Melbourne Messiah and The Virgin Mary
ACT Brumbies

Melbourne Messiah and The Virgin Mary

Melbourne Messiah and The Virgin Mary

The national media have been fawning all over Rod McQueen’s appointment as the new Super 15 Melbourne Rebel’s dual-hatted Head Coach/Director of Coaching like it was The Return of the King.

This soft focus coverage has glossed over a couple of obvious facts that I thought rugby tragic’s like you and me might like to cogitate over.

Firstly, we know that Rod McQueen is a legendary figure in our game having overseen the gestation and birth of the ACT Brumbies after earlier succumbing to NSW’s grubby internal rugby politics.

The Brumbies evolved into a rugby powerhouse with a uniqueness and culture all of their own for which the rugby public should be eternally grateful.

Next up, in 1997 he took over a dispirited and defeated team from the late Greg Smith and forged it into a top notch Wallaby outfit which ‘brought back Bill’ in ’99.

And, at the top of his game after defeating the 2001 British & Irish Lions he decided he’d had enough and returned to his extensive business interests.

His autobiography was one of the better reads around and he’s certainly an impressive bloke. Isn’t it great that they’ve managed to induce him into actively returning to the game?

Why is it that in the back of my tiny little brain a bell is tingling and allowing me to think seditious and un-Australian thoughts like…..this guy last coached a rugby team nigh on A DECADE AGO!

Hasn’t rugby changed a fair bit since then? How can he be up to date with the latest tactics and trends without being hands-on since that time?

Isn’t the way the game is played, coached, trained for, refereed and administered markedly different from the 90’s when he predominantly coached? The answer to this rhetorical question is, yes it has.

I know he’s had some involvement here and there, in particular with the Stellenbosch ELV experiment, but he hasn’t actually coached at the top level since 2001.

He was coaching in an era when Sir Clive was known only as Clive, John Hart was at the helm of the All Blacks and Jean-Claude Skrela for Les Bleus. It seems like an eternity ago?

The international coaches from that era who are still around like Smug Henry, Gatland and Mallet have been coaching continuously since that time so obviously retain some currency.

Actually, you’d remember the Brumbies smashing the Sharks in the Final of the Super 12 in 2001 with Eddie Jones and Rudolf  ‘Kamp Staaldraad’ Straeuli in charge respectively?

I wonder whether there are any Super 12 coaches from that era still about? John Mitchell was coaching Waikato (before his All Black gig), Bob Dwyer the Waratahs and Mark McBain the Reds. Jonah Lomu was still on the park….

The resurrection of McQueen is a bit like bringing Jeff Kennett back as the Premier of Victoria. You might briefly think it had potential but you know it would never be the same second time around.

When McQueen was last coaching it was a different ball game. The continuous recycling thing was the name of the game. And didn’t he have some cattle in those days to carry it out?

Do you lose your edge if you haven’t been coaching for a decade? Does your tradecraft diminish over that length of time? How do you keep currency when you don’t have a team?

If I was, for instance….a nurse dude and I’d been away from the profession for a decade…would I be able to just rock up and start again in ICU? No way José.

You couldn’t even nurse on a general ward without some sort of transition or bridging course. This obviously isn’t nursing but I’m trying to make a point here!

Oh, and another thing, his ‘first assistant’ and supposed successor has never coached rugby at Super 14 level before. It’s rugby’s equivalent of the Messiah and the Virgin Mary!

I was going to say Damien who, because those outside of Sydney would probably have never heard of him.

He’s a very promising club coach from Sydney Uni who’s actually had some coaching experience with Suntory in Japan (I know what you’re thinking) and was an ACTRU coaching and development manager.

McQueen’s style has always been as a ‘Chairman of the Board’ type coach, according to those that played for him, overseeing the bigger picture whilst his many assistants undertake the actual hands-on coaching.

I suppose that might be an indicator that there’ll be more assistants on their way. It would be nice if they could secure someone like the talented Todd Louden as his ‘left hand man’.

McQueen certainly knows what it takes to set up a Super 14 team from scratch and in conjunction with Brian Waldron, who was a very clever appointment, should have the show on the road with all their corporate knowledge.

We all know McQueen is very talented and capable but I thought he might be better off with just one hat, like that of Director of Coaching or something, and leave the hands-on Head Coaching stuff to someone more attuned to today’s circumstances.

  • Aussie D

    Think the appointment of Macqueen is a coup but can understand the points you made about being out of the coaching game for so long. His presence will be an attractive proposition to a number of players and he does have a good eye for talent. He is an excellent man manager who gets the best out of his players and will appoint assistant coaches who know what they are doing.

    • Lance Free

      I agree AD. I think it’ll be a win win for the franchise and a good appointment, but I just have a few misgivings about coaching currency….

  • Juan Cote

    A thoughtful post Lance and the general thrust cannot be denied however the central argument of whether the Super Mc is up to the modern game cannot be sustained.

    Over time the “Stellenbosh laws” will be seen to be the way to go. The RFU shit-canned these laws because they were from the Sth Hemisphere however they are now making noises that suggest a move back toward them in some form will happen.

    Rugby is a simple game when all the white-noise is removed and I think McQueen was the first coach to recognise just how simple it was to coach and be effective.

    So many McQueen touches are still around in rugby today whether it be the movement in the line-out to the theory of having two play-makers on either side of the ruck that I think he will pick up where he left off.

    I wonder if the first words R-Mc utters at his first training session will be similar to those attributed to Bob Dwyer after his hiatus from the Wallaby gig

    “As I was saying before I was interrupted…”

    • Lance Free

      McQueen was one of those very rare beasts, a coach that went of his own accord, unlike Dwyer who was terminated. Certainly an innovative and forward thinking coach who’ll continue to contribute to the betterment of the game (as Dwyer continues to do also).

      Fortunately, Stellenbosch is dead. And I for one do not mourn it. The northern hemisphere won’t allow the type of change that some in Australia seek. Whether the ELVs are in or not, it’s the mindless kicking that’s the current blight on the game.

      • Juan Cote

        And the mindless kicking has pervaded the game this year in response to the saftey first nature of the current rules, some the Stellenbosh laws sort to negate

    • Davey

      “Rugby is a simple game when all the white-noise is removed and I think McQueen was the first coach to recognise just how simple it was to coach and be effective.” – With respect to McQueen, Alan Jones coached rugby in a very simple, effective way 15 years prior.

  • well….im hoping macqueen being appointed a coach after ten years will give way to maybe NSW getting a government from atleast ten years ago….

  • Sure he’s been out for a while, but I disagree that you can apply the Alan Jones argument to RMc, at least he was good!

  • Rocky Elboa

    RMc is clearly a legend, whether he still on top of his game is yet to be seen. I think the loss of Michael Cheika is a concern, he is one of the best Aussie coaches around and I don’t see a place for him in Australia after his stint end in Ireland.
    I think it is a big step up from Sydney Premiership coaching to super 14, something Hickey has made very clear, so it will be interesting to see if RMc can prove to be the man with experience behind the next big thing.
    Guess we will have to wait and see

  • Robson

    I don’t think his coaching currency is a problem at all. If anything I think it may well be a blessing. When you’ve endlessly got your nose to the grindstone like Graham Henry has had all these years, all you tend to get is dust in your eyes. In other words sometimes you can’t see the woods for the trees.

    McQueen will bring something fresh to rugby because, like us, he’s watched all the permutations of the ELVs and now no ELVS as well as the Saffas intoxication with the ten man game, and he won’t be without ideas.

    Unlike us he has the power, authority and place in the scheme of things to do something about his ideas.

    In fact my guess is that when the Melbourne side plays its first game, they will show us some surprises. Then we’ll say – how come we didn’t think of that.

  • Gumby

    The only one with anything to lose is RM himself. If the Head Coach gig doesn’t work he will just step back to the Director role and someone else will be appointed. His impeccable reputation will suffer a minor dent.

    His appointment is for three years I think and nothing much will happen in that time really as the Super competition is a mature tournament now unlike when the Brumbies were formed and the gig was all new.

    What Macqueen will do is set up a “culture” of success in the new Franchise and the paydirt will be further down the track. Very smart move in my view.

  • K Dog

    I understand your points and you have a valid argument.

    Yet I think having a break from coaching is a good idea. More coaches should take it. Or you get stale. Get away, get refreshed get creative. That way you can see the wood from the trees. You have not been involved in the day to day grind,crap and politics of everyday rugby.

    If you are a good leader and a good manager of men then nothing changes. R MC was reknowned for assembling a good team around him and having the vision of what he wanted to achieve with the game. From what I remember he was not a big hands on coach but would watch and analyse, then act.

    I can’t wait to see his team run on. I personally don’t take much stock in CV’s and age. There are many coaches around with good CV’s that get stuck in their coaching, because their frame of reference has not progressed or improved. basically they are saying the same old shit to different teams. Look at Mallet he has been involved with rugby since the Springboks good run. Yet he has not progressed. Or look at Eddie Jones, I used to be big fan of his when he was at the Brumbies… I did not agree with all his tactics for the Wallabies then he lost the plot with the Reds. I think his going to the Reds was one of the worst things that could have happened to the Reds. I have felt a lot of their problems have been due to a huge EDDIE JONES hangover. Now when Eddie talks I turn off the TV. Maybe he should go coach in Zimbabwe, as Mugabe might like him.

    R Mc has had to be analytical about the game if he helped with the ELv’s and I think it will be a big plus for Aussie rugby to have him back and involved.

    • Gumby

      A lot of the Wallabies problems stem from a huge Eddie Jones hangover. They have just managed to sort out the scrum and the aggression and impact at the breakdown is slowly getting back to where it should be. They are also starting to make instantaneous decisions during play and not always relying on patterns, pre-ordained moves and repetitious training drills.

      Like you I was a big EJ fan but he was left at the helm way too long and the damage was done. The blame for this lies squarely at the feet of the ARU Administration throughout the middle of the decade.

  • unsub god

    Perhaps we’ll see the return of Tim Lane as an assistant – if JON will allow it.

  • Timmy

    I agree with this article. Remember Eddie Jones going to the Reds? A recent, successful coach who was going to bring a wallaby programme to Ballymore. We know how that ended. Macqueen was a very handy coach, but let’s be honest, he had superb cattle at his disposal and a wonderful leader in John Eales. He won’t have that luxury at this gig.

  • Noddy

    I reckon its an excellent appointment.

    1) for player recruitment. His appointment alone will bring players, both Aussies and OS players, to the club. And damn good ones.

    2) for corporate support. People love Rod. The corporate sector (and govt) particularly.

    By the way, apparently he did some coaching with Bill Millard at the Rebels in the ARC.

    Massive call, but an absolute winner that’s for sure.

  • CJ

    This type of vilification, although warranted as a concern, appears a little harsh. I agree with Noddy. If anyone is take the initial coaching role of a start-up franchise then McQueen has the perfect credentials. If he was to take over the Reds it might be a worry, but the new Melbourne franchise has really scored a proven winner in Rod.

  • mudskipper

    MacQueen and Hill are a gift coaching team to the Melbourne Rebels… Its a good start up team with a huge task ahead… MacQueen understands core club culture and will create a culture Melbourne rugby fans and community can identify with and be proud…

    They’re lucky to have them… Good luck lads…

  • Paul

    The issue of his currency is a legitimate concern, but having an opportunity to watch the game and its development from a ‘fishbowl’ perspective suggests to me that he won’t struggle to adapt. If his reputation lures good quality staff- both player and assistant coaches- from the outset, long term viability can be established from the outset. Go Rebels!

  • Groucho

    Lance, I think distance from current coaching trends may actually be an advantage for MacQueen. In rugby, as in all sports, coaching theory exist at several layers, all of which progress. For example, we have man management. We have athletic performance. We have tactics and strategy. I think that in terms of rugby man management in this country, MacQueen wrote the book and most Australian coaches implement his ideas with varying degrees of success. In terms of athletic performance, all coaches bring in outside experts, so MacQueen should not suffer in that respect.

    But it is in the area of tactics and strategy where things get interesting. MacQueen has certainly done more than just ‘keep his finger on the pulse’ – he has been an active player in the development of the game, for better or for worse. In my opinion, coaches are making a meal of coaching the current laws, and what we need is a game-breaker to come in and implement real change. MacQueen has the skills and the inclination to do just that.

    When I hear Chris Hickey, with his exceptional backline, drone endlessly about ‘percentages’ it makes me 87.263% bored of the game. Let’s hope MacQueen can be an antidote to that, and find NEW tactics to deal with the current unsatisfactory laws.

  • Patrick

    I agree with the support for Macqueen. In particular, they have clearly opted for people who have been there done that: the last guy to set up a successful lasting franchise in Melbourne is on board, the last guy to coach a successful start up S12/14/15 team is on board, …

    I think that experience of starting up is the real key to this game and that is why they have these guys.

  • Ozrugbynut

    I don’t see these concerns as major, and consider his appointment as a huge strategic gain for the new franchise.

    Firstly, as others have pointed out, a break from the game is a good thing. Instead of being engaged with it, RMc has been able to observe. Secondly, he will come to the role fresh and with some new ideas. Thirdly, do you really lose that much from a break – surely its not rocket surgery, and fourthly, it may take a little time, but i’m confident RMC can adjust to a new environment.

    RmC has excellent business cred, which will be crucial in attracting the investment the private equity model requires. To my mind, this was the priority in seeking him for the role and the big plus from his appointment.

    His coaching cred is also top shelf. Its not an ideal solution to wear two hats, but given there is adequate support for him, it’ll be sweet. There is of course scope for additions to the coaching staff in the future.

    • Robson

      I agree, but there is also a gilt edged secondary advantage for Oz rugby in general. McQueen strikes me as a man of vision as well as acumen. The feeling in my bones is that Oz rugby is now beginning to put people in places who really know their onions.

      They have one at the WBs, then the Reds and now the new franchise.

      It’s all GOOD.

      • Ozrugbynut

        Hopefully we start to attract more players and coaching staff back from international rugby as well as preventing some (younger) players from exiting the player pool. Aussie rugby could be a very strong position in 3 years time..

  • Scotty

    Any professional team in the country, including the Wallabies would jump at the chance of having Rod involved in the coaching. The two hat thing may not mean he is actually coaching, but the players they are trying to recruit/poach will think he is – and that is enough to get some very talented players coming south, as well as a good chance of getting a few returning from overseas. So in summary it is the best possible appointment, due to similar reasons Noddy lists:

    1. Marketing perspective – there is no one with a bigger profile and respect in Oz rugby than him.

    2. Player recruitment.

    3. Investment into the new team (eg corporate).

    4. Membership – people will believe that the Rebels can be successful early with him at the helm.

    You can’t tell me the Reds wouldn’t jump at the same chance if they got it.

ACT Brumbies
@@LanceFree

Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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