice their decision-making. Will this technology expand into sport?
Michael Hooper has a young, inexperienced team in need of strong leadership and smart decision-making. This leadership group and their decisions will heavily influence whether we will challenge the mighty All Blacks later this year. I’d love to hear Roar readers’ thoughts on this.