Dwyer's View: Rugby, the best game - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Dwyer’s View: Rugby, the best game

Dwyer’s View: Rugby, the best game

We’ve all known for a long long time that when Rugby is played this way it’s the best game.

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After the match I was talking to the son of a friend of mine and his friend. He referred to his rugby league supporting friend and said

“Michael says that the best game of football he’s ever seen.”

Michael then piped up,  “No, that’s not right. That was the best sporting event I’ve ever seen.”

That’s saying something.

I’ve been extremely lucky in my rugby life and have spent well over 50 years associated with a rugby club who believes (but doesn’t always succeed) that this is the way the game should always be played. So during my time there I was exposed to a club who thought this was the way the game should be played every week and every grade. I’ve also been privileged to see some extremely talented individuals play that way.

(Something we used to talk about in practise was the ‘hot potato’. If someone shouted ‘hot potato’ the ball would have to ping around non-stop. That’s what I saw again on Saturday night, with players moving forward and the ball being moved away from trouble and into space.)

So we can be hugely thankful to Michael Cheika that he hasn’t forgotten all that was instilled in him in his playing and early coaching days, and that he has the courage of his convictions.

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To play this way means you have to risk failure to achieve success and this requires courage. To play this way and help your players to develop the fundamentals that enable you to play that way requires determination. He’s clearly got both. Full marks to Cheik, Grey and Gibson.

If we’re looking for a shot in the arm to a sporting code in the world’s most intensely competitive environment, then we got it.

It was never going to be an easy game, but the Waratahs never stopped trying to play the way they’ve wanted to for two years. Eventually it gave them success.

They would have been dreadfully unlucky to have lost given they produced 65-75% of the rugby during the game. The Crusaders are an excellent side but on the night the Waratahs were able to snuff out a lot of the Crusaders’ endeavour and so deny them the continuity they needed to score.

We would have to think Nadolo’s try was more than suspect. If the ball is propelled forward from your arms and you do not regain control of the ball, that is a knock on. The law does not say if the ball goes forward and you keep your hand on it, it’s ok. On top of that it seemed almost certain that his foot was on the touchline before he supposedly “touched down”.

It was certainly a great fightback by the Crusaders though and for them to get to the front showed how resilient and resourceful they are.

If we’re also looking for an indication that Rugby is a great team game, one of my old mates and Wallaby legend Gary Pearse said to his players – Rugby is the only game you can’t play without your mates, as Rugby physically stops you from doing that for any amount of time.

All the 21 players used on Saturday made a contribution. If you could single out some I thought that Kurtley Beale’s performance was something else. I often refer to players as honest (they keep presenting themselves for work) and you couldn’t have had a more honest player than Kurtley Beale. He was constantly either realigning or running the ball.

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The number of times Wycliff Palu presented himself was the best of his career. Adam Ashley-Cooper clearly had an outstanding game – when he gets in that channel with his fending arm free he’s a difficult customer.

It’s been a fantastic season, they’ve been consistently the best team too.

A couple of things we were worried about didn’t end up so bad. The scrum wasn’t too bad and one of the penalties against us was tough. The line out did struggle a couple of times but we pinched one of theirs too.

There were some wonderful moments that made up the game, but for me as I always look at any play as the sum total of the components. In Adam Ashley-Cooper’s first try, the intuitive ability of Stephen Hoiles to realise the ball needed to be shifted from the tackle instantaneously showed his intrinsic rugby understanding and ability to do it. People have doubted his size over time but never his ability.  Hoilesy’s effort there was straight out of John Maxwell’s best.

I guess looking forward we’ve got to think about how the Waratahs replace Kane Douglas and indeed how they produce another quality winger. At the moment we’re down to zero genuine high level wingers and we need another lineout second rower.

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I think that the Waratahs have got more in them too. It’s interesting that Michael Cheika has been coach of Shute Shield, Celtic League, two Heineken Cup premierships and now a Super Rugby one. That’s some record.

As one of the Waratahs senior players said to me 18 months ago “I love Michael Cheika, he’s straight forward and honest.” I said that was quite a strong statement, but that surely these qualities are pretty fundamental. He said “They are, but you rarely see them together”.

Herein lies a good lesson for all aspiring coaches.

  • Peter Toohey

    Good Article Bob but i disagree with you on the wingers. The Tahs still have Horne whos been great on the wing this season, and betham who is still developing but already got a wallaby cap to his name. Naiyavoro has some potential too, perhaps a NSW form of Nadolo?

    • MM

      And Carraro, I seem to remember him cutting a swathe from time to time during the season.

    • Braveheart81

      Andrew Kellaway will be part of the squad next year too.

  • Gnostic

    Thanks Bob for the comments throughout the Super Season. Look forward to the Rugby Championship now!!
    I am sure that Chieka will already be on the hunt to cover those positions mentioned. I started as a Rugby nut in the late 70s watching that same team you talk about, and I have never wavered in my belief and desire to see that sort of game played. I honestly don’t care about the result so much as the way the game is played. The dire crap of the % play of the Tahs for the last x number of years (I say inconsistently since 1994) just about killed the game in NSW. This final and the consistent positive mode of play from the Tahs has re-invigorated the whole code in NSW.

  • Bobas

    Seems all the super rugby teams will be looking closely at the NRC competition to see who rises to the top in their vacant specialist positions.

  • Steve

    …which is why I was so pissed with the way the Wallabies played the second test against France I’m Melbourne!

    • Antony

      Yeah, that game seems like a weird dream now. Totally incongruous, given the way the rest of the season (so far) has played out.

      • Hawko

        The difference between Link and Cheika is that they start from two different positions. Link believes that you need to be able to play different styles of game when required, that the game plan for the day has to be totally adaptable. Cheika believes that the gameplan is fundamentally fixed and that you only make minor adjustments to it based on opposition and conditions. Its a subtle difference but very important.

        When Link coached the Tahs in the 2005 final, they tried to play a mixture of running and field position rugby. It wasn’t successful, the Crusaders lapped it up. On Saturday the Crusaders were always out of their comfort zone and, as Bob says, the Tahs dominated the good rugby played.

        The second French test was Link trying to pre-guess the French response to their first test shellacking and play accordingly. It was clearly wrong thinking; we should have imposed our game plan on the French, not allowed France’s likely game plan to be imposed on ours.

        I hope Link learns the difference. Spending hours analysing the NZ likely gameplan and then adapting ours to it is wrong-headed. We have to ask the question “How do we impose our gameplan on NZ?” and then go about doing it. Saturday’s gameplan might be a good start.

        Of all the New Zealand teams, the Crusaders play a gameplan that is closest to the national team (not so unlikely when you think that the 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 15 spine of the NZ first choice team are all Crusaders). So how we play in the first two tests will be very, very interesting.

        • Great post Hawko – there’s an article in that!

        • Robson

          Very true and an issue that will not be lost on Steve Hansen. Although he will most likely not try to second guess Link on the basis of the 2nd test against France.

        • Rob42

          Yes, for just about every Tahs game this year, the main topic of discussion has been “how will the opposition deal with the Tahs’ gameplan?” – not “how will the Tahs cope with the opposing gameplan?”. They have forced their plan onto every team they’ve played.

    • Lindommer

      Yeah, Steve, it was enough to drive a man to drink it was so dire…

      • You don’t need much encouragement Lindo!

  • GD

    While it was great to see the Warratahs win I think ‘best game ever’ is overstated. I don’t think this is a game that non-Warratah fans will talk of in the years to come or inspire the league boys to change codes, unless they are kickers. The game came down to penalties, not flair and finesse, and could have gone either way. Would you hold the same opinion if the final penalty fell short? Personally I think Joubert robbed the fans of the expansive flowing came they had expected, his ‘control’ of the game took what could have been the greatest final ever and turned it into a ‘who will he penalise next’ thriller. With another referee I believe the Tahs would have dominated the game and scored more tries to come out convincing winners so I was happy for the Tahs but disappointed this is the way Southern Union is heading.

NSW Waratahs
@bobdwyerrugby

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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