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

The Tuesday Top 5

Hi all. Are we back from the brink yet after the weekend? Well never fear, the Top 5 is here! In our final Top 5 for the year (yes, we will miss you all too) we pick out some of the good, bad, and ugly things from the weekend, face our fears (well Cheika’s fears at least), jump in our time machine and go back to the future, start thinking about next year and take a final look at the other teams in Pool D.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – Fiji’s incredible effort to get the win over France was just outstanding. I wouldn’t say it was an expected win, but Fiji are that team where you can’t really seem to say anything is expected. They have this way of surprising us, but then you sit back and think, “well I really shouldn’t have been surprised by that”. Well done Fiji.

Bad – The Wallabies brand and image. Tarnished is an understatement.

Dejected Wallabies after loss to Argentina

Dejected Wallabies after loss to Argentina

Ugly – 1 out of 3. But hey, at least we got one win, right? Let’s put that win over Italy into a bit more perspective. We fielded a number of our top players, looked poor and got the win 26-7. New Zealand fielded plenty of non-regular starters, still pulled out all the party tricks (do yourself a favour and watch one of Jordie Barrett’s tries which he scored off a cross field kick from Nathan Harris – the reserve hooker!) and got the win 66-3.

Special Mention – I’m really not sure what category this fits into. I wouldn’t say it was good, bad or ugly. Clever? Funny? Just plain mean cos it hurt their feelings? Whatever you want to call it, Kyle Sincklers sledge of “f***ing snitches” is one of the best sledges I’ve heard in a while. 

Running Scared

It struck me in the lead up to last weekend’s match when the team was announced. Really, I should have seen the signs earlier, in fact I’m pretty sure people have even spoken about it already. But now I am certain.

Cheika is scared. He is scared of losing – the match and the job. He comes across al blustery and confident, all full of talk about how well the boys are doing, training well, showing improvements, backing themselves and each other – but its all just lip service.

He’s scared.

Look at his selections. No, I’m not talking about the whacky Foley at 12 failed and tried again experiment – that’s a no-brainer.

Let’s start with Israel Folau. Against Italy he looked terrible. He was slow, disinterested, well below par. It came out in the days following the test that he was sick. Had a virus. So why was he playing? It was Italy. Not Ireland, not the All Blacks … lowly ranked Italy. Cheika should have felt confident enough to rest his ‘superstar’, but he wasn’t. So he played Folau while he was ill. He selected an under performing, unwell player over someone who could have given 100% rather than the little that Folau was able to give.

Israel Folau

Israel Folau

Then last week the team to face England was announced. There, at number 8 was David Pocock. Poey, who suffered yet another blow to the neck against Italy. I said last week that I had hoped his health was a priority, but I guess not. Quotes from Cheika made the selection even more worrying.

“I wouldn’t say (he’s) fully (fit,) I’ll be fair and square about that, otherwise he would be training today,” Cheika said.

“He’s hurting but he’s desperate to play.

“He puts his head into places people don’t go to and he’s copped a fair few whacks.

“He’s certainly not scared, hopefully he gets looked after when he’s in there.

“He’s telling me he can get there. He’s done a few things which he’s felt alright with … I think he’ll be all right.”

Not training, not fully fit, felt alright, think – none of these words tell me that Pocock should have been selected in the 15. Even if it was pending getting through a final training session. With his history of neck injuries, it shouldn’t even have been a consideration.

But it was, he was cleared by team doctor Nathan Gibbs, and it proved to me that Cheika was scared. Scared to face England without Pocock. Scared to tell Poey that no, he won’t be playing because it isn’t worth the risk. Scared that without Pocock we’d be lost. So he selected Pocock while he was still under an injury cloud. In the end common sense prevailed and Poey was withdrawn (well it sounds like he withdrew himself according to Fox Sports“he felt discomfort when he went through another training run on Friday morning and informed Cheika that he was unable to play”)

Should we be surprised?

Let’s flash back for a moment, to 2014. The Wallabies comfortably won a test series against France 3-0. They finished third in the Rugby Championship, were beaten by Argentina (giving them their first ever win in the Rugby Championship), Ewan McKenzie resigned and we lost 3 out of 5 on the Spring Tour. To make matters worse, Pocock was out of the tests with his knee injury. There were discipline issues in the team, notably the “Beale Saga”. That year we scored an average of 2.5 tries per match. Here are some names that regularly popped up in the team lists that year.

TPN, Simmons, Hooper, Kepu, Phipps, Foley, Genia, Beale, Folau, Toomua, AAC.

Jump to 2015 and we made the final of the World Cup. We were on the way up again! Again, here are some of the names that were listed in that World Cup Squad.

TPN, Simmons, Hooper, Kepu, Pocock, Sio, Phipps, Foley, Genia, Beale, Folau, Toomua, AAC.

Image courtesy of World Rugby

Image courtesy of World Rugby

Fast forward 3 years and we have just had one of the worst seasons in a long time. 4 wins, 9 losses including losing to the Pumas at home for the first time. We lost to Wales for the first time in how long? Our losing streak continued against England.  Beale was involved in another indiscretion (the first in 4 years) which cost him a match against England. We averaged 2.3 tries per match. Finally, these names all appeared in the team lists on the end of year tour, the majority of them in the match day 23 for 2 or 3 out of the 3 matches.

TPN, Simmons, Hooper, Kepu, Pocock, Sio, Phipps, Foley, Genia, Beale, Folau, Toomua, AAC.

Look familiar?

Players who left Australia between 2015 and now have come back, and jumped straight into the Wallabies. Players who consistently underperform are picked, even if it is out of position. There has been no back up plan – do we know yet who our back-up 10 is? Is it Toomua? If so, will Foley be the answer at 12? Or will it be Beale? Come the World Cup, I reckon there’s a decent chance that in the backs, 7 of the backs from the 2015 World cup will be in the match day 23 for at least 2 of the pool games (Wales and Fiji).

I hope I am wrong.

Of course, this may change depending on what happens when Cheika fronts the RA board!

The reality over the horizon

Like many I am also singing the with the chorus for Cheika to move on. But let’s be honest here, if you had to make the decision today what would you do? I am with Castle on this one, it’s time to do nothing.  Even if he performs the miracle at the RWC it will only be some window dressing on Aussie Rugby’s bigger problems. The other reality is, do we really think this bunch of players that have never been able to deliver are world beaters without a bucket load of luck? They haven’t in the past, they can’t now, so it’s unlikely to happen in the future. And right on cue we have history repeating itself with a repeat of player issues. The irony of it is, it’s the same cultural and behavioural issues (and same players!) that emerged a year out from the last RWC. Off the back of a string of poor performances the then coach McKenzie was the sacrificial lamb.

The bottom line is that between a poor coach and a squad of perennial underperformers and one trick ponies it’s pretty much a fait accompli that we won’t get to the big dance. We know the Wallabies will most likely bring home some decent prize money which is desperately needed and irrespective of the results at the RWC Castle can clean house off the back of either result. So let the mediocrity rule and let’s maintain the status quo and save our cash to until post RWC and spend it on a decent coach and some new young blood.

Since 2014 RA has made poor decision after poor decision which appears to stem from an ongoing incestuous culture and beliefs which Australian Rugby is built on. The RWC 2019 must have RA board member and stakeholder union very nervous as it looms as a pivotal cross road in Australia’s Rugby future. In RA’s history, never has it entered a RWC year with the “Wallabies” unpopularity so high and low supporter base. Failure will be like the fulfilling of the populous prophecy of incompetence, arrogance and validation of the long-held criticism.  Success will provide limited reprieve from criticism. With the game still at a low even RWC success is unlikely to lift the game back to levels it needs to be for the game to thrive.  The Rugby landscape is already too fractured and with Super Rugby still a problem child and yet to establish its future identity the only thing we have looking forward to hang our hats on is doubt.

Ironically that doubt about the future of SANZAAR and the format of Super Rugby might be the shining light and path to redemption despite the RWC. With the chance to reinvent post RWC and the Global Rapid Rugby competition stimulating new interest and opening new markets, our game can rise from the post arson ashes of RA’s handiwork with some considered decisions and a willingness to break the mould and be brave.

For the Mst’s, we can only hope that at some point RA will comprehend the basics of what brings people to this sport. Both of the Mst’s grew up watching or being involved in sports. Like many kids standing on the sidelines, courtside, pitch side or in any stand we would wonder or even fantasise what its wold be like to be out there. Standing there watching the sport in person made is more tangible, more real. And if we touched the ball or met a player it made it all the more real. Although I was enamoured with Formula one, I couldn’t see myself as beng a part of it like the other sports as it was always like a mystical thing as I only got to see it on TV on rare occasions.

Super Rugby will give us and our children that taste of being at a game and we hold out hope that again we will get to see more NRC in 2019.

Drua win 2018 NRC (Credit Getty Images)

But like all sports rugby needs to realise that it can’t rationalise the current or attempt to trade off the past. It also can’t remain exclusive and incestuous. It must also understand its relevancy and to whom and why.

AFL has a huge following nationally and the AFL market to that national audience. Underpinning the AFL are the state and territory competitions. Some of these have a long and rich history and a strong but siloed supporter base. Do most AFL supporters know much about the SANFL, WAAFL or VFL? Do the VFL supporters care about what happening with the NEAFL? But it matters not as the AFL will feed it of the FL’s to make sure they in turn provide what the AFL needs. Players.

Australian Rugby needs more national domestic games where we the supporters and the future of our game, the kids, can see this country’s best or potential next big star. You can’t get that through a TV at 2am.  I can’t get that through a state competition that is unrelatable to me.

2019 is going to be an interesting year but in all honesty, I just want to watch decent rugby and forget the crap. Yeah, yeah, RWC whatever, lets get at it with the Super Rugby and we can get to the Wallabies pantomime later. Hopefully we don’t have endless Cheika cameos all the way through the soup!

The Pool D Gang

For the final time this year let’s take a look at how our Pool D rivals are travelling. I think it has gone from a 2-horse race to a 2 and a half horse race, with Wales, the Wallabies and Fiji sure to take out the top 3 spots. The order is a little more unclear.

Wales – Well haven’t they improved! From being the team we were always all but guaranteed to beat to a bit of a powerhouse. They went through the Autumn internationals undefeated, beating South Africa 20-11 on the weekend. Their other wins were over Scotland (21-10) Australia (9-6) and Tonga (74-24). Their win on the weekend marked their ninth successive test win, so they are going into the Six Nations full of confidence. It would be fair to say they can be confident about beating the Wallabies after breaking the run of losses. They could very well take top spot in the pool.

Rugby: Wales vs Australia

Fiji – remember a few weeks ago when I said this “Again I’ll ask, what will they be able to do when they have more experience, more time together and can play for 80 minutes?” Well guess what. Travel ahead 2 weeks and they not only beat France, but spent a good chunk of the last 10 minutes of the match defending in their own 22. In other words, they definitely put in a full 80-minute effort. They had a solid couple of weeks together and already are more cohesive. I just hope that they get the chance to spend that time together before the World Cup next year. Despite them being in our pool and a real danger of throwing a spanner in the works, I would love to see what they are really capable of.

Georgia – Georgia might be unpredictable. On the weekend they beat Tonga 20-9, holding them try less. The week before they beat Samoa and went down by 11 points to Italy. I don’t think they will be any threat to the top 3 teams.

Uruguay – I don’t expect Uruguay to do much at the World Cup. In no way are they challengers, they will likely finish 5th. Over the weekend they defeated Romania 27-20. In their recent game against Fiji, they lost 68-7, which gives us a pretty good indication of how they will go at the WC.

 

Cya

Well it been a fun year and a challenging year at times. Finding positives has been tough, and some weeks we have had to take enforced breaks both for our sanity and to be honest, it’s been lean pickings trying find things to write about without repeating ourselves. We do occasionally ask why we do this but hey, before you question our sanity, you’re a Wallabies supporter; glass houses and all!

We want to thank you all for taking the time to read our babble and really appreciate the positive comments and support.

From Mr Mst, I want to call out Mrs Mst who has done most of the writing this year and has done an awesome job.

Subject to contact negotiations, and as long as GAGR is not cutting a writing team to save costs (or they sack us!) we intend to be back. Why? The same stupid reason you will keep watching the Wallabies!

We also want to say thanks to the GAGR family. We might be the black sheep playing in our own little paddock but they let us be and do our thing.

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday period and we will see you nutbags on the other side.

Go the Brumbies!

Happy!

 

 

  • Tangawizi

    Can’t agree that it’s time for RA to do nothing. It’s time to give the fans and potential sponsors reasons to hope for better times ahead. And maintaining the status quo isn’t going to do that.
    Bring in a new coaches and open up Wallabies eligibility to Aussies playing overseas.
    You might only end up actually picking 4-5 in the RWC squad but it’ll be worth it for the amount renewed interest generated over who might make the squad.
    JOC will put his hand up to be back up 10-15, then throw in McMahon, Fardy, Naiyaravoro & potentially Gill/Skelton/Timani and suddenly it’s not the same squad as the perennially thumped 2018 team.
    And sort out the mess with Karmichael Hunt. Get him playing Super Rugby somewhere. He’d go a lot better at 12 than Foley did. Maybe even consider paying Twiggy to play him in Rapid Rugby.
    It’s time to pull out all the stops to get the Wallabies competitive again asap. Not sit playing music while the Titanic sinks.

    • donktec

      All good points! With the increase pressure from the media maybe (maybe!) the board will take some (some!) action, though a complete cleanout and fresh seems unlikely. Despite the impression that fans are not being heard, if people contact RA directly someone will read it and it must add to the pressure. and maybe it will make us feel better venting at them directly rather than here!

    • Old_Laurentian

      And sort the mess with Quade Cooper

  • Who?

    Thanks MST’s – always read your articles.
    I’ve got one question about not changing… And I don’t know the answer, because I haven’t done the background work. But what happens if we continue on the path we’re on, and maintain our ranking? At present we’re sixth, right? SO, amazingly, we’re ranked correctly with Wales, because each RWC pool should have a top 4 seed and a team seeded 5-8.
    But the problem is, if we can’t significantly improve our ranking before the end of 2020, we’re at risk of emulating South Africa this time and joining NZ in a pool. We’ve had a year of terrible results this year, if we duplicate that in 2019, how good do we need to be in 2020 in order to climb the rankings rapidly enough to avoid being in a Pool with NZ or Ireland? It may be too big a mountain to climb.

  • voodoo economics

    Some good points MST. And I agree Cheiks is scared all right. But he also appears to be completely lost. He has no answers and it has seemed has not had any for some time. Your well presented recall back to 2014 proves that we have just wasted 4 whole years going nowhere. Im sure some of us have lamented wasted years in our lives at times but these guys get paid millions. And for what. To play a game which is about discipline, strategy, skill and fitness. Just four things, maybe some more things I am missing but I think if you concentrate on those four things you are destined to have at least some success.

    Our only hope for RWC 19 is that somehow the improving nations you mention somehow suddenly disintegrate into a RA mess due to hubris and misplaced self congratulation before the job is done. Its possible I suppose.
    I recommend the players and RA go somewhere quiet for a while and engage in some deep thought. Perhaps under a tree Buddha like if need be. But we only have a year and not 20 or so to get some perspective on things. Maybe Tony Robbins, reading “The Secret”, or self flagellation may help. Time for lateral thinking lads and ladies. It may be our only hope seeing that intelligence and money is in short supply.

  • sambo6

    From the Guardian in the UK today…..this is what the world thinks of us….

    “Australia? The Wallabies are currently a pale shadow of the World Cup winning sides of old. Watching their forwards on Saturday was like going snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, diving under the water and discovering almost all the coral has died”

    • Old_Laurentian

      A massive disappointment – even to my old chums in UK

  • theduke

    Thanks MST and GAGR for all the effort putting these articles together in a tough year.

    Personally – I’d sack Cheika and bring in Jake White on a short term contract. The alternative is to keep doing what we’re doing.

  • sambo6

    Cant argue with anything here MST…Cheika does seem scared, he is panicking, little seems to have progressed over the past 4 years….he needs to go. NOW.

    I am pleased that we are finally seeing wholesale media pressure on RA to do something. Although, the articles I’ve seen over the past 24 hours acros all the regular places seem split between ‘cheika must go’, and ‘chekia can stay, but his assistants or his powers must change’….personally I really cant see how the latter can work…

    In his public statements, Cheika has shown absolutely zero humility, or even acknowledged that perhaps things need to change. This lack of objective self-reflection suggests that if changes are forced upon him, he wont like it. Do we want a coach who’s doing the job under duress? Cheika’s demeanor in public, from the carrying on in the coaches box about refereeing decisions, to blaming everyone else for the teams failings are largely reflected in the public statements from the players as well – which suggests to me that this siege mentality he has brought to the squad is now part of the team culture, and I dont think is conducive to change. Basically Cheika seems like such domineering influence on the DNA of his team (note..’his’ team, not ‘our’ team) that I cant see how one can hope for meaningful change with him still holding the reins…even if he’s forced to only have one hand on them instead of two….

  • While I understand the urge to do nothing and rebuild after 2019, I look at what Cheika has done since 2015 and think to myself that one of the many issues is not developing a wider talent pool. If you look at virtually all the teams above Australia in the world rankings they have some genuine cover if not outright competition for many of their positions. Ireland are an exception for too many key positions for Schmidt to feel really comfortable I’m sure. All of the teams have a first choice for right now, and it’s pretty likely they have a good idea, injuries aside, who most of their 31 for Japan are.

    But, equally, all of those sides have a battery of players who have 10-20 tests under their belts, some experience, that the coaches have seen a bit at that level, and who could be called up in the case of injuries, dipping massively out of form or similar. Some of those players, for all of those nations, will be the stars of the 2023 RWC for their nation, even if they’re not stars of the event overall.

    If Cheika stays I’m sure we could all name the bulk of his squad. We might cry over it, but we could name it. But where are those players who have those 10-20 caps and are realistically players on the fringes for inclusion this time and stars for 2023? For all I supported Hanigan, don’t make me laugh. Maddox, maybe. Anyone else? If he goes now, there’s not really enough time to get enough players that start, but there’s time to shift a core of dead wood, start building a new culture where bad players don’t keep getting selected because they’re mates with the coach – there doesn’t seem to be another good reason for it. Even if they’re given a week or two off to rest and come back refreshed and keen again it would be better than what we’re seeing – Beale, Folau, Foley, Hooper and more I’m looking at you. Ok, Izzy might have been picked sick, but that’s just as bad. Pocock was picked with a neck injury FFS.

    You might find someone who wants a short run – Cotter seemed very happy with that in Scotland. White might take it for a year, with the chance to throw his hat into the ring as the incumbent after the RWC. Getting the Wobs to the semis would be a good result from their current performance. Things are moving with Schmidt available, I’m sure he wants to go to NZ but if Hansen stays, he might go for the Australia job instead.

    Part of that short run has to be to build the national squad going forward. Part has to be other things, team culture and the like. And part has to be to kick RA and get rugby fans engaged again, gets kids playing and parents involved and all that.

    • John Tynan

      Banks should have had 10 caps by now – 8 or so off the bench and a couple of starts against argies and italians.

      • Mart

        The fact Banks didn’t start against Italy when Folau was crook is madness

        • Agreed. It was pretty mad even if Izzy was fit, but when he was crock, insane.

      • That’s certainly one name on my list. I’m compiling said list as a matter of personal interest, it’s about 15 names long so far – players that I think Cheika could be said to have betrayed their futures, or at least significantly delayed them.

        I’m not saying they’d all have made it test level. I was an outspoken advocate for Hanigan if you read back, but it’s clear he doesn’t have what it takes now we’ve seen him in action. But… because of Cheika’s cronyism, we just don’t know. And if the RWC in Japan is as brutal as it can be, and the Wobs are the unlucky side in 2019, there are going to be a host of uncapped players suddenly running out in green and gold.

        • John Tynan

          Interested to read that list when you’re done.

    • Dally M

      Is that Cheika’s fault for not developing a wider talent pool or the SR teams?

      • Who?

        Both. Powell’s been on the bench for how many games now? And how many minutes of Test rugby has he played? Similar Banks, and many others.
        That said, it’s not Cheika’s fault that, this year, there was only one experienced Aussie playing 10 in Super Rugby.
        So the blame is shared.

      • I think that’s a simple question with a complicated answer.

        A lot of the blame rests with Cheika. There are young players that he could have picked and tried. They probably aren’t all good enough (see my comments about Hanigan above – he looked good in SR last year and I thought he just needed to get used to the step up, I was wrong) but he hasn’t given them a run out so we just don’t know. He picks a crock Folau over a fit Banks against Italy and so on.

        However, if we look outside Australia, the Nearlies have 5 SR franchises and manage to have a pretty decent national squad with tighter selection policies than the Wobs. Oop North, the Irish and the Welsh have four provincial sides and the Welsh in particular have a selection policy that is very similar to the original Giteau Law. I’m not sure of the precise details of the Irish policy, I think it’s a bit more lax. Their national sides are currently 2 and 3 in the official world rankings, and arguably Ireland are the best team in the world right now. Scotland only have 2 effectively provincial sides (they’re named after cities), so they select players from a wider pool, and they’re ranked just under Australia but beat them comfortably in the last series when they met. Australia doesn’t have an excuse for failing to produce a suitable talent pool of players. With only four franchises you can occasionally have a weakness, where two or even three sides are rebuilding or bringing through new talent in a given position but over the XV you should have a decent range of choice in 12+ positions. And you can try the youngsters as replacements or starters in the matches you’re meant to win, against Italy say.

        The flip-side of that is the quality of the coaching and so on that is available in SR. Beale looked like a star at Wasps. Skelton looks like a quality lock at Sarries. Toomua was a bit of an enfant terrible, and he was young so I’m not being overly critical, but he looked like a star at Leicester, playing 10 and 12. Nic White is playing 9 regularly and bossing around the pack and delivering the ball crisply for the team on top of the English Premiership. James O’Connor is playing nicely at Sale – Sale overall are not having a great run, but JOC is tearing it up for them.

        Skelton’s improvement is, at least in part, because he’s lost weight and looks fit and hungry to play. Beale ran forwards, arcing lines and did other things, in Australia he doesn’t only run sideways but I bet it’s the first thing you, and everyone else, thinks of – I know I’m guilty of it. Toomua may have just matured with age, but I think he matured with a better coaching environment. White I suspect looks better because he has a dominant pack, when the Exeter forwards don’t perform he doesn’t look great still, but I think he’s improved with the structure and the coaching too.

        So, I’m not sure what is going on, whether it is a player culture thing or what, but I think there is an issue at the level of SR as well. They’re taking the talent on offer and producing… complacent, mediocre talent rather than hungry, driven talent. There are exceptions but ask yourself this – if you were to name a World 23, starters and “finishers” how many players in green and gold would you seriously even have in the conversation? Pocock is the only one on my list. There have been more in years gone by but they seem comfortable knowing they aren’t going to get dropped, so they’ve stopped striving to improved. Even if you drop down to a “Best of SR 23″ I’m not picking a whole host of Australians if I’m being honest and picking with my head.

        Compare that to Ben Smith. In some aspects of his game he is no longer improving – age is reaching his legs and he’s slowing down (although it isn’t by much) but experience is taking over and he’s reading the game better than ever, so he’s heading to the danger areas earlier and he looks as good or better than ever. He is still working at being a brilliant back three player and he’s adapting to what his body will let him do. I’m sure he’s being supported in that by the coaches but I’m equally sure a lot of that is the drive from the player himself.

        So, to try and sum up, Cheika bears the bulk of the blame. He could have picked the players that SR produces and given them a run out. They don’t all have to succeed but a good coach needs to try them. And he needs to drop the ones like Hanigan that don’t work as much as he needs to give the ones like Banks and Maddox a try to see if they do. But I think there is a deeper malaise at the SR level, whether it’s a bad coaching structure or a bad player culture or a mix of the two – too many players go away from Australia and improve, and in some cases return and decline again. Anyone who says that’s a mark of the superior standards of Australian SR needs to look at the results in both SR and the national squad over the last three years or so and take their rose, green and gold tinted specs off.

        • Dally M

          Agree with that 100%. It’s been a real mixed back with Cheika where he has created depth in some positions by giving guys a run, but likewise he he has continued to play others where he should have given someone else a run.

          The SR problem doesn’t look like improving things next year either as Who? mentions below. Where are our future options at 10? Stewart is the only one getting playing time. The rest of the guys playing 10 next year are not our future.

          Eddie Jones echoed what a lot of people have been saying for a number of years now. That we need to have a centralised model like NZ and Ireland with the player pool we have.

        • Wales has been incredibly resistant to a centralised system, even when the provinces were in massive financial trouble, and currently has a worst of both worlds some players in dual contracts system. The nitty-gritty doesn’t really matter, what matters is that they’ve produced, although Gatland admits it’s been really hard work, a team with genuine depth and competition for places. A year out from the World Cup, they’ve suddenly switched their 10 from the guy that has taken them through the last 4 years or so, to the not-really-new on the block Anscombe for example, who is playing better than Biggar.

          So centralised contracts or a central system like in NZ and Ireland aren’t automatically required, although I must admit I think it makes it a lot easier and it is the way forward. I’m just pretty sure the chances of it happening are worse than a snowball’s chance in hell. There’s more chance Cheika will be fired.

        • Who?

          There’s more chance I’ll replace Cheika… :-(

        • Who?

          Eloise, pretty sure the Irish system requires you to be playing in Ireland to represent Ireland. Hence why Tadhg O’Beirne didn’t debut for Ireland until the June series, after the completion of his priori (Welsh?) contract, despite being among the best players in the European comp.

        • I thought it was that too, but I remember Sexton playing for Ireland while he was at Racing, so I’m not 100% sure… did they change it and that’s what prompted his move back to Leinster?

        • Who?

          Forgot Jonny went to Metro… Maybe that was a sabbatical arrangement? Or that was before they finalized the tightening of the centralisation policy? Not sure…

  • Pedro

    Another great article, I totally agree about the selections. It’s telling how the more desperate the cause became, the more Cheika reverted to what has worked in the past. In my opinion TPN and Kepu should have been bench options at most, as with many of the other players you mentioned. There are good young players that need experience and the confidence instilled in them. Cheika played every match of this tour like it was a world cup match, but not in a good way. If we’re going to lose it would have been good to give some deserving youngsters a chance, giving next year’s team a deeper pool to choose from.

    Have a good break MST, you deserve it.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thank you to both of you for such awesome posts during the year. Love reading your posts and always looked forward to them coming out.
    I hope RA read and take on board what you write. Not sure they will but it would certainly give them something to think about if they did.

    Have a great Christmas and catch you in 2019

  • Gun

    Thank you very much Mr and Mrs MST. I appreciate your writing very much and look forward to reading every week.
    You’re quite right about sanity and the the GAGRs. My daughter looks to have a box at the Bledisloe in Perth but I’m not sure I can watch that train wreck but probably will! I’ll probbaly be the only Aussie there.
    All the best to you and your family for Xmas.

  • John Tynan

    Thanks MST’s, I always enjoy the TT5. I’ve no doubt it must be a slog sometimes, but I’m sure I’m not alone in appreciating your efforts on our behalf. Merry Xmas.

  • Patrick

    I’d still sack Chieka. Just appoint a drover’s dog, and ask Pocock to take on a broader squad of 50 and teach them basic skills over the next two years.

    • Dally M

      I’m sure Raelene would love to do that, but just doesn’t have the funds.

      Her hands are tied by what Pulver left her.

      • Tangawizi

        Maybe she should hit up Twiggy to sponsor the Wallabies for a few seasons in a “You save us from bankruptcy, and we’ll legitimize your comp by making it’s players Wallabies eligible” deal.
        Clyne probably needs to go before that happens though.

        • Dally M

          True that.

          He already offered Clyne & Pulver the money that would have allowed them to sort out the financial side and with GRR the ideas for a future beyond SR when the South African teams leave.

        • Perth girl

          Players in the Force are already Wallaby eligible. RA had their chance with Twiggy and blew it and he has moved on now. Looking forward to GRR next year, memberships have just opened for 2019,and no more Stupor Rugby!

  • disqus_NMX

    You started so well, but then you said the best thing to do about Cheika is to do nothing, and to basically roll over and give up, and enter the WRC with our tails between our legs just waiting to lose. You lost me at that point, and I couldn’t even read the rest of your article. Just as I can no longer bother to watch the Wallabies play. #CheikaMustGo

  • Dally M

    McKenzie wasn’t a sacrificial lamb.

    He walked away over the Di Patson scandal.

    I doubt we will never know exactly what happened, however i suspect one of the reasons he has not returned to coaching has something to do with it re-opening those wounds. Let’s face it he would surely be able to get a gig coaching if he wanted it. Instead he’s toiling away in waste management.

    • Brisneyland Local

      He didnt leave because of the Di Patston incident. He left becase he told ARU (then) that he was going to sack a number of the Waratahs mutineers. ARU didnt back him. So he said if I dont have your backing I should not be the coach and he resigned.

      • st saens

        If Link is currently working in waste management, the first task I would assign him is to stop wasting his man management talents and return to his rightful position as Wallaby coach.

        • Brisneyland Local

          I would love him to. But he is done. He was so poorly treated by the ARU and a number of the current Wallabies players, he would never return. He has simply closed that chapter on his life and moved. The pain only stops when you stop slamming your head against the wall.

        • Bakkies

          He was tapped up for the Leinster role after MOC got the sack but turned it down.

        • Mica

          I think experience in waste management only helps to stake his claim in coaching the Wobblies and working for RA

        • st saens

          LOL

        • Old_Laurentian

          Sadly, he has too much self respect and principle for that.

      • Dally M

        What or who is your source for this, or is this just speculation based on the media around that time.

        And if this is true, then why has he not coached anywhere since or spoken about this alleged mutiny?

        • Brisneyland Local

          My source was a member of the squad at that time. I will not reveal their name.
          He has not coached because he had reached the pinnacle of what he wanted to achieve in the game. there was nothing more he wanted to acheive in the game that wasnt to be done with the Australian team. So he walked away. And good on him. A man of integrity.

        • Dally M

          I would hardly call the one SR title & just over 12 months as an international coach the pinnacle & everything he wanted to achieve in the game.

          He was far too good a coach to have not been lured back by a team somewhere. The fact the ARU didn’t back him would not have affected him working elsewhere overseas if that was all it was.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Sorry my poor wording, He only wanted to achieve more but with the Wallabies or nothing! As he couldnt do it with the Wallabies without the backing of the ARU he didnt want to go and do it with another country’s team. So in effect he achieved all he could under the circumstances. Does that make sense. My written word is very poor today.

        • Old_Laurentian

          No. I understand you perfectly. Of course he could have got another well paid international coaching job, but his sole aim was the success of the Wallabies. He wasn’t in it for fame or money. He felt he was betrayed. Because he was.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Spot on!

        • Old_Laurentian

          I too have heard from people within the squad at the time that I trust (not players), that reinforces BL’s view. As a man of principle, ( a word not in Cheika’s vocabulary) McKenzie had no option but to resign. The same protected species from NSW still need to be sacked. Cheika was given the job by their protectors, and doesn’t have the balls to change it.

  • Reinforce

    TT5 is a staple and I than you immensely for continuing to turn up. Appreciate your efforts in maintaining such high quality content – Enjoy the break.

  • Brumby Runner

    Thanks MSTs. Always a good read, even when its a little raw like today. Still, a person would have to be made of wood not to have raw feelings about the current state of rugby in this country and the continued wreck that is the Wallabies with Cheika in charge.

    I have to say, that as far as Cheika and RA are concerned, I am a very nervous pessimist. If he stays in charge, and flukes a few refereeing decisions like he did at RWC2014, then the Wallabies could just finish in the semis and RA might extend his contract for another 4 years. Don’t forget that they have history with the extension of Robbie Deans way beyond his use by date.

    As unlikely as that is, though, I am convinced that for the good of Australian rugby, Cheika must go now. He has always been a divisive character, even here on GAGR. Though, we’d be hard pressed now to find anyone willing to defend his ongoing role as head coach for reasons other than financial. It now looks for the world that he has divided the Wallaby camp with the usual suspects thinking they can play up with impunity while the rest are subject to his discriminatory discipline rules.

    Surely now it is starting to get through the thick heads at RA that Cheika really doesn’t have a PLAN. This is the most ill-disciplined, worst led and least skilful Wallabies squad I can remember in the last 50 years. Cheika is the alter ego of King Canute – everything gold he touches turns to lead.

    There is only one couse for Castle and RA to take for the good of the code here, and that is #sackcheikanow.

    • Old_Laurentian

      OMG.. King Canute .. yes

      • From NooZealand

        Midas touch.

    • From NooZealand

      Wasn’t that Midas? -Cnut tried to command/rule the sea, I think.

      • Brumby Runner

        Absolutely correct FNZ. So long since I was exposed to legends and history at school.

        Certainly can’t accuse Cheika of the Midas touch.

        OTH he is doing a stirling job atm of holding back the tide of demands for his sacking.

        • From NooZealand

          Absolutely right re: Cheika, though he is becoming a sort of of a myth.
          Wish you a good and safe break.

  • Wallaby Legion

    Great write up. Sad that you’ve had to repeat yourself so often throughout the year. But, you reap what you sow and the chief muppets at RA have done a great job tearing through the back up stocks over the past decade and a half. The current captains of the Titanic haven’t figured out how to patch that hole yet, and signs aren’t pointing to them being able to.

    Bizarrely, it looks like getting everyone off the RA ship and on to the HMAS Global Rapid Rugby is our best chance at survival. Looks like there’s some more years out in the wilderness yet. Pinning my hopes for some good results in the 2031 RWC at this rate.

  • st saens

    Thank you Mrs and Mr Mst for a great series of reports. Merry Christmas to you and yours. See you next year for your posts on an ever improving NPC, title winning Super Rugby teams and the newly branded, newly coached and most successful ever Wallabies…the Cash Converters Wallabies.

  • juswal

    Thanks for a solid year’s work, Mr and Mrs Mst. Merry Christmas to you and the blue-eyed brawler.

  • The Jackal

    Great write up. You are right about the interest and perception of the Wallabies at the minute. Australia is the only Tier 1 nation who hasn’t locked in their RWC broadcast rights yet (NZ was sewn up at earliest point in April) FOX don’t want to pay for it considering their huge outlay on other sports and no one else has come to the table. I think the anti siphoning list only guarantees Australian Tests and the RWC Final and despite the great time zone for the tournament would any commercial network as a business decision be able to justify purchasing those, will it end up on one of the public broadcasters? World Rugby desperately needs the whole World Cup to be shown but FOX will not budge and want it for practically nothing for it, which tells me the game produces nothing to them anymore, if they were to walk away from the game, although many would rejoice, I think we would be back to the amateur days.

    • idiot savant

      All the more galling when you consider how vital the subscriptions to Foxtel from well heeled ex private schoolboys were in the difficult early days of establishing the pay television service.

  • ALJ

    I understand wanting to save cash by keeping Cheika until after RWC. The problem is that a significant percentage of fans have become so genuinely disillusioned under his stewardship that the damage that would be caused by taking him through to RWC would be diabolical. Friends who are rusted on Wallabies fans are telling me that because of the direction of the Cheika Wallabies and the governing body, they will be cheering Ireland or Scotland because of whatever distant heritage they have. I’m not saying that I agree with that by the way, I think it’s shameful. But we can’t have a situation where fans aren’t gearing up to cheer on the national team because of the coach and the governing body. Even if the board thinks that Cheika is 100% blameless in this, he still needs to go because his position is completely untenable. And if he was even half as principled as Ewen, he would do the honourable thing and resign.

    Principles aside, I genuinely can’t see us doing any worse changing to Jake White a year out than with Cheika still at the helm. Cheika is already talking up his plans for RWC which seem to be “go over the the USA beforehand and have a big training camp”. That’s no more of a plan than doing a bunch of hill sprints is a plan. Other top tier coaches are operating at an intellectual level completely above this guy.

    Drop Jake White in on a year contract, sell it as a world cup winning coach being parachuted in to save the furniture, he’s coached in Australia before, he has kept his hand in the game since, he is strong on discipline and man management which we clearly need, he knows how to beat Gatland-coached teams (Brumbies beat the Lions in 2013), he doesn’t have any sort of Australian club or state factional issues

    • Old_Laurentian

      Cheika appears to have no intellectual level. That’s surprising given his impressive CV. You mentioned Ewen McKenzie (who yes, had more principle in his little finger) who could have the Reds and the Wallabies playing in a fundamentally different way depending on the perceived weakness of the opposing team. Totally a different level of thinking and application. Jake wont bring that, but we sadly we won’t get Ewen back.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    Looks like another year of incompetence is upon us and it will be a RWC year. The longer RA takes no action the more culpable Raelene will be. The RA Board deserves what it is getting, they made their own bed to sleep in and wasted their chance to get the backing of someone like Twiggy Forrest.

  • Hoppy

    To mst – great effort this year and hopefully again next. A couple of points on your historical narrative about Ewan McK’s last year – the Argentine loss was right in the middle of the reprehensible Beale episode and the equally odious behaviour from hooper and AAC in defending him. The Hooper clique had split the team and the Rigby suffered. Ewan then resigned before the start of the ab’s test at Lang Park that Australia had won until Nick White failed to find touch after the bell when all he had to do was kick sideways 6 feet. Instead for some inexplicable reason he kicked long down the sideline, missed touch, found The Bus perfectly and hey presto he scores in the opposite corner for a 1 point win to the AB’s. Ewan was asassinated by Hooper and Co and they have been corrupting Aus rugby ever since. Ewan’s record as coach was streets ahead of Cheika’s,

  • Steve

    Thanks for all your efforts this year. Your articles are my favourite piece of reading, week in and week out! Enjoy your break!

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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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