A review of 2012 for Australian rugby
Super Rugby

2012 in review: The Anus Horribilis

2012 in review: The Anus Horribilis

Yes it’s spelled wrong, but this new form with an ‘anus’ in 2012 feels right — just ask the frikken Mayans. That said, could it be that 2012 was in fact a turning point for Aussie rugby?

Relive the crapness

The SS Waratah

The SS Waratah

Let’s start with Super Rugby. This year our conference became the open mocking ground of the comp. We let in more tries and scored fewer than the other two nations. We were also the easybeats — unable to win games against the other conferences.

The Tahs bored the fans, but rarely the oppo, to death — creating record losing streaks. The Force manfully disintegrated, again. The Rebels were rabble off-field and often on it. The Brumbies fell at the last hurdle and the Reds squeaked into the finals, but never looked a real threat.

The blame hound was the Rebels — ‘we just don’t have the depth to support them’. Yet so many of the problems touched on above had nothing to do with player depth, and a hell of a lot more to do with poor attitude, conditioning, tactics and skills together with at times farcical management (remember the Tahs Twitter tantrum?). We also saw what a well managed side like the Brumbies could do with acute recruitment and few big names.

The dirge didn’t end there though. In June the Wallabies squeaked themselves through the next of the neverending Test series against Wales, winning the three matches with an overall margin of 9 points. Uglier than a hatful of arseholes, we told ourselves these were good tight wins against the mighty Six Nations champions.

Stuck on repeat

Stuck on repeat

As the year rolled on though, we realised that this was actually a dance of the desperates between two teams without an attacking Scooby Do between them. For the Wallabies this was a season of grindingly close, often miraculous wins (average winning margin 4)  punctuated by sound thrashings (average losing margin 17). Oh, and another loss to Scotland. We also scored fewer tries per match — at exactly one, singular — less than the next 24 international rugby nations.

Far from our ARU KPI (yes, I think we all chuckle at those words now) of wrenching that number one in the world spot from an All Blacks team sated from the World Cup and with a new coaching setup, we slipped to 3rd, having flirted with 4th and even 5th. Having scraped by against the Welsh and Poms (who then demolished New Zealand), you throw in the best of the Irish (remember the World Cup last year?) and the Lions look a mountain to climb.

Our excuse this time? Player injuries. It’s a slight variation on ‘player depth’ (see Super Rugby excuse above), but it would seem that if in doubt on who or what to shift the blame on in Australian rugby, an intangible quality related to players is the way to go. My suggestion would be that ‘too many Australian players are poorly coached and managed’, but something tells me that won’t get much usage.

2013: Dare to dream?

Call me a sucker (I am as I write this) but could 2012 be a turning point for Aussie Rugby?

The absolute schemozzle in the Aussie Super conference forced some desperately needed changes. After an intense game of hard-to-get, the Tahs finally landed Cheika, who looks to be tough and connected enough to disrupt the deeply embedded entitlement culture, especially with the accompanying changes at the very top of the organisation. This resulted with Foley moving on the Force — we know he’s a very good forwards coach and in this new environment may well have learned from his mistakes. The Rebels finally got rid of Cipriani — so there is hope.

The Brumbies have had a year to build and the Reds are past second-year-itis.

At the national level we’ve had a mass shake-out. O’Neill and Nucifora are gone and we’ve a governance review stuffed with common sense.

For many, these changes at state and national level haven’t been fast enough or deep enough, but undoubtedly their scale is unprecedented in Australian rugby this century.

I got this

I got this

Which leaves me with Robbie Deans’s Wallabies. What’s on the horizon here? My rational self says ‘more of the same’, which fills me with dread for 2013 (if for nothing else the gloating of the @lionsofficial Twitter account).

But, if you’re looking for a dream to cling to, how’s this one?

For the previous four years of Deans’s tenure, losing close games the Wallabies could and should have won was a signature dish. The Dingo-ese for the reason was the ‘maturity of the group’.

But this is where supercoach Robbie has had his masterstroke (and I don’t mean of the cerebro-vascular kind). This past year has been like one-handed push-ups: by restricting themselves to a godawful gameplan of attrition, Deans has forced the Wallabies into learning to grind wins — often in situations where they really shouldn’t have. 

Now — sprinkle on some attacking sizzle in 2013, and bam! – you have world-beaters.

Believable? I leave that to you

A personal view

For me, 2013 is also a year of change. I’ll be moving back to Australia after 20-plus years in the UK. Hopefully this will facilitate more oomph behind G&GR and help it to give you the reader more of what you like, with some new goodness as well.

I thank you guys for being part of it all, but especially I thank all of the contributors at G&GR for making it the place it is — and all for the love of the game.

Get stuffed 2012; here’s to a beaut 2013!



  • Robson

    Maybe, just maaayyybe, the return of a few of the wounded from 2012 to the ranks of fit and well will push the Wallabies past the grinding wins of the past to wins of fabulous flair and forward fire in the future. If it does it will have very little – no – absolutely nothing – to do with Deans. He may get all his players back from the casualty ward, but that won’t make him a better coach. In the coaching department Deans has no equal as the most inept international coach in the world, oh except for that weird little fellow who the Springboks had the gross misfortune to have as their coach for a while. But even the South Africans know how to get rid of someone who doesn’t perform. What is it that obstructs the processes of logic in the ARU?

    • ‘Boutbloodytime

      ‘oh except for that weird little fellow who the Springboks had the gross misfortune to have as their coach for a while’…pure gold!

  • brumby runner

    I am looking forward to a hopefully better year for the Wallabies in 2013. Some key players will return from long term injuries, but others will suffer. That will provide some opportunities for a few up and comers, the likes of F’Sautia, Schatz, Kingston, Mogg, Speight, White, Aeluea, Palmer, Neville, Pyle, Jones, and a bolter, Chris Tuatara-Morrison. Add these to the revelations of 2012, Hooper, Douglas, Tapuai, Tomane and Cummins, and there is room for some real optimism. The fly in the ointment is of course Deans. He needs to have a complete rethink and be prepared to allow the attacking flair to return to the Wallabies’ play (and that does mean playing Cooper at 10).

    In Super Rugby, I am looking forward to improved showings from the Brumbies and the Rebels. Both teams will finish higher than last year, and both will contribute greater numbers to the Wallabies in 2013. The Reds will have a similar year to last, but I feel uneasy about the change to the coaching setup in Qld. Won’t be surprised if Link takes a more hands on approach as the year progresses. I will reserve final judgement on the Tahs until we see more of Cheika in the coaching role. Apart from Hooper, the team looks very much the same as last year, and I fear they will perform much the same. The Force look like finishing near the bottom again, but watch for a very damaging centre pairing in Tuatara-Morrison and Cummins. Could be a revelation. We all now know how good Cummins is (and a few of us have known that for some years) but T-M at 12 is the closest we will produce to SBW for a long time. He is big, runs hard and straight, defends powerfully and has the same sort of off-loading capability. Can also play 13 and I tip a big year.

    Wallabies to beat the Lions.

  • james1patrick2

    Great stuff Gagger. 2013 is a year of hope (as tweeted last night) – now you’re back in Aussie, looking forward to meeting you! Finish this sentence – the next G&GR event is…….

  • Johnno

    Australian rugby still has so much to do in the Top-Down model.
    Wallabies are okay they are the end product. Well looked after.
    More connection between the wallabies and super rugby teams, which is being planned. Rotation stuff, especially in a Lions year.

    A 3rd tier is needed badly. Shute shield just doesn’t cut it as a 3rd tier no more. It’s a 4th tier.

    And under-20 national comp would be great but may or may not happen.

    A review of junior rugby too. Need more competitive junior comps and new models, and better pathways.

    And just more promotion of rugby in the footy code wars which rugby is last right now. A free to air tv deal eventually would be good for super rugby when the tv deal end at end of 2015.
    Rugby has a lot of potential in OZ, it just needs to be better managed and organised, and promoted.

  • liquor box

    I think the tahs will be the most important issue in 2013, if they can have a resurgance like the Reds of 2010/2011 then Rugby in Australia will start looking good. Lets hope Cheika can get a reaction from his team in a similar fashion to Whites effort in the ACT. Pick the best players who train hardest and work hardest on the field, not based on what they have or have not done in the past. There are players in the Tahs set up who have been picked continuously based on potential but have yet to deliver. Hopefully the Tahs selectors will pick on actual current form and effort and this might make some of the bigger names increase their performance.

    • Gel

      Interesting points you make about picking players on form… Given the form of the waratahs throughout 2012 how do you feel about so many of them being selected to play for Australia?

  • bill

    Sprinkling sparkles on a dog turd doesn’t make it taste any better.

    • p.Tah

      Why do you eat dogs turds?

      • bill

        It was just a phase awlright, jeez.

        • p.Tah

          I wish you told me that a couple of hours ago. For the record sprinkles don’t make a difference.

        • Could you try one with a Flake and let me know how you get on?

  • ‘Boutbloodytime

    I’m tempted to suggest it will improve only after the Lions give us a spanking & Robbie gets his marching orders….BUT, this Wallabies team has been able to sift through the shovels of shit that comprises the Dingoese coaching manual & grind out ugly wins full of ticker…which is no mean feat when examining our coach’s current style of play and attitude (no tries off set pieces, tries overrated etc etc).

    With the injury toll reduced and two boring/stereotypical kiwi coaches in Deans & Gatland going head to head, we could end up rolling the Lions (in a very attritional, defence based, uninspiring manner), have fans & juniors walk away from the game & the grass roots of Australian rugby suffer as a result.

    I was wrong about the November 2012 tour, because I kind of expected that we would lose to France, 50/50 whether we would beat the poms (which turned out to be our most complete performance), look a cut above Italy (wishful thinking in retrospect) and possibly lose to an invigorated Welsh side out for some revenge on their home turf (wrong again)…forcing the ARU to give Deans his marching orders, give Jake White/Link an offer they couldn’t refuse & I would then look to 2013 with a lot more optimism.

    Unfortunately, even though we came away from the November 2012 tour with a 3-1 winning record, I’m far from convinced Australian rugby is in a good place, nor will it be for another 2, 3 years or more. I just hope that I’m proved to be very very wrong.

  • mjw
    • He certainly didn’t mince words about Foley!

  • Johnny-boy

    Pretty good summary Gagr. I must confess I’m manically depressed about the Wallabies. We are just serving up so much average shit and playing so far below our potential (and have been for so long) thanks to the Prince of Dullness that it’s hard to maintain any enthusiasm.
    It’s incomprehensible as to why the ARU board think he’s worth sticking with after such a litany of mistakes and incompetence over so many years. It’s great that JON and Nucifora have moved on. It looked like the sun was finally rising on Australian rugby and if Deans had a skerrick of decency, or the ARU took it’s responsibilities seriously, we could look foward to the 2013 season with some excitement and anticipation.
    Sadly it looks like we are in for more of the same embarassing crap.
    The Tahs will be most interesting. To be fair to Cheika it took McKenzie a while to get the Reds humming and the other Super XV franchise players will be desperate to smash the living daylights out of the Tahs, to see whether the Tah players can all justify their grossly unfair auto selection for the Wallabies. It will be pretty, or ugly, depending upon your point of view, to watch.

  • Redsfan1

    Good article. However I doubt the ARU will pay it any attention. Rugby in Australia is not a democracy so Deans can’t be voted out by the people.

    The only way fans make their voice heard is by switching of the tell or stop buying tickets. Sadly ARU is too inept to listen to even that.

  • muppet

    The Lions’ greatest weapon is the scarlet tide of support they will bring. If the ARU don’t ride this wave to generate PR for our code then it’s inexcusable. Nay, negligent. The odd ad just won’t cut it. And it needs to start yesterday!

  • I like your optimism Matt. All interesting points. Lets hope it comes together. Most excited about the no nonsense coaching set up at the Tahs now.
    The only glitch is the Wallabies coach.

  • Hannibal

    With Genia, Cooper, O’Connor, Twodads and Ioane all available for selection at the same time – that in itself will drive a better outcome in 2013. Surely even Deans will play a more 2010 like attacking game plan with that cattle on the field. I’m excited as until proved wrong I have to believe that the 2012 game plan and lack of tries was a function of both available backline players being rather one dimensional in key positions and the pressue on Deans to boost the win ratio any way he possibly could.

    Look at it another way – if we have both the Reds and the Tahs playing good attacking rugby then the Wallabies will have to naturally follow.

Super Rugby

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

More in Super Rugby