A dingo stole my baby part 2 - history of robbie deans

A Dingo stole my baby – Part 2

A Dingo stole my baby – Part 2

It has been a while since Part I and there have been some interesting developments in the meantime. Now, in a revised edition of ‘A Dingo stole my baby – Part 2’, our favourite kiwi Mick gives us the final in-depth examination of Robbie Deans’s coaching on what could well be his last Wallabies tour.

In hindsight, Matt Giteau’s criticisms of Robbie Deans’s man management prior to and after the 2011 RWC seem eerily similar to Quade Cooper’s complaints of confusion and a lack of communication. These grievances, plus the musings of a mystery Wallaby, match up with those of kiwis Christian Cullen, Tana Umaga, Taine Randell and now Richie McCaw.

The Gospel According to Ruchie

The Kiwi Bible

The NZRFU (unlike the ARU) took heed of history when Deans applied for the All Blacks management position in 2007. Spiro Zavos, a Dingo supporter, has confirmed that NZRFU head honcho Steve Tew never liked Deans. McCaw has confirmed that…

  1. Deans came to the interview expecting he had the appointment locked in.
  2. Questioned about his proposed strategies for the ABs, he couldn’t answer. (Graham Henry brought detailed reports on what had been going wrong and the new direction he wanted to take.)
  3. Senior players from 2003 were contacted by Tew — McCaw definitely and Umaga probably. Clearly, the squad unrest from 2003 was in their minds.
  4. McCaw, who had years of experience playing under Deans, preferred the incumbent ABs coaches. Like others, he pointed at Deans’s lack of communication skills.
  5. Deans prefers ‘yes men’ in his squads, and is an autocrat in coaching style. This was another factor that spoilt his application. McCaw recalled that Deans was asked about whom he had in mind for his coaching staff; Deans had no names to offer, then came up with Pat Lam, then an untested NPC coach, as an afterthought.

That all went down in 2007, remember. Dingo has actually had since 2003 to think about his weaknesses, and the NZRFU’s subsequent rejection should have been his wake-up call.

McCaw’s last point concerning assistant coaches is an important one for Wallabies fans and the gap goes a long way to explaining Deans’s painfully unimaginative attacking channels (remember that Deans had the gall to call Giteau ‘predictable’). It also goes some way in explaining why, in all this time, he has not developed a competitive or at least stable front row. He has had five years to build a serviceable gold scrum but it still looks like a work in progress.

Mixing Youth and Experience

Both born in 1980 (only one is a cheat, though)

Upon his appointment to the All Blacks job in 2004, Graham Henry often indirectly mocked Deans and Mitchell in the press. When asked about his inspiration for his coming reign, he commented on the New Zealand women’s netball team and their world cup success — key feature of which, he pointed out, was their ‘mixture of youth and experience’.

Robbie Deans has a mixture of youth and experience in his Wallabies squad, but it didn’t come from nurturing players through the ranks. It came about as the result of years spent randomly tinkering with his squad, upsetting and diluting combinations, with more promotions demanded by the recent plague of injuries.

Euro 2012

Everyone must agree that against all comers, the Wallabies need to show the inspiration and intensity of purpose they displayed in their last encounter with New Zealand. Unfortunately, under Deans the Wallabies have become a conservative defence-oriented unit (the coach’s excuse being they lack players of penetration on attack).

Bob Dwyer’s latest article described the French play as being built on clever set phases and support. It’s the sort of play with which any team can turn average players into more lethal attackers — indeed, the Scottish tries scored against the All Blacks last night exemplified this. Why Deans’s Wallabies (a far better team on paper than Scotland) doesn’t look close to accomplishing this is inexplicable.

Win or lose against England, the writing should be on the wall for Deans. I feel that even given a full-strength squad to face the Lions next year, he won’t change tactically. He is still playing the same limited style he utilised against Wales earlier in 2012  — before the injury horror run really began. What could make anyone think he would change his game plans next year?

In the first article, I mentioned that Deans had at least brought Australia up from fifth ranking to second in the world. Ponder this: if Matt Rowley’s calculations are correct, Australia is about to return to fifth place. That stat alone should be the last line written on the coaching career of Robert Maxwell Deans.

  • Luke_Baird

    Fitting that if the cards fall into place this weekend, Deans could very well bring the Wallabies to the ranking they were at when he first took reign, and seemingly the only justification for keeping him would cease to remain.

    • Mick Coogan

      True that. I am still of the opinion Luke mate that win or lose, Deans tactics and his teams inconsistency are a problem. I saw an article comparing Australia to the new England, that would only be half right. The Poms are very good at what they do. Australia are not good enough in the forwards on a regular basis. Sure they may lift, sure they may even win. I just don’t think ‘inconsistent’ and ‘gutsy’ are much of a replacement for ‘skill’ ‘speed’ ‘smarts’ and ‘commitment’.

      • Robson

        When the Wallabies win they do so in spite of Deans, not because of him.

    • Great timing. Punt Deans and put a new coach in place leading into a Lions series? Link would run a mile. Biggest hospital pass since Campo. Deans will get us massacred against the Lions (God I hope I’m wrong), we’ll have to put up with a bunch of wanker Poms for 12 years, and Deans will be drop kicked.

      • Mick Coogan

        Paul I think good call. I could see Deans going earlier had the AB’s stoved them. But I agree with you Link isn’t going to want anything to with Wallabies coaching position at the moment. Least of all against the Lions!

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          I don’t know about what Ewen would think IF approached to take charge. But maybe the idea of ‘on a hiding to nothing’ could be seen as a plus. Think about it. With a team this far down, where to but up?

          Any improvement would seen as a blessing. And he can surely manage some improvement and be adored by fans. He could also call the shots with the ARU as part of his agreement to take over the disaster. This could be Ewen’s chance to become a Wallaby Coaching legend.

        • idiot savant

          Agree that being approached now would take a lot of thinking about. There is so much to turn around. You would hope that the best direction from the board would be to make a decision on a coach whose brief was to build a side for the next world cup. How far out from that do you start? And can you rebuild against the Lions? One decision is surely clear now. Deans has revealed his shortcomings and if persevered with will not only guarantee failure at the next world cup but also contribute to the code falling further from grace in the Australian public’s eyes.

        • Mick Coogan

          That question about building for a world cup is a crucial one. I don’t rightly know the answer to that either because invariably All Black teams have good world cup build ups…where we fall down is peaking to early. Its a different kettle of fish for Australia, they can look ordinary or inconsistent but come alive at the death.

          As has been seen from the last three RWC winning teams. Its about 80% experience and an even splice of 10% skill and luck. Finals footy is invariably hard crunching stuff, until the Wallabies can consistently foot it in the forwards, it will be tough. Deans, has not only sent Australia’s rugby style back to the dark ages. He was had five years to get consistency across the forward pack…this hasn’t happened yet. If say by the end of next year the Aussies are not getting some form of parity, I’d say it’ll be hard yards.

          The reason being is that come RWC year, as NZ have had to learn. You don’t show all your cards. It’s the year before 2014 which is crucial. When you think about it, That’s when your really working your combinations.and tweaking. Your doing that in the final year, but as said your also playing hide the sausage.If you have a new coach say midway through next year. You really only have a year and a half to create a platform. So yeah as of next year the clock is definitely ticking.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          I’m not endorsing Ewen or anything. Just curious though what would you (and others) do if YOU were Ewen? It’s a tough one.

        • Mick Coogan

          Good points mate I share the opinion. I just wish there were more romantics out there.

        • Brumby Runner

          Makes sense to me. With established world class players like Genia, Horwill, Pocock, O’Connor and perhaps Cooper due back, and smart, unspoilt (by Deans) talent like Foley,Speight, Tomane, Lealiifano, White, Auelua, Schatz, Neville, Pyle, coming through, now could well be a great time for a decent coach to take over. No way will I write off the Lions Tour if we can just get Deans out of the picture.

        • Johnny-boy

          Link has already knocked back the head coaching job once before, years ago. Only a fool knocks back the opportunity of a lifetime, twice.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          That’s somewhat cryptic (almost Robbie like) and had me doing a double take.

          I assume then that you think he will take the job if it’s offered. Have I worked it out correctly?

        • Johnny-boy

          Yep. If he doesn’t take it, he clearly is the wrong man.

      • Johnny-boy

        Link will step up.

  • Brumby Runner

    The list of players discarded from both the ABs and Wallabies in Deans’ reigns reads like a who’s who in international rugby. Contrast with the miriad underperforming players he retained in the Wallabies way too long. Does he really know anything at all about the game?

    He must go, and preferably now! The assistant coaches would cope better than he has over the remainder of the tour.

  • RedsHappy

    Anyone who studied carefully the campaign, selections and (so called) game plans Deans adopted vs England in 2010 home and away could readily see how poor was his real ability as a national coach. We played 3 Tests v England and 2 mid-weekers that year, and we won 1 of 5, and the 1 in Perth was when England was at its rustiest.

    But back then, the ARU’s cunning spin and love of rolling KPI readjustment and goal-posts-moving persuaded loyal observers that really all this clear leadership mediocrity and poor selecting etc was ‘a far-sighted program to build development and depth for the ‘real’ goal – RWC 2011 – and we’ll naturally have lots of up and downs along the way’. This was rubbish then – driven by an indolent and way under-qualified ARU board in the grip of an emperor-like CEO – and is truly seen as rubbish now that the RWC has been played out. The difference in late 2012 is that rugby fans’ consensus has at last moved to grasp the disastrous, reckless and irresponsible log-dated persistence with Deans. 5 years, almost our longest ever national coach, and we have what we saw in Paris last Saturday. Disgrace is by no means too strong a word.

    The post 2003 ARU board has slowly taken Australian rugby into a perilous position based upon poor judgement, the wrong skills, and vast over-indulgence of a CEO that should have been delighted with his pre-2004 contribution and left it at that.

    And another thing: it’s highly misleading to adopt the ARU spin in its entirety that ‘Deans has taken us from IRB ranked No 5 to No 2′. Have a close look at the IRB site area where the history of all teams’ IRB rankings can be found. Connolly had the Wallabies at IRB No 3 just before the RWC 2007, the decline to No 5 solely came from the poor RWC 2007. The ARU claim is literally correct, but, like so much of its PR strategies – its strongest skill is media manipulation and influence – the price of its endless boosterism of Deans was a knowing exaggeration of his predecessors’ failings.

    • Mick Coogan

      I copped a bit of flack for giving JON some shit. But I totally have to agree. The over hyping of Aussies young guns was just the dumbest thing I’ve seen. Trust me I’ve seen the AB’s do some dumb shit but that took the cake…oh wait a minute mate, the dumbest shit we did was with Dingo as deputy!

      • RedsHappy

        Yes Mick, your added detail re ‘Deans’ great selections and development of the X-factor players that’ll win us the RWC 2011′ that we heard so much of from late 2009 through 2011 was another big part of the superficial spin so typical of that period. (Worse was that so many Oz mainstream rugby commentators fell for it 100% – they really are an unperceptive lot, a key part of the problems we have with Australian rugby, we don’t any longer in our mainline media demand and expect high Wallaby standards, we are excuses junkies now.)

        This nonsense is but another reason why the latest intense ARU spin that we should cut Deans huge slack in 2012 due to ‘the horrendous injury toll’ and that accordingly ‘Deans is actually doing quite well in 2012′ is just that – Deans had all his X-factors at his disposal for RWC 2011, and look at the results as he reshaped the then team to play a Saffer-like defensive kicking game with appalling (yet predictable) consequences in that campaign.

        • Gnostic

          Agree fully with the comments of others about selections and games plans and the very manner of Deans appointment and subsequent re-appointment.

          What hasn’t been mentioned apart from lamenting the loss of a few significant players such as G. Smith before the completion of his career, is the long term deleterious effects that Deans reign may have on the careers of some of our most promising players. Let me draw a comparison here with Eddie Jones. Wrongly or rightly Jones determined that scrums were really a very small part of the game in terms of time and numbers per game, so he selected players who could first and foremost play away from the scrum, think Young etc. We had a very promising TH prop in A. Baxter but he concentrated and trained heavily for play away from the scrum such was the direction the Wallabies coach was going, and if he wanted to play for Oz he had to fill those criteria from the start. Now when the scrum came up he had non-scrummaging locks and backrowers (two 7’s and sometimes a 6 in the second row as well in the pack) so the whole set up was for play away from the scrum. Baxter was penalised heavily, and often rightly in those days. He became tainted and no matter how heavily he trained and what improved behind him scrum wise he was penalised heavily and often unfairly as has been discussed at length on this site and elsewhere.

          We now have a similar situation with many players in this side, Kepu, TPN, Slipper are the most obvious. Will we be in a situation where these players are tainted by their performances in a horribly under performing side?

          Australian Rugby stands in danger of losing one of the most talented generations of players we have seen since the late 80s early 90s.

          Add to that the disastrous use and IMO abuse (by scapegoating) of the “assistant” coaches by Deans. Who really believes Richard Graham is a top line coach of his time with the Wallabies? What about Jim Williams? I am unsure about Graham and sincerely hope that he learns and learns quickly under Link and Carmichael. Part of that should be a crash course in ethics and an unlearning of the behaviour displayed by JON, Deans and indeed by Graham himself when he “left” the Force.

        • Mick Coogan

          Its funny Matt and I tend to agree that JON saw the opp to get out with this new deal he was part of. I think anyone can admire the work O’Neill did in his first stint, but as Michael Corleone said to Tom Hagen “You’re not a “wartime consigliere”. Aussie rugger, if we look at it has been on something of a slide in all honesty since after 2003. It was in marked decline by 2007 and while the AB’s also sucked, we were progressing in many ways. Aussie, has remained pretty static since Eddie Jones.

          Anyhow Red mate IMO, the Wallabies need to lose us as their focus and start taking other teams apart like other Wallabies teams have in the past. This obsession in some quarters with NZ, is to Australia’s detriment. Nothing puts the wind up an AB supporter more than seeing Aussie perform well against other teams. That’s where you get that doubt from, that’s where fear comes into it. Further, nothing scares me more than a humble Australian team with a pretty consistent record.

          I don’t believe the hype about this tour being terminal for Aussie rugby. I just think it’ll be a slower build to the top of the mountain. It’ll be a good one as well. The Aussies have had the pre-madonna shit smashed out of them well and truly. That has got to be painful, but a good thing. I reckon with a bit of luck by next RWC, you may well have a Bledisloe Cup and a good crack. I say this because I have that awful sinking feeling the AB’s may well go like the 91 team.

  • Johnny-boy

    Deans II. Classified Adults Only Horror Movie.

    • Mick Coogan


  • Mart

    Very depressing. I cannot see the ARU dumping him anytime soon either. It seemed so obvious to end his tenure after the world cup. Hell they even had an option when O’neill stepped down.

    Either way i hope the ARU realises that if they want people to get excited for the Lions tour and watch games, they need to change things soon.

  • J T

    The most annoying this about the whole disaster is that anyone who has been following the Wobblies since Deans took over could see (from around the 5th or 6th test they played under him) that we were playing dumber and dumber rugby. Deans seems to think that you can just throw a bunch of skilled players in with a bit of “x factor” and everything will sort itself out without a game plan, a scrum, any attacking moves or a decent defensive pattern. How the hell can a country with defensive geniuses like Muggleton and Les Kiss have a rubbish defence??????? It’s a disgrace, it’s been obvious for a long time and it’s time the ARU grew some nuts and lost this bloke.


Mick Coogan from the thriving metropolis of Palmy North, New Zealand, takes a look at both sets of punters across the ditch and gives us an unbiased view of the reportage from both countries. In doing so he hopes to avoid the clichés and discuss some shit other pundits may well be overlooking

More in Wallabies