Podcast 253- MIND BLOWN with Ben Darwin - Green and Gold Rugby

Podcast 253- MIND BLOWN with Ben Darwin

Podcast 253- MIND BLOWN with Ben Darwin

The referee awards a penalty try to the Brumbies following infringements by the Waratahs in a scrum.Rugby Reg, Matt and Hugh return once again to talk about all things rugby, covering the big topics from all things Super Rugby to Aussie Sevens to Wallaby selection. They were joined this week by former Wallaby Ben Darwin to talk about the effects of cutting teams, player cohesion, and how that affects the recent record of the Wallabies.

The Five Burning Questions:

1. How will reducing the numbers of teams affect Wallaby performances?
2. It is right to exclude the Brumbies from consideration on being cut?
3. What was the bigger statement made by the Melbourne Rebels last week, the win or the CEO?
4. Have the Aussie Sevens mens team turned a corner?
5. Who should play at Fullback for the Wallabies in 2017?

  • Afterm

    That was so interesting I looked up Gain Line (gainline.biz) and (not sure if this has been mentioned before) they have a “Report Card” you can subscribe to.

    Here’s the archive: http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/home/?u=b1fe823fd17732155d02995c0&id=ec7d95c478

    Lots more of this cohesion analysis stuff.

    Doesn’t bode well for the (B&I) Lions unless they basically pick England.

    • USARugger

      Dunno if you’re up on the rumors around the Lions selections but it sounds like they’re going to be very far away from picking England.

  • Happyman

    That was an interesting podcast particularly from Ben Darwin. If you look at most of the Australian Rugby franchises with regard to turnover of coaches and players. The most successful in terms of long term results is the Brumbies who have always had a stable playing group and coaching structure.

    From a Reds perspective it puts there position on the ladder in a different light. It will be interesting to see how they go in the second half of the year now that they have had 7 games and a lot of time together with a trip to Perth and a tour around the world.

  • nmpcart

    I think a lot of people were saying that Moore was underperforming last year as well while still at the Brumbies and certainly with the Wallabies. While Ben Darwin’s comment on players moving teams taking time to bed down some of Moore’s lack of urgency around the field at the Reds doesn’t seem to be not understanding the players around him, more a lack of commitment.

    • RugbyReg

      I don’t agree on his Brumbies form. I think he was excellent for the Brumbies, at least early in the year.

      • nmpcart

        Fair enough I probably didn’t pay enough attention to the Brumbies. That was a good podcast discussion and very interesting points at the end. I couldn’t understand the 2 byes for Australian teams last weekend, that whole scheduling seems to make no sense and you would have thought that the ARU would have had some opportunity for input into a draft schedule so that they could ensure that there are Australian games across Friday, Saturday and Sunday where possible, certainly at least on 2 days, and never have more than one Australian team playing on the same day.

        The grassroots board comment was illuminating too. Former players aside, the ‘business experience’ of the board doesn’t include actual rugby involvement in being more than a spectator – where is the experience in helping run clubs/develop the game, deal with the media about the game etc. If you’re working for a high profile company then you don’t have an issue getting customers and press coverage but with rugby you are the lesser known business who doesn’t automatically have things going your way. Just like often the best coaches were not top players themselves, so the most effective and suitable ARU board members are likely not just people with ‘good connections at the big end’ but more people who have some real skin in our game and live outside the bubble.

        • RugbyReg

          I’d be interested to know how many former baggage handlers or pilots are on the board of QANTAS for example.

          I acknowledge there seems to be a disconnect between grassroots and the ARU but I think that’s a fault of the ARU Mgment than the Board.

          I know Eales and Robinson are strong club believers, coming from two of the most passionate clubs in Brisbane.

          I don’t think the ARU board were chosen for their connections, nor necessarily for their skin in the game. However for the sheer reason they have taken up their positions would seem to indicate there is some skin in there somewhere.

  • Brendan Hume

    I wonder how Ben Darwin’s thoughts on consolidation and it’s benefits fit with this article…


    I can’t agree that four teams are better than five. Excellent pathways, coach and referee development and good domestic competitions are what’s important, and the ARU are fucking hopeless in these areas.

    • Pearcewreck

      Wow, BH, that is a great article.
      We need Morgan Buckley here in Australia right now.

  • Brendan Hume

    I listened to the Clyne/Jones interview. Geez, old Cameron copped a roasting.

    I think Jones though hit the nail on the head when he identified the product as the problem, rather than the finances. The product drives the finances, and at the moment the Aussie provincial product is inferior in world rugby and inferior on the domestic sporting landscape.

    It was also disingenuous of Clyne to suggest they went to London for the SANZAAR meeting without knowing they could rissole a team and just fortuitously stumbled across that at the meeting. If the ARU needed to chop a team, they should have made that clear to all the franchises when it was apparent – just drowning in debt because you feel that you are contractually obliged to is horrific management.

    The ARU probably need to revisit the entire management system for rugby in Australia and lance the boil that is the Australian rugby landscape as it currently sits. Football Australia did it successfully. NZRU have developed a seemingly successful model. I’m sure some of the board would be mates with Malcolm Turnbull – Innovation and Agility are precisely where Australian Rugby is not at currently.

    • Tommy Brady

      3 excellent points!

  • Cameron

    Haha how good was Ben’s form.

    “I’ve forgotten the question sorry”…*keeps on talking*

  • Nickwaiheke

    This was a great podcast and very interesting thinking from Ben. The concept of talent pools and cohesion applies equally to business as it does to our beloved game.
    Too small or shallow and the growth is limited, the opposite and people splinter into groups and the cohesion is lost. Also very interesting view on the Tahs performance linked to this theory and the theory on talented players like Stephen Moore then underperforming in sub optimal groups with varying talent levels
    The example of Nonu at the Auckland Blues without Conrad Smith is the beside here is the other example that could have been used

    So maybe someone at the ARU has run the numbers, built the mathematical models, rolled out the scenarios which show optimal talent pool numbers for maximum cohesion

    Or maybe as Fardy says they are just cuxxs

    Wonderful stuff

  • Xaviera

    I’ll keep it brief:
    Best Drew Mitchell moment (from many choices): At a Tahs season launch, teaching my then 11 year old to catch casino chips flicked from his elbow. The 11 year old made it to a pile of 25 chips, all caught. Great skills Drew – your character will be missed.
    Ben Darwin. Fascinating, although I’d love to know about his data validation, and not necessarily sure I agree with all of it. Some examples made sense, some didn’t. Stephen Moore certainly didn’t – he was out of form last year, especially towards the end of the year, and that has only continued this year. Nothing to do with relocation – I just think his time has come. Conversely, KHunt may be a good example of Ben’s three year rule – he’s playing good footy, and getting better. The cohesion/cohort argument has some merit, and in days gone by, when Randwick were strong, the rep teams were usually strong. Sydney grade now has more depth, so paradoxically, is that making NSW rugby weaker? If you believe Ben, then perhaps. It could explain why the Tahs, Lions and Blues have struggled to win as many titles as their rugby playing populations would suggest.
    Fullback. DHP. Which creates a dilemma about what to do with Izzy, but we can cover that another week (he says procrastinating…). DHP is an excellent custodian, and a far better 15 than winger.

  • ForceFan

    The cohesion that Ben Darwin was talking about has already been there with Wallabies team selection for a number of years.
    Up to 30% – 40% of Wallabies training groups have been made up of Waratahs players.

    The ARU top-ups for Aussie SR Franchises (as supplied recently by Georgina Robinson) shows that there is already a strong Wallabies player focus in the Waratahs, to a lesser extent the Reds and Brumbies and The Force and Rebels are out on the fringe.
    Dropping one of either the Force or Rebels will not make much difference to the current situation.
    Unless Ben Darwin was suggesting that even more Wallabies should be located at the Waratahs?
    I suggest that this is already impacting the current competitiveness of the Aussie conference.
    Recent events and comments would suggest that there was never any effort by the ARU to create an ‘even playing field’.

    In Cameron Clyne’s recent interview with Alan Jones the ARU Chairman went to great lengths to assert that the Aussie franchises were run “independently by the States”. A big call when the ARU are constantly active in the player total remuneration space (actually determining the value of top players) and doing special deals for some franchises (e.g. Folau, Cooper & Hunt).

    ARU Top-Ups:
    Waratahs – $2.6 Million (~50% of total top-ups)
    Brumbies – $1.3 Million
    Reds – $1.05 Million
    Force – $0.27 Million
    Rebels – $0.12 Million

    There’s been many sporting teams full of high priced stars which have under-performed.
    It took the Waratahs 19 years in Super Rugby to win a title.
    Yet less prestigeous teams with great team ethos, passion, effort and cohesion can still do well as did the Highlanders with their SR Final win over the better credentialled Hurricanes.

    This type of analysis can sound as if it has all of the solutions to all problems but really only useful if ALL aspects are reviewed and not biased by pre-assumptions.
    Correlation does not prove causation.

    • whatwouldberniedo

      not to mention, “who is the consumer for these metrics?”
      he can’t tell his potential customers that they just suck and need to try harder, and yet I suspect that is what every successful organisational culture would identify. the line “no Australian team is underachieving relative to his metrics” is shockingly inaccurate.

  • SuckerForRed

    I understand what Ben was saying with the effect that cohesion has on the performance of teams. My favourite saying – A champion team is always going to beat a team of champions. And if the data reflects that it would be hard to ignore it. But….. if would be dangerous to look at one “measure” in isolation no?
    I do wonder however……. is it possible to factor in “lack of minutes” on the skill levels of the support players? Lets look at the Tahs (cause we all like to pick on the Tahs) and scrumhalf. Phipps, Lucas & Gordon. In some people’s eyes these are possibly the best scrumhalves in Australia. But… are Lucas’s (for example) skills suffering because he is only getting 10 mins at the end of every game Are we better off sending him to play at The Force where he will get more minutes and therefore more opportunity to improve his skill level. Yes I know I have probably picked the worse combination of players or team but the point still stands. Just replace team with Reds, position with hooker, & names with Moore, Ready & Mafi. Does this make sense? (I know I am struggling to make a point here.)
    I guess I am just worried that there will be more talent that gets trapped behind encumbants or other good players and therefore will head overseas when realisticly they are only a few playing minutes and a couple of injuries away from being in the side. Should the ARU be looking a central contracting so that we can say “These are the best 5(4) [insert position here]” therefore they get spread across the franchises? Would something like this work? I don’t know but I would love to see what NZ are doing differently to us & how the data stacks up.


Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. Dropped a debut novel last year...

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