The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome to the post Bledisloe, what the hell was that we just watched, edition of the Top 5. This week the Good, Bad and Ugly is back – yes there really was some good on the weekend,  we praise the Wallaroos, look at a range of numbers, go for a ride on a magic carpet and hand more things over to New Zealand. Sadly there is no Badger Bachelor update, I haven’t had time to watch it yet :(  Anyone want to fill me in? Do I hate the stalker chick? Anyway, back to the rugby – enjoy!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – It was great to see the Wallaroos and Black Ferns take centre stage. The game being shown live on Fox Sports as well as being a curtain raiser for the men’s game, will hopefully expose more fans to the game.

Bad – Do I really need to say it? The Wallabies, especially the team that showed up after half time, were pretty bloody bad.

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

Ugly – We had a month or so to train together, longer than the Kiwis who had to make allowances for those pesky Super Rugby finals. We had an extended training camp. We had a warm up match. We had all players (bar Sio and Tupou) fit and ready. We had a full-time coaching team. All that and we still got thrashed.

Go Girls!

How good was it to be able to watch the Wallaroos play the Black Ferns on Saturday? Live on TV, before the “main event” – just awesome. Not only is it great to see the girls getting more games at home, in big stadiums, but it was also good to see the way they played. To my untrained eye they looked like a team that had improved a lot since their last outing against the Kiwi’s.

Just two years ago, the Wallaroos went down 67-3 to the Black Ferns. Unbelievably, that was the first test match in 2 years for our girls. Yep, they had not played since the World Cup in 2014. Now we are seeing more regular games, and with it an improvement in the way the girls are playing. No, they didn’t beat the Black Ferns, but they really did put pressure on them, their defence was terrific!

Embed from Getty Images

The losing margins for the Wallaroos against the Black Ferns in the past 3 matches have been 64, 26 and 27. This weekend it was 20, still a decent difference, but they are improving. Let’s not forget, that the Wallaroos just played their 50th match. That’s 50 in total. Fiao’o Fa’amausili, the Black Ferns’ Captain and Hooker just played her 53rd match. Let’s face it, the Black Ferns play a lot more rugby than our girls. Over in New Zealand they have the Farah Palmer Cup, a competition that runs for nearly 2 months with 11 teams. Plus 28 members of the Black Ferns squad have received professional contracts, meaning better training and career development support. We may not like the Kiwi’s at times, but they really do know how to do some things right!

We have made a big step up this year with the Super W competition, but in my opinion it needs to run longer, teams need to play each other home and away. There was interest from the fans and those fans are likely tuning into the Wallaroos matches, where in the past they may not have. I will be honest here, in the past watching the Wallaroos games I didn’t really know too many of the players. But on the weekend I recognised a lot of them from watching the Super W comp. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing them play again on Saturday.

Let’s crunch some numbers

There has been a lot of talk about results recently, so I thought I’d look into this a bit more in depth. These are the results for the Wallabies since the 8th of November 2014. Cheika Wins

In the first 12 months with Cheika as coach, which included the Rugby World Cup, the Wallabies played 16 matches. They won 11 of these and lost 5. We won the Rugby Championship and made the Semis of the World Cup. We were relatively happy. In 2016 the Wallabies played 15 games. They won 6 and lost 9. Not the follow up year we had hoped for. In 2017 the played 14. Won 7, lost 5 and drew 2. A 50%-win rate. This year there have been 4 tests so far, with the Wallabies winning just one of them, so a 25%-win rate. None of that sounds fantastic, but let’s break it down a bit further.

Since Cheika took the reins the Wallabies have played 49 test matches. Of those, they have won 25 matches, sitting at a winning rate of 51%.

KMP-G&G-Wallabies-Ireland-7748

Let’s break it down even further. Against teams ranked in the top 10 we have played 45 matches. We have won 21 times, lost 22 and drawn 2. That is a win rate of 46.6%.

Against teams in the top 7 we have played 35 matches. We have won 12, lost 21, drawn 2 at a win rate of 34.2%.

Against the top 5 ranked teams we have played 26 matches. We have won 8 of those and lost 18. 30.7%.

One of the biggest problems with this? Which teams are we most likely to face in, say, the knock out stages of the World Cup? Those ranked 6-10 or those in the top 4? It’s all well and good to say that playing the All Blacks so frequently throws the percentage out, but realistically if we want to be the best we should be able to beat the best, or at least be competitive. Our rate against England and Ireland isn’t any better.

Thank goodness for our 4 wins against Wales. Unfortunately, they are in our pool at the World Cup, so it would be unlikely we face them in the early knock out round. So if we take them out of the picture we have a win rate of 19%. A less than 20%-win rate against three of the top 4 teams. And let’s not forget, Wales finished 2nd in the 6 Nations this year, so beating them isn’t a given.

Here’s hoping those numbers can pick up – and quickly.

Passengers, if you look to your right side of the flying carpet you will see the Cuckoo’s nest……and in the distance a Unicorn

So here we are again. This time it is a little bit different. Look or listen to most of the media and its unrestrained. The patience and benefit of the doubt has gone.

The signs are now becoming apparent that Rugby Australia’s cash cow is sailing into troubled waters. A product that is unable to deliver after multiple attempts. Promise after promise and yet no significant results. If it was a TV program it would be axed. How many reboots can you do before you call it dead?

One of the saddest parts of this tale is that there is a significant amount of diehard rugby supporters who love the game. Another hearty serving of fresh steaming faeces on a silver platter and  yet a fairly decent crowd,  (who I suspect in the back of their collective minds were half expecting what they got), still turned up willingly. On top of that the ratings were also ok. But again, those that care got let down.

How many times? The answer to that could actually be another question; what is insanity?

These players; are they really going to deliver? We have been banging away at this with the same core group, same types of  “new” players, churning through lots of cattle almost like we are sampling a box of chocolates but its yielding the same results.

These coaches; are they really going to deliver? We have promoted them from part to full time, added more coaches including importing (repatriating) expertise from abroad  and has it made a difference?

This Wallabies program; will it really deliver results? RA keep giving Cheika more and more resources. More players in camp, more time in camp, and what has it done?

So about that Unicorn; if we ever catch it will it the be the mythical beast that will be defecating cash to support our game or will it turn out to be an ass.

The irony!

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

 

At least they can’t say we’re not generous

So, we cut a Super Rugby team, and a few NRC teams. But its ok as we are bolstering the numbers in the Kiwi NPC.

After watching some of the NPC and seeing names like Dargaville, Mayhew, Ready and Debrezceni it got us wondering, how many and who have headed over to the Kiwi player improvement program.

Thank you to Brett McKay and Nic Darveniza for providing the names of the players.

Northland: Jack Debreczeni, Jack Straker (Qld GPS)

North Harbour: Nic Mayhew, James Dargaville

Manawatu: Fa’alelei Sione, Junior Laloifi

Canterbury: Sef Fa’agase

Auckland: Robbie Abel

Counties: Nigel Ah Wong

Southland: Andrew Ready

Hawke’s Bay: JJ Tualagi

(This is really only some of the players we are talking about. There are others who have been over there for a few years, some who came over here but have gone back and some went over there at the start of their career)

Now one thing to understand about this is if you are currently contracted you are not permitted to play in the Kiwi NPC.

Looking at these players they may not all be Super Rugby starters but they are certainly well above club standard. What it does do is highlight an issue with Aussie rugby and its pathways and may even be part of the reason why the standard of Aussie rugby is declining.

The reality here is between Super Rugby and the NRC there is a significant difference in standard. The NRC has shown it’s a step up from the club competitions but its still not high enough to be a genuine comparative second tier. Having said that it now is the main pathway for “Aussie” players to step up. 

Now we all know about the likes of Pete Samu and how his time in NZ has improved his game. This is the key reason these players are heading over. But in saying that, these Aussies players (or Aussie eligible) must be half decent as they are being welcomed and are starting in the Kiwi NPC sides.

When your bleeding unwanted players to a higher standard second tier competition it does go some way to explain why the standard of players and the pace of development are lower on this side of the ditch.

  • GO THE Q REDS

    Well, we need options developed at 10 yesterday…..BAAAD. (and if your so stubborn that Quade Cooper isn’t an option, at bare minimum get him in the extended squad so potential green rookies can learn from an actually play making “playmaker”. Foley is just another 9 who shovels the ball along the line…. )
    We also need a new Coach who picks players in a far more conventional manor. A player who plays his career as a centre is NOT an option in the key playmaker position at 10 for the WALLABIES. The same as switching around 6,7 and 8s at will. It’s insane at this level.

    • Patrick

      We also need the cattle. We just didn’t have the cattle on the field, especially in the second row, Lukhan Tui was fairly ineffective, the hooker so invisible that I’m not even sure if it was Taf or not, and the reserve props weren’t great either..

      • st saens

        Hi Patrick. I think this is a case of the Pat calling the cattle black (not sure that worked, but wanted to put it in anyway).
        I think our cattle issue is, in reality, a lack of coaching issue (albeit from a young age through to Wallaby selection). Last time I looked, Australians seemed to consist of the same muscle skin bones etc as their NZ counterparts.

        • John Tynan

          Love a good pun (and a bad one…)

        • st saens

          Thanks John. Appreciate that!. My sons also say they like my puns…. but I suspect they are just humouring me in my old age :)

        • Patrick

          That could be true as well.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Can’t argue with any of that mate. Not sure we’ll see any changes before the RWC but hopefully RA learns the lessons for the next one.

      • Geoffro

        We need competent lineout exponents is one thing they should have learned.As much as I hate to say it,Simmons needs to start.

      • We only took one 7 to the 2011 RWC and that was crazy. Taking only one 10 to a World Cup is insanity, but we’re well down the path to doing just that.

        • A Dingo Stole My Rugby

          Are we even going to take a whole 10? He looks more like about half a flyhalf (a quarter-half?) to me.

        • Mica

          A glide half or a fall half?

        • Alister Smith

          is a quarter half a quarter back?

    • Geoffro

      Agree and disagree.Beale is not a 10 but we have had a couple great flyhalves in Lynagh (centre) and Larkham (fullback) who successfully switched.If Quade could offer some input into development get him on board and make him earn some of his big bucks.Never saw Smith and Waugh on the field together very often and when they were it did not really work for the side though they were both great players..A few hard calls need to be made…

    • cantab

      Absolutely #10 depth is an issue.

      But don’t get too excited about Quade, he spent half of the last 2 seasons out injuryed and made very little impact in Brisbane club rugby this year. Souths and their ‘million dollar backline’ went 0 from 4.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks MST, another wee written article with some pretty telling points raised. Don’t know how you do it so consistently but thanks, it’s something I always look forward to.
    I’ve banged on about this a few times but here we go again; I think the issue with RA is the way the organisation is structured with both QLD and NSW having too much say and too busy protecting their own interests. RA needs to develop some national pathways where the promotion of growth, the standards of evaluation and training and the requirements are the same throughout Australia. It also needs clear unambiguous criteria for progression to reduce the influence of the “old boy” network.
    I think the NPC is the way ahead but it needs to be revamped and grow with a clear path from club to NPC to Super to Wallabies.
    I’d be happy to let players go to the NZ Mitre 10 clubs but just make sure they come back.

    • MST

      Thanks KRL. It’s becoming more apparent that what Aussie rugby is, from the top level of club rugby is right through to the Wallibies, not providing what the game here needs. Rugby is apparently a groth sport wotldwide; but not in Australia. I think your assessment that coveting the traditions and history is what is inhibiting the game developing.

    • Happyman

      Mate I am from Qld and the level of self interest does my head in.

      As Australian supporters we can bitch and moan all we like about making changes in player personal right now but we need root and branch reform. The player exodus is a real issue last year being 2017 I can name 4 of the higher quality school graduate players who are now playing overseas or moved to league. (3 are props). My premier grade club has two players starting in ITM who played premier grade last year and were not considered for NRC so left. To often players are selected based not on being the best available but being the latest superstar. I am sure this story can be replicated in each state in Australia.

      I am sure this true in all states but our local club colts and premier grade competition is run in a very high performance environment. There are nine clubs each running a quality program with S&C and some very good coaches. They receive no assistance either financial out logistical from the QRU. IMHO what needs to happen is that the QRU needs to engage with all clubs and find out what works for each one and raise the level through collaboration and education for all clubs. That does not mean that we still don’t want to beat each other up every week but through collaboration all clubs will improve and by extension the standards will improve.

      The NRC is the way ahead but players need to selected on performance. To often players with ability are given and armchair ride through from the age of 14 upwards this leads to a sense of entitlement and players who feel that if they have not made it by 20 they need to go elsewhere.

      I am a firm believer that players up and coming players need to play against some hard heads in these comps. When our boys make the Super teams they look just like that Boys. When the Safas and Kiwi’s make Super teams they looks like men.

      Ultimately in the long term for both NZ and Aus Rugby we will have to work together. But that is another Rant for another time.

      • A Dingo Stole My Rugby

        At least part of what you’re describing sounds like the job statement for a rugby development officer. Which begs the question – what is the QRU’s fleet of development officers doing around the state, other than holding nice-to-have but ultimately meaningless PR stunts disguised as primary school clinics for kids who by and large aren’t remotely interested in playing rugby?

        Imagine having a governing body that actively sought ideas from its grassroots stakeholders and then actually listened and acted on the feedback…

        • Happyman

          Mate from what I can see they are all doing there second jobs at GPS schools

      • Gun

        That’s a massive point to me. Our pro leagues in soccer, basketball, netball till last year and league all included NZ franchises. This was in both country’s interests and obviously provide a higher standard of comp for the Kiwis than they would have found in isolation.
        Bearing that in mind and in the competitive sporting landscape we have here it has always been in the games interest for us to have been involved in the NPC or at least in some form of collaboration with the Kiwis at a regional level at all levels of the game including playing, administering and coaching. The competitive tension between the two countries has precluded any substantial cooperation and will be further exacerbated by the demise of the game here. They will have to play SA and find a comp in the northern hemisphere to get a level of competition that develops their players if the game dies in Australia or recedes to a club competition.
        Without being too xenophobic the CEO of the game here is a Kiwi, many coaches and players are Kiwis whose first loyalty is to their country and team. The whole game in NZ is focused on their national teams success. These expat players, coaches and administrators have little experience with success in an environment that has four professional winter codes.
        Without genuine cooperation I can’t see how we can emerge from this.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I’m not sure the Kiwi’s here have a self interest for NZ rugby. I think they all genuinely want their teams to do well. I actually think an Australian team or two in the Mitre10 would be good for both countries. Expensive travel costs though

    • Richard Patterson

      Well said. Consistently the best weekly feature on this excellent website.

  • st saens

    Enjoyed watching the Wallaroos game live on F’tel. I was however embarrassed by the inability of ticket holders to make it to the ground an hour or two early to support our Australian team. How much effort would it have been to catch an earlier bus, taxi, uber, tram, train, plane or whatever, and arrive in time for the anthem?

    • I don’t know how much this contributed to the lack of numbers, but …

      I was at the stadium on Saturday, and I was there in time for the Wallaroos game. When I asked at the gate about coming back outside the stadium for a feed between the games, I was told “no pass outs” (To be honest, I expected this). So I watched the Wallaroos game from outside the stadium, on my phone on the foxtel App, while eating a nice curry.

      • Mike Mike

        I believe the stadium didn’t open until not much before the match? Both teams couldn’t even warm up on the field prior. Give it the full respect as an International or play it on another day & place where its not treated as an after thought.

        • John Tynan

          Wow, that’s pretty shit if they couldn’t warm up on the field.

    • Who?

      I believe there was a major train meltdown in Sydney on Saturday. Plus, the Swans and GWS were playing, there was an NRL game at Leichhardt… It was said 150k people went to football matches in Sydney on Saturday night. People were walking in at quarter time and half time in the AFL and NRL games. So perhaps the fans need a little slack on this one?

      • st saens

        Fair enough. Sydney is not always the easiest place to get around!

  • John Tynan

    Thanks MST’s. You say “We had all players (bar Sio and Tupou) fit and ready”.
    Can I just put forward that while they were “healthy”, Hooper and DHP were neither fit NOR ready. Of the returning players, only Genia seemed to there or thereabouts.

  • Ed

    Thanks for this MST.

    Unsure if the GAGR folk have seen this tweet from Ben Darwin yesterday but it shows the consistency of our attack since the era of Eddie Jones while the defence has continued to deteriorate.

    https://twitter.com/bendarwin/status/1031388167109136384?s=19

    While the focus has been on our set-piece, I find it hard to fathom that Nathan Grey has not come under more scrutiny. In the ten AB tests he has been Cheika’s defence coach, the Wallabies have conceded at least 34 points in seven of those matches. We have let in 47 tries in those games, an average of nearly five a test.
    Our attack has scored more than 20 points in four tests, and at least 30 once – 34 in last year’s Sydney Bledisloe.

    So we pick our backs for their attacking ability, some with so-called X-factor, but as a whole lack the starch in defence. Our defence woes is not just on the backs.

    • mikado

      Interesting graph, but I don’t think it’s straightforward to compare points scored with previous eras. I think that rugby generally has got higher scoring over the years, so if your attack now is scoring at the same rate as your attack back then, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re equally good, if you get my meaning.

      Apart from that, declining % rate vs the All Blacks could be a sign of Wallaby decline, but could also be a sign of the AB’s getting better…

Rugby

Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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