Dwyer's view: Super lessons learned in 2014 - Green and Gold Rugby
ACT Brumbies

Dwyer’s view: Super lessons learned in 2014

Dwyer’s view: Super lessons learned in 2014

By most standards the Waratahs had a dominant season in the minor premiership. If we look at the competition ‘log’ they were seven competition points ahead of second place, with the most wins, equal most bonus points, scored the most points, had the least scored against and they scored the most tries.


So if we compare the Waratahs performance with those in the Australian conference, what did they do that was better than the rest?

The first thing I’ll say is that I read somewhere a long time a go – and have thought a truism since – that the measure of success is not in the winning or losing, but what you do with what you’ve got. This applies to the Waratahs because I would say that by a long shot the amount of money paid for the Waratahs roster by the ARU must be miles in excess of the other Australian provinces. This hasn’t always been the case – it used to be this way for the Brumbies.

And so we look at the number of Wallabies the Tahs have and it lines up – they should have finished where they did. But it’s also another truism that you can’t win without good players, but you can lose with them. Herein lies a reason for giving full marks to the Tah’s coaches.

What should the other teams then look at with the Waratahs? They can’t sign the Tahs players – they’ll need to develop there own. You’d have to say the Tahs have got the best out of their players this season – Foley, Phipps, Kepu, Dennis and Hoiles have never played better. Beale is on top of his game as is Polota-Nau. Skelton and Alofa-Alofa have come through as quality players. But this ability of the Waratahs coaching staff to get the best our of all their players is something the others haven’t been able to do consistently.

Repeating myself from countless articles – on almost every occasion when the losing captain or coach is interviewed after the game they say they have to ‘cut out their mistakes’. It’s not as easy as just saying that you need to – it’s how you do it. The answer is perfect technique in execution in a game situation.

Alofa Alofa tackle (Large)

Look at the Reds last weekend making countless opportunities come to nothing through error. Their catch, pass and catch and pass was sad it was that bad. This is a very simple thing, but it has to be repeated “till your nose bleeds” as Nick Farr-Jones used to say, and repeated perfectly. That’s the same with all components of the game – they have an accurate technique which has to be enforced by coaches perfectly every single time at practice sessions. This is a tough ask, but there is no other way. That’s the lesson that has to be learned.

It not only applies to the obvious parts of technique, but also the non obvious – the balance and leg drive in contact, the line and width of support, the lines of running to support a line break, the angle joining a tackle contest, your body movement and your focus in the lineout lift, your urgency in realignment in both attack and defence….. We can go on, but rest assured that none of this is difficult. Being able to repeat it consistently under pressure and fatigue is not that easy.

Everyone has been saying that the Tahs are fitter than other teams which they put down to a ‘gruelling pre-season’. This is incorrect – what’s kept their fitness in position is they way they practice and play the game. The pre-season would have worn off months ago otherwise. Interestingly to me, playing the way the Tahs the play is so much fun that players fitness rises without them even feeling the pain. It’s a good lesson.

Will Genia Box kick

One example of what the Waratahs has been doing so well – what you want is your players in a counter attack opportunity  to urgently realign from defence to attack. If your scrum half kicks away 70% of your turnover ball – as Will Genia does – very quickly players will stop realigning with urgency and then when a massive opportunity appears there’s no one there to take advantage of it. So not only does the way you practice need to be right, so does the way you play the game.

It seems to me that no other Australian team has played that way except for the Brumbies last match. It also seems to me that it’s a law of the modern game that scrum halves must box kick – players emulate what they see coming through the grades. But there are so many times when that kick is not appropriate, and pretty much all of our scrum halves do it.

In the game against the Highlanders Nick Phipps didn’t box kick once and everyone  – at the ground and watching on TV – loved it, perhaps without knowing why. It was the best Phipps has played and it showcased his natural abilities in running and passing.

Coaching is about giving your players the opportunity to show their innate ability, and in helping them to rub off the rough edges of their technique in all aspects of the game. Most important after having done that, is to let them play.

The Reds

James Horwill Reds v Rebels_140517_258Interestingly in last weekend’s game (where the Reds made so many errors) was that in amongst those very new players there looks to be real talent. It has to be polished, but we shouldn’t be taking anything away from the talent we saw.

Certainly the Reds need some more ball carrying power. They have a very energetic and courageous pack of forwards, but they do need a bruising ball carrier. We saw Horwill probably in one match during the season looking back to his best ball carrying efforts of a few years ago. Apart from him I see no one else who’s a punching ball carrier and you need at least a couple performing regularly.

The Brumbies


The Brumbies at their best are a good side. With Pocock back and Fardy in the back row they’re OK, but otherwise it’s a problem. Across the park though they have real talent. If they weren’t at their best when they lost a couple of players then maybe they need to strengthen their squad.

The Force

For Michael Foley the Force have done well in achieving so much with what talent they’ve got. They need more depth and the young second rower Coleman to come through. But the coaching staff there has done a great job. They could do with more impact with their back row – they have hard workers but need more oomph. There’s some more talent coming through in the backs as well, even without Cummins.

The Rebels


The biggest disappointment were probably the Rebels. They have some good players but their front row looks not quite up to standard. They’ve had three potentially good second rowers, but Pyle’s form was off at the beginning of the season so they left him out. It would have been better to get Pyle back to form and play Luke Jones at six – he has unbelievable dynamism for his size. It won’t surprise anyone to hear me say that they got nowhere near enough out of Higginbotham.

The Rebels suffered in lack of execution in the simple things. Their half backs performances were not great in their fundamental parts of the game – a lack of speed and accuracy in delivery. The Rebels will also miss Woodward terribly, even though his form tapered off when at wing.

If you want to coach a rugby team you have to be prepared to work hard and accurately every moment of every session and the talent will come through. It’s not easy though.

There’s a lot of work to be done before the competition’s done. The Crusaders are ominous and the Sharks are going to be hard at home. Having said all that, the Waratahs have shown they can make good teams look ordinary – the hallmark of a good side.

  • The Rant

    Thanks for another great year of observations BD. I don’t always agree, but the same goes for my mates down the local. You’re one hell of a task master!

  • Patrick

    Lucky for the tahs they don’t have to beat the sharks at home – I was hoping the Sharks would snatch second just so the Crusaders would have to fly there to win.

    Bob, what do you think of Jake’s suggestion that the play-offs be scrapped since inevitably the top two play off anyway?

    • JPQ

      It’s just not true. The Crusaders made it to the finals in 2011 after tavelling to away in two knock out games.

    • Chinese Dave

      We should all listen very carefully to everything Jake White says, and then do the exact opposite. The man is a weasel and I wouldn’t trust him to tell me the right time of day.

    • Bobas

      When Jake white coached the brumbies they came third and made the final, maybe he was playing the old game of prove me wrong by complimenting my coaching ability.

    • 44bottles

      But there have been plenty of times the top 2 team has been knocked out.

      Just take a look at the last two years. Stormers (2nd) in 2011, Stormers (2nd) knocked out in 2012, and Bulls (2nd) in 2013. Every single year of the new format, a top two team has been knocked out.

      • Patrick

        Yep, fair enough.

        So to simplify things, the top team has won 12 times, the second team has won 5 times (including the Crusaders twice) and the Crusaders have won once from 4th.

        Call me crazy but I still think Jake has a point!

        However I think we should keep play-offs for the experience it gives the teams involved.

  • HK Red

    “And so we look at the number of Wallabies the Tahs have and it lines up – they should have finished where they did” ………Well this is great and pretty obvious, but I would say, what the hell took them so long? They’ve had quality rosters before, heavily funded by the ARU and they’ve squandered it through poor attitude and application. Other clubs have done more, or as much, with less.
    “What should the other teams then look at with the Waratahs? They can’t sign the Tahs players – they’ll need to develop there (sic) own” ……….BD you make it sound like Tahs rugby nursed these lads from first they exited the womb. And if anyone wants to copy it, they’ll just have to go and get their junior, through to senior rugby programme sorted out. The Tahs bought a lot of these guys. Talents that had actually been “developed” elsewhere, jeez.
    One thing I’m immensely impressed with about the Tahs, is Michael Cheika. He seems to have cut through all the usual Sydney posturing and self-entitlement and instilled in this playing group a real no-nonsense hunger for success through hard work. I lament the shocking season that the Reds have had, there are currently serious problems within that organisation that need to be addressed, fast. I applaud the success the Tahs have deservedly achieved and wish them all the best for the coming rounds. Come on lads, this is the year we start putting one over the Kiwis.

    • Grizzle

      I agree tha Tahs have underperformed in the past, but I think you’re being harsh in terms of player development. Looking at the current starting team, the only ‘bought’ players I count are Hooper, Potgeiter, Phipps, AAC and Folau, so I think it’s fair to say most of their players are home-grown, even if a few (admittedly key) players started their pro careers elsewhere (though Hooper, Phipps and AAC all came from Sydney clubs). Having a few imports is par for the course in professional sport. Regardless, I think a key part of the improvement over the past two years has been the development of some players – e.g. Foley, Douglas, Skelton, Alofa (and Crawford and Betham) and the resurgence of others – e.g. Beale and Horne.

      • HK Red

        And Chapman, Lance and maybe Alofa Alofa, in the extended squad and key players. Look I don’t disagree that some of the players have improved dramatically in technique and attitude under the stewardship of Cheika. Maybe I shot from the hip, but I just took umbrage with the wording and idea that the Tahs had created these players and so everyone should take note and sort out their own development programme. I think in this instance it’s a mix of some development, some wise recruitment and a lot of swift kicks up the backside. Maybe that’s what Bob meant, as there are a few other teams/mgt that should look at that approach – particularly the backside kicking bit.

        • Grizzle

          Fair call. The Tahs haven’t necessarily done a better (or worse) job at player development than other franchises. I’d agree the success is the result of having a good squad (by whatever means) and good coaching, moreso than long-term player development. If anything, it’s the coaching, gameplan and attitude that should/could be emulated.

        • bad ass

          Agreed. Wise recruitment and support yes, but saying that the players were “produced” by the tahs sounds unpalatable. The players parents might rightly claim the right to say they “produced” them. Well done to Cheika for guiding the players and producing a team from a disappointment into the slick machine they have been in the last few months

    • Braveheart81

      The biggest change in the Tahs roster in the last couple of years is that we now have a very good 7, 9 and 10.

      In 2012 which was a dire year we might have still had a lot of Wallabies but some of our weakest players were in those key positions.

      Without doubt there has been excellent recruitment and coaching this year especially but I think improvements in those key positions have made a massive difference.

      We’ve gone from starting Alcock, McKibbin and Halangahu to Hooper, Phipps and Foley.

  • Bobas

    Usually a fan, what’s up with the three lines about the brumbies, you’re usually a lot more clear (did Dingo proof read for you?). you refer to them being a good team, then you say they’re only okay when fardy and pocock are in the back row otherwise ‘its’ a problem (what is it?). Furthermore, they had a lot more than a couple of players out when they played the Tahs last.

  • Zuriel

    I would love to see finals scrapped and the most consistent team over the competition wins. Especially with the extension of the number of super teams in the competition.

  • Bob Dwyer
  • Bob Dwyer

    A few years back, when the Brumbies were top dogs, their roster included – Young, Paul, Darwin, Harrison, Giffin, Vickerman, Finnigan, Samo, Smith, Gregan, Larkham, Holbeck, Howard, Mortlock, Walker, etc. Need I go on.
    Interestingly, the Waratahs finished above the Brumbies in the minor premiership that year, but were belted by a superior team in the semis.
    The myth that the Waratahs has had a potential winning roster for most years, is just that – a myth!

    • HK Red

      Wow, that’s going back a few years, I presume your talking about the 2002 season? As you’re no doubt aware, this was before the creation of the Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels. A time when the Wallabies were spread between three teams, rather than five. A year when the Waratahs roster included Waugh, Grey, Whittaker, Baxter, Cannon, Lyons, Noriega, Rogers, Staniforth, Dunning (okay, bit of a muppet, but still 40 odd caps or something) and I’m sure others that I’ve missed. I don’t think anyone here is talking about a “winning roster”, would never presume so much. But certainly they’ve possessed a quality roster, that they could have done a lot more with, but they’ve wasted it. The Waratahs have been stuffed full of Wallabies for years and failed to do anything with it.

  • Dog10

    52 lines on how the Waratahs are amazing, 27 on how bad the other teams are. Hating more than just Quade Cooper now?

    • Nick

      Maybe you should write to Bob to ensure he gives all Aussie franchises exactly the same amount of characters in his articles. How rude of him to write about what he wants to write about…

    • RubberLegs

      Bob’s article, by design or chance, is a good reflection of how Tah-centric Australian Rugby management is. This was demonstrated by the refusal to offer Quade Cooper an ARU contract some time back. The ARU took the opportunity to weaken the QLD franchise which had been doing annoyingly well while the Tahs were under-performing.
      Genia box kicks when there are no chasers and no coach has been able to get him to stop. then again, Kurtley might not have made those breaks if Sanchez was playing.

  • bad ass

    Bob, I think the brumbies played better than the sum of their parts under Jake White, and the same goes for the reds under McKenzie. But not the tahs. With the players they have had they should have been playing like this for the last decade.

  • charlie

    great Write up Bob Dwyer and good on the tahs getting to where they are in the regular season, in saying that- the season isn’t over yet- they still need to keep the hunger up and finish the finals where they should be – winning the grand final in Sydney.

  • Blue Blood

    “For Michael Foley the Force have done well in achieving so much with what talent they’ve got. They need more depth and the young second rower Coleman to come through. But the coaching staff there has done a great job. They could do with more impact with their back row – they have hard workers but need more oomph. There’s some more talent coming through in the backs as well, even without Cummins.”

    Is that really all you have on the Force? After their most successful year yet? If you don’t give a hoot about the Force and can’t be bothered giving any professional insight just say so, then leave them off. These 4 sentences are just a bit rude. I respect your opinion and often agree with what you write but it’s hard to feel anything but forgotten or dismissed from this article

    And you say they need more impact from their back row? The same back row that has Matt Hodgson who has been without question the form back rower in the comp. Highest scoring back in all of Super Rugby this season, also highest tackler and pilferer for the entire comp by a country mile? Weird comment.

    Ben McCalman had a great season – if anything he got a bit quiet for the last 3 games but the rest of his season he was outstanding.

    Angus Cottrell was unlucky not to make the Wallabies in my opinion and if he hadn’t required surgery on his ankle I would have hoped that he would have gone on Spring Tour to boost his development.

    Brynard Stander has been a great impact player and has really done all that could be asked of the young man in the limited opportunities he had.

    Again I say – weird comment to target the back row.

    In my mind it is the lack of talent and depth in the backs that hurt the Force again this year. Injuries to their marquee Alby Matherson and Luke Morahan certainly challenged them in key positions.

    But as you rightly said – if the Force had a playing roster paid $6 million plus they would be an incredible team vs the just over $2 million dollar team they are today. The fact they came so close with such little support from the ARU is an incredible achievement.

    If the ARU were serious about growing rugby in Australia they would even the playing field. Their self imposed salary cap, that doesn’t take into account the excessive Wallaby payments which are clustered into 3 teams, is a joke. The favouritism shown to the Reds, Brumbies and as rightly pointed out, Tahs by the ARU in cash investment is corruption in the highest order. And they don’t want to fix it. It is insulting to the rugby supporters in WA & VIC. 5 strong teams would surely be best for the Wallabies and for developing depth and community support across all 5 states.

    But that would require the power brokers in the ARU to share the wealth and the power and we know that will never happen. But good on the Force for keeping up the charade and fighting on in the face of adversity.

ACT Brumbies

If you don't know Bob Dwyer is the world cup winning coach of the 1991 Wallabies, then give yourself an uppercut. He did a load in between, but he now runs Bob Dwyer's Rugby Workshops, which you can read more about on his site.

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