Coaching capers: Buying a dog and barking yourself - Green and Gold Rugby

Coaching capers: Buying a dog and barking yourself

Coaching capers: Buying a dog and barking yourself

Would you like to know the findings of ARU report into what went wrong with the Wallabies’ world cup campaign and what’s being done to to fix it? I know I would, but we’ve been told not to expect any answers. In the absence of such rarified information, we’re left reading the runes. But of late, getting 2 and 2 to add to four has been tougher than getting the NBN numbers to compute.

First off  – even before any such report was even commissioned we were told Robbie would be going nowhere, with a contract extension of two more years. No discussion.

Then, at least a month before the report was even due to read out, there was the boning of Wallaby Assistant coaches Jim Williams (line-outs and re-starts) and Peter Harding (strength and conditioning).

When the report (that we can’t see) came we were told a key finding was that because ‘Deans was often a ”one-man band”’ the ARU needed to bolster the Australian coaching staff – presumably so that he could ignore a fresh bunch of assistants.

McGahan - in charge of the "rugby side of things"

One of these new staff is Tony McGahan, fresh from Munster. Read how Tony described his new role with the Wallabies to an Irish newspaper:

“I was asked to consider the position and I certainly wouldn’t have considered going back as a specialised unit coach, whether it be defence or attack, so it’s a coaching co-ordinator’s role.

“I’ll run the whole training programme while the national side is in Test-match mode from June to December and also run the programme and the players back in their provinces from January through to June.

“So I’ll be dealing with the totality of the strength and conditioning, the medical, the rugby side of things, strategy, the review, preview of the game itself and also the individuals.

He doesn’t leave much out, does he? Tone’s version of a “Coaching Co-ordinator” sounds a hell of a lot like a “Head Coach” to me, except apparently we’ve got one of those?

Make sense to you?


  • johnny-boy

    No surprises there. Can John O’Neill and John Eales get even more incompetent ?

  • Joe Mac

    That’s very odd. It would be interesting to see what they are paying him… Is he a good coach?

    • The Mad Mailman

      He’s a great coach. He was in charge of defense and backs from 2005 to 2008, during which Munster won two Heineken Cups, then took over as head coach in the summer of ’08, after which Munster won the Celtic League twice. He’s certainly got the credentials and any team will benefit from his presence.

  • RedsHappy

    Since 2010, I have been posting in the GAGR forum that we all need to beware the ARU’s poor governance, arrogance of communication (or the lack of it), odd decision-making, reckless nonchalance towards the less well managed State RUs, etc, etc, and, most critically, the clear inadequacies of Deans’/ARU’s chosen group of Wallaby support coaches, both in quantity and quality.

    Phil Blake, recruited in late 2010, was the sole exception as the Wallabies’ defence began to revert to something near its old high standards under his watch. In virtually every other aspect of Wallaby play, innovation and coherence in attack, forwards intensity and set piece, kicking from hand and tee, the Wallabies at the last RWC were either no better than they were in 2008, or had manifestly gone backwards since 2008. Hence, the outcome, after the ARU told us it was be theirs’ and Deans’ ultimate glory moment reflecting the foresight of his recruitment and the prior 4 years of ‘development’ toward this light on the Eden Park hill.

    Even though the now-infamous ‘independent’ ARU RWC review referred to above is being handled in a manner that 1960s China would be proud of, as we learn by media tidbits and leaks at least the ARU is grudgingly admitting the serious errors in Wallaby management and calibre in the 2008-2011 period. Well, the ARU never admits error, it just ‘makes considered adjustments’. Over the coming months, we may learn more what our governing master body has in stores for us, the fans who fund the game. I’ll postpone my assessment until the whole roster of new appointments is announced which I hope will have happened before the British and Irish Lions arrive in 2013.

    One final point: seriously, it’s nothing short of a disgrace that the SMH online article of February 25, 2012 by Growden (and that you link to above) makes clear that he has been told of the essential contents of the report, and duly leaks parts of it. No one else seems to have a clue, including we fans. Note: I cannot recall a single Growden piece in recent years that has been _in any way whatever_ directly critical of _any aspect whatever_ of the ARU’s performance. Do we consider it in the interests and democratic health of the code in this country that the obvious correlation of the above facts exists?

    • le roo

      Another compelling reason to ignore anything “produced” by Growden.

    • Bay35Pablo

      Hmmm, he has stopped referring to them as Fort Fumble all the time.

      Perhaps JON has some photos of him in a Dunedin bar with a sheep he’s holding over him … ?

  • The Battered Slav

    ARU biding time until Jake White becomes available from his warm-up stint at the Brums!!!!!

    Jokes aside, this does seem rather strange. How I would love if the ARU were classed as a government agency, I would waste no time in seeking many, many documents under Freedom of Information, as no doubt a lot of questions would be answered by such an insight into the machinations of the ARU.

    However, it’s easier for North Koreans to find out about the failings and foibles of their own leader that it is for Aussie rugby fans to find out about theirs.

    • bill

      God forbid. That really would be fawlty towers stuff if eddie jones got to pull some reins again.

      …the image of robbie flailing away at a car with a tree branch does have some appeal though.

      … I think the frustration driving that image is more the property of wallabies fans lately unfortunately.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen

    Given the list that this McGahan character has just rattled off, I’m left wondering what does Robbie actually do?

    Who is in charge of selections?

    • johnny-boy

      He strokes John O’Neill’s ego BBOB. We’ve got a coach who was famous for getting his team to kick the ball to the opposition and wait for mistakes yet O’Neill can’t understand why Australian teams arent running the ball. Real smart that boy.

  • Bay35Pablo

    So we’ve got another grim reaper hanging around with Nucifora waiting to take over Robbie’s job when he disappears. At least Link’s off doing something useful.

    Mind you, with McGahan I’d feel he could do the job. Nucifora I’d always be afraid of a player revolt within about half an hour of him taking over. That’s SOP from his time at the Brummies and Blues isn’t it?

  • Justtacklehim

    How does the ARU board get appointed?

  • RedsTragic

    “I’ll run the whole training programme while the national side is in Test-match mode from June to December and also run the programme and the players back in their provinces from January through to June.”

    It’s OK to bone everyone, McGahan is going to be the ultimate armchair coach. Coaching everyone at the same time. If he was 15 years younger younger I reckon we could sack all the players as well and he could play every position at every team. Couldn’t JON have done anything right and employed him in 1997?

    • bill

      tish boom!…and he got a nobel peace prize as well, for curing cancer. It’s just a pity it involved battery farming panda bears.

  • ellabroz

    It sounds like my workplace where the boss acts solely as a figurehead and ‘chief facilitator’. For McGahan, being second in charge just means he delegates to someone else. And isn’t Nucifora, a man who’s ego can never be deflated, the ‘coaching coordinator’ or ‘director of rugby’ or something similar?

    Jim Williams as the line out coach is like asking Quade Cooper to be the scrum coach. Surely, this would be a position for Nathan Sharpe?

  • Skip

    We, the fans, pay all the salaries, no one else. The sponsers throw in money ‘cos we fans turn up. When we (the ones who pay) get served a crap performance we deserve answers.

    I’v resigned myself to the RWC selection shambles and the ludicrous spin which followed same. I want to know why my dollars didn’t produce a result.

    The ARU is not a listed firm but we are the shareholders and not letting us read this report is the same as a partly state owned firm not releasing its figures. From a corporate ethics standpoint, it defies belief.

  • Robson

    Deans has failed miserably and even a man with cork eyes could see the writing on the wall just one year into his reign – oops, almost said rain.

    So the question is why did the Crusaders play so superbly under him whilst the Wallabies floundered? Well, the Crusaders were always going to play superbly irresepective of who the coach was. Deans has been gone for four years and It is only now that tiny chinks are starting to appear in the Crusader machine. Certainly Todd Blackadder assumed control over the Crusaders with an almost seamless transition. Deans came and went and nothing changed.
    At least it didn’t change for the Crusaders, but it did for the Wallabies. Things got worse and stayed that way.

    Having said all that you can’t lay the blame entirely at Dean’s door. The ARU should have dropped him at the end of 2009; giving a new coach the opportunity to rebuild in time for the RWC.

    Dean’s coaching mana is a myth. Sad (for everyone), but true.

    • Blinky Bill of Bellingen

      On the question of why he went well at the Crusaders but hasn’t done so well at the Wallabies – I’m wondering if it’s as simple as it is with players.

      By that I mean we know club players who play like absolute champions for their club but for what ever reason they just don’t crack it at the next level.

      Perhaps likewise the game plan, structures or whatever it is that made the coach a champion coach at Super 12 level is not sufficient to ensure success at Wallaby or All Black level.

      Just a thought.

      • johnny-boy

        BBOB – it’s alway been a clash of cultures. The Crusaders relied on giving the opposition the ball and then trying to suffocate them to the point of asphixyation and then putting the boot in . This suits the dark kiwi culture :). It’s doesnt suit the carefree have a go off the front foot Australian culture. The Wallabies are being asphixyated by Deans with JON and John Eales urging him on.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen

          Maybe so JB but the AB’s sure as hell don’t boot the ball back too often.

          But I take your point. To me it’s a bit of shame that Robbie didn’t look at how successful Wallabies teams went about their business and then build upon that. The style of play and the selections make you wonder.

          I guess my other concern is that when RD finally rides off into the sunset, what will future coaches do? Will there be a dismantling in an attempt to revert to our more glorious days?

        • johnny-boy

          Yeah but look closely BBOB – the All Blacks do rely on ‘strangling’ the opposition with clinical effectiveness. How often do you see then break out a set move. ? Their ruthless counter attacking might give the impression of set moves but it aint.

        • johnny-boy

          That’s why the ‘attacking’ Wallabies unsettle the All Black so much. They get rattled when they can’t get their hands on the oppositions throat. Cooper was an easy target for them in the WC because Deans had obviously told Cooper to play it safe which made it easier for the All Blacks to cut off his air supply.

        • bill

          Cooper was an easy target, because he didn’t play great, and he didn’t play great because he had Pat McCabe learning a position outside him and no Pocock, Gill or Beau Robinson at 7. Hell, even Phil Waugh would’ve been a vast improvement over benny at 7. Or Saia or Ant F. That'[s the real problem with Deans right there in those two positions, 7 and 12.

          If Phil had been there we’d still have been fucked, but at least we’d know we didn’t have to love the baby.

  • Robson

    The All Black’s ruthless counter attacking is definitely not set piece play. Does it need to be?? It is nonetheless very effective, and highly entertaining, running rugby and achieveable only by the kind of exceptional individual and collective running and passing skills that Bob Dwyer constantly laments the lack of in Wallaby sides. But the Wallabies do have the talent pool to do likewise, it’s just that Deans and co. don’t seem to have the wit or wisdom to develop and utelize those skills. My own view is that Deans doesn’t know how to, otherwise he would have done it by now.

  • bill

    Deans was successfull at the cru’ because they’ve got a great skills base and culture that fits Deans’ approach. I guess the aru are trying to piggyback that, but its getting lost in translation.

    The nz approach doesn’t need set plays because they’ve got the skills to recycle with penetration and stress defences to breaking point.

    When he leaves aus, I’m sure he’ll be successfull again. At the moment he seems to be trying to fit square pegs into round holes and making some questionable selections that just adds to the shitstorm.

    I think he’ll be wanting a good season this year though to recover some respect. It must have been a slap in the face to have the choice of assistants taken away from him, if that’s actually what’s happened.

  • Robson

    Deans is a one man band. It’s an ego thing that deludes him into thinking that being the coaching supremo that he is all he needs are assistants who are “yes” men. He’s a bit like a hair dresser who has minions to sweep up the fallen tresses while he does the master design on top or the head. Frankly he’s done his chips in Australia and I don’t think too much will change under his stewardship over the next two years. That is, in fact, if he is indeed more than just the chief steward in name only. There is a hint that he’s not and if that is the case there is a glimmer of hope. Otherwise the next two years are going to be torture.


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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