Dwyer’s View: ‘Too often, we take the easy option’

Bob Dwyer December 3, 2012 30

No GravatarI have to say that I frequently disagree with a lot that Rod Kafer says during his commentary, but this week I was so strong in my support of one particular comment that I have used it above as the title of this article.

He is spot on. Way too often, we just take the easy option and kick possession away, hoping for an opposition error or a flukey bounce, while frequently wasting genuine opportunity.

Wales, ranked seventh in the world, can run the ball from their own 5 metre line, in the 12th minute of the match and do so with such success that it took an excellent last-ditch tackle from Berrick Barnes to save the try. Not for us though. Not for the Wallabies, who for decades showed the rest of the rugby world just what skill, vision, imagination and ‘ticker’ can do. We have become the ‘win ugly’ champions of world rugby. I just hope that our coaching group and our players watched England take New Zealand apart. I was excited and full of praise for their display – one of skill, vision, imagination and ‘ticker’. When was the last time an Aussie said this about the Poms’ rugby team?

Fatcat – getting back to form

Some positives, though. We won and that’s important, but it’s not getting us anywhere. We are not getting any better. We had to fight hard and it has been an exceptionally long season – much longer than the other major teams. Well done for this, but, if we had enough energy and skill, etc to score in the last minute, why not in the first minutes, or the middle minutes, or any time at all in the first 75 minutes. My guess is that we are scared of making mistakes and indeed, we should be because our skill levels are generally terrible.

We are ‘kick happy’, but despite the huge amount of in-game practice that we get at it, we don’t get any better.  For the most part, we have no length in our kicks. This is not surprising, because we almost invariably favour the drop-punt rather than the out-of-favour (at least here) torpedo punt, which travels much farther. The drop-punt is generally considered more accurate, but shorter, and recommended where accuracy is paramount.

If I was sarcastic, I could say that we are very accurate. In fact, we hardly ever miss the target – that is, if the target is an opposition player. We get them dead centre almost every time! How can this be? Because, our constant kicking is so predictable that our opponents play three, and frequently four, players back – and we are so blinkered that we cannot even attack with 15 against 11 in the front line.

When Robbie Deans first took over the team, one specific area that he targeted for improvement was our kicking game. Well, for sure, that has been a five-year project that has failed dismally.

Kicking is only a part of the game and all of the parts of the game have to fit together to make a cohesive whole.  If one’s attack, with the ball in hand, is challenging, then additional tacklers – open-side wing, for example — are called into the defensive line. The fullback must then move across to cover in behind the wing, drawing the possibility of the blindside wing being needed in towards the middle of the pitch, etc, etc. But, if, like the Wallabies, you kick all or most of the time, then no wide defenders are required at all, thereby neutering your kicking game. That’s us!

Subsequently, and in no time at all, potential support players lose interest in the supporting task – they figure that they’re just wasting energy – and our support becomes virtually non-existent. That’s us! Just ask Berrick Barnes. How can opposition players, who have to turn and chase the line-break and get back behind for legal entry into the tackle, arrive before our support players? With some difficulty, I would have thought, but that’s our situation, and, indeed, it has been for some years now.

Now our game, frankly, has no cohesive whole and, when we win, we generally win ugly. This is not good enough and we must change if we are to progress.

As they say, ‘on a more positive note….’

A fitting way to send off Bullet

We won and that was important for a lot of reasons, but none more important than as a fitting send-off for Nathan Sharpe. He has had a truly great career and, in fact, has never played better than in this year. The captaincy clearly sits comfortably on his shoulders and this will be a big loss to the Wallabies.

Our numbers and body position at the tackle contest were better again, especially in the important first 20 minutes. I hope that the team can reflect on the fact that this gave us quicker phase ball and opportunity. Phipps was better also in his clearance of this ball – not fantastic, but better. This was progress; now all we need is for our attacking line to realign with urgency and we will have progressed still further.

Benn Robinson looked a lot more like the ‘old Benn Robinson’, prior to his longish injury lay-off! He was, or is, a very talented player – a very good scrummager and a genuine contributor around the park in both attack and defence. It sometimes takes a player a long time to come all the way back after such an injury. I hope, and I think, that this augurs well for the future.

We made better use of our bench and they contributed. Mike Harris, who hasn’t quite looked the real deal at this level, was important in the closing minutes. Digby Ioane consistently threatened, where very few others had done earlier. The whole front row squad were again a force and David Dennis went up in my estimation.

Perhaps our biggest plus, from this and other games earlier, is that we seem to be building a good stock of genuine international level locks. Timani and Douglas can definitely hack it at this level and we have another five or so who can do the same. Now all we need is to start playing some quality rugby and their talent will come through.

However, the real measure of our season is this question:

Are our players better players now than they were at the start of the season?

Across the board, they are clearly not!

Discussion

  • bill

    well said.

    although it’s a low base, have to say our attack has looked better since McCabe got injured. I guess that says about all you need to know about our current coach….that’s as much to our discredit as a community as Robbie’s. Why do we put up with this situation?

  • The Rant

    It’s not that we take the easy option. We just don’t look for other options. Phipps summed it up when we turned over and had an overlap that he didn’t even notice cos he was so busy just getting rid of it.

    Have we improved this year? Nope. The welsh series was ok – both teams fought hard and we edged them out. No cause for concern yet. Sure not many tries but a 3-0 whitewash of the 6N champs was well appreciated.

    Then 2 back-to-back games against NZ brought everything crashing back down to earth. Since then, we’ve only lost to SA and France, both away and we’ve beaten Arg twice, SA, Eng, Italy, Wales and even beat the all blacks 18 to 18. So it’s a pass mark in any country’s books. But of those wins I would say that only he english game was a clear win. The wins have come from some of the most negative, 1Dimentional play we’ve seen for a long time (and maybe not in a gold jersey). The longer players play with Deans the less they dare to try something new or special.

    On the whole in 2012 -Gotta say sharpe was our best forward. Not only playing at a high level throughout, but also stepping up to give some balance to a young injury affected team that was getting booed in the media. Sharpey is the genuine wallaby article – reps everything the green and gold stands for.

    Barnes has been our best back this year. Yes he and others have kicked too much. But his defense has been phenomenal and he has been involved in most of what were the few highlights and importantly, when its not going great for us – he’s always one of the 2 or 3 guys we have that are trying to make things happen (maybe it doesn’t work but you can’t say he’s not bloody trying). We have way too many reactive players who can do all the basic stuff but struggle to offer anything that might trouble opposition.

    I shudder to think that that was our last test before the Lions. Worst is the thought that we could quite possibly win a Lions series playing the same shit.

    • sheekabout

      That’s simply one of the meanings of taking the easy option – of not taking other options…..

  • Canuckruck

    Watching the Wallabies now, I feel the same despair I used to feel watching England under Martin Johnson. Watching France under Marc Lievremont.

    The despair of wasted, misused talent….the despair comes from knowing that just around the corner, and under the ugliness, lies skill and potential waiting to be positively harnessed.

    Look at the demonstration England put on yesterday compared those of last year (granted it is a statistic of one!). Look at France under St Andre.

    We all know the Wallabies have that potential and more, but it just can’t be found right now.

    • Westo

      Isn’t it interesting as those teams you mentioned who have ‘possibly’ outperformed this season have new coaches. A new coach triggers players to want to play for their new coach.

  • Luke_Baird

    Bob, can you write a detailed explanation of our deficiencies and areas we can improve on, and email/send in person to the Wallabies headquarters? Not much else needs to be said which you haven’t said already this year about the Wallabies. Though I would add one thing.

    Dave Dennis could easily be a mainstay blindside flanker for Australia if he could channel Higginbotham’s aggression in the collision; to me he seems too timid when he should easily dominate the opposition with his size.

    • mark conley

      Well said Luke

  • Johnny-boy

    The Wallabies have morphed in to the Waratahs. Which is great if you like that sort of thing.

    • Patrick

      Which was also the concern that a lot of us had about so many ‘Tahs in the team…

  • Dave Beat

    I like to be full of knowledge for my kids.

    My 7 year old daughter asks me, “Dad why are we always kicking the ball away we cant score trys without the ball.”

    I say – “I dont know”.

    She says they need to pass the ball to their friends so they can score try’s

    I say – “that is right”.

    She says Dad, I know more than you about rugby than you.

    • Bay35Pablo

      No, tell her she knows more than Robbie.

  • Robson

    Bob, your articles are the most informative that I have ever read about Wallabies rugby. Don’t you think it’s time that the messsages you transmit via these colums found their way into the ARU board room?

    • http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/ Matt Rowley

      Who says they don’t?

      • Robson

        Do they?

        • Bay35Pablo

          Finding their way, and doing something about them, are two different things. “none are as blind as those that will not see …”

        • Robson

          Couldn’t agree more, but those who are selectively blind, dumb or deaf usually make those choice because there is a vested interest in the issue or they are wish to save their own arses. The latter is best expedited by mailing Deans with the standard “Dear John er Robbie” letter. Since they don’t appear to be doing that, what is the vested interest at stake here?

    • Dave Beat

      QC also tried providing the same explanation – albiet very direct.

  • RedAnt

    Bob, I just want to thank you for all your articles on GAGR this year. They definitely provide a level of insight few others can match and, once again, I think your summation of this match against Wales, and our season in general, is spot on. Coaching is obviously a tough gig and there are some things Robbie seems to be doing right, but there also some glaring deficiencies. The biggest one seems to be a lack of an overall game plan and structure, particularly on attack. You can see how NZ (and other teams) want to play the game, the players understand it and it means that when there are injuries or someone needs a rest, new players can slot in without much being lost. More and more, a squad is needed throughout a gruelling year and this type of approach is therefore more and more important. One last thing – don’t knock Kafe! He’s one of the better commentators!

    • Parker

      I thought the way Bob put it was very respectful of Kafe. Object lesson in playing the ball.

  • Touko

    Bob, I’d also like to say thanks for your great contribution at the end of this long year of rugby. Your thought and insights are always interesting and I’m always intrigued to hear what you have to say. So thanks, and I hope you’ll be able to have more positive things to say about the Wallabies next year.

  • TJ

    Bob you mention the break out that Wales had. But you fail to mention that if Tapuai didn’t stuff up and come in and create the overlap for them nothing would’ve happened they would have probably got tackled and we could’ve forced the turn-over. Fact is running the ball from your own line is not a smart tactic and although it paid off because of Tapuai’s poor reading in defence you fail to count the hundreds of times it has been an awful tactic that places you under pressure by getting yoursleves isolated in front of your own line.

    Tapuai also came in and allowed them to get the other masssive break out which palu ended up cleaning up.

    Taps has a major flaw in his game!

    but the real disappointment was Phipps. He has some talent (think of the try against england he set up) but he makes poor decsions and has a woefully inept style of passing. we had enough possession to win that game by 12 points and I truly believe that if Genia had’ve played thats what would have happened. We need to double Genia’s salary immediately and pray he doesn’t get injured again.

    • mark conley

      TJ, jeez, who swapped his position to outside centre, DEANS. Tapuai is a 12!!!!!

      • TJ

        yes completely Deans fault… i saw him sneak on the field and put a 12 shirt on and make those errors himself.

        Taps is a CENTRE, centres 12 or 13 need to be able to read the game!

  • Garry

    After watching 70 minutes of what felt like a game of forcem’ backs kick-fest, just like our Scotland loss, I found myself so dejected that I was rooting for the other team in the final quarter. All I can offer is that we are fortunate that Wales’ lineout capitulated, as I fear with the extra possession, they would have probably won the game comfortably.

    So congrats to big Sharpie for the result on the day. He’s played under a few WB coaches, so I wonder how he feels about the game?

    Final 2 cents. Through tired eyes the other night I feeling a little uneasy about Sharpies kick at goal. After snatching a win at the death, half the fans stayed on to cheer off the stretchered Halfpenny, and then Sharpie had his shot. I fear this may have come across as disrespectful to the Welsh players and supporters, who were clearly gutted. I prefer my champions to carry a little more dignity. Anyone else?

    • ‘Boutbloodytime

      Nah mate,

      I tried to think it through from both sides…Halfpenny was down, not through any form of foul play…bloody unfortunate & I wish him a speedy recovery, as I’m sure all the players from both sides do too…but all these guys know that a split second action can end their career or have them never play for their country again…so you’ve gotta take every opportunity when it presents itself.

      How many games finish with a try & conversion after the whistle, especially on a player’s retirement?

      116 tests for Australia, body on the line week in week out…for mine, I think Sharpie has deserved the right to go out on a high…and no matter the risks to the body, the shot at goal reminds everyone that at the end of the day, it’s still a game.

      All the best Sharpie, you’ve done your country proud.

    • Westo

      Myself and four friends did not even cheer when we scored the try. We actually apologized to the Welsh fans around us. (nb: in English pub in Fulham London)

    • Pclifto

      Come on Garry, toughen up, please. The poor old Welsh players and supporters were gutted? So what. They shouldn’t have thrown away the game in the last 30 seconds.

      A bit of a light-hearted send off the Sharpie was appropriate.

      PS The eternal moaner, Brian Moore, on UK Sky Sports commentary said that he thought Sharpie’s conversion attempt was disrespectful. Lighten up Brian you whinging bastard

  • Garry

    while we’re quoting commentators, I loved Brian Moores jibe after KB was felled after initiating a chip’n'chase. Something along the lines of
    “Dive! Get up. Footballer, get up.”
    Gold!
    There’s a lot o it creeping into our game. Two milked penalities in the NZ v Poms game spring to mind. And a writhing French man in our test previously. Perhaps we can start an award roster?

    • Pclifto

      Can sympathise with this point, Kurtley’s dive was a dodgy look and just emphasised that he had no real confidence in his poor chip and chase attempt.

      That said, one the whole, Brian Moore is a whining, one-eyed, know-all bore.

      E.g. his issue about there being “no chance” that the Wallaby feed into the scrum would be a straight feed. FFS is it just the Wallabies who do this Brian?!

  • Jay-c

    Rip bob- wish I could say thanks for all the great articles

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