Wallaby Goals - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wallaby Goals

Wallaby Goals

Before I start, let’s acknowledge that the All Blacks were simply too good for the Wallabies on Saturday night in Bledisloe 1. Having got that out of the way, let’s move onto the topic I want to discuss, which is all about the Wallabies, not their opposition.

I presume that the Wallabies (and by that I mean the entire playing group and the coaches) have defined goals that are understood by everyone involved inside the team.  Rod Macqueen took over as Wallabies coach in late 1997 and at the beginning of the 1998 season introduced his players to the concept of a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis and they set goals leading up to the ultimate goal of winning the 1999 World Cup.  If you haven’t read Macqueen’s book “One Step Ahead”, I highly recommend it.  It’s a book about life as much as it is about rugby but the story behind how he took a Wallabies team that at the end of 1997 was in a terrible state, to World Champions within two years is something I think all rugby fans would find fascinating.

One of the keys to success in business is setting achievable goals, identifying strategies that will help achieve those goals, assigning responsibility to individuals (or a group of individuals) for implementing those strategies and measuring achievements against those goals. There is no point in setting your end goal too low – you have to make the group reach for something that would currently be beyond them if you want to encourage improvement.

Another key in setting goals in business is the fact that there is an ‘s’ on the end of goals.  It makes no sense to have one big goal sometime in the future because it’s probably so far way that it’s easy to lose sight of or to measure yourselves against.  You must also set smaller goals along the way that help you measure progress and give the group a series of lifts as they achieve each smaller goal, which is why it’s important to set realistic goals along the way, which build belief in the group’s ability to achieve the end goal, which may not seem achievable today.

We can presume that the end goal for the Wallabies will be the World Cup next year.  It certainly looks unachievable at the moment, so fits the criteria for the end goal quite nicely.  But what about the goals along the way?  John O’Neil has opened the door a little bit, revealing that one of the goals for Robbie Deans was to beat the Kiwis.

I understand that the ARU need to keep the public onside in the short term so want to have some short term goals rather than just having the World Cup in 2011 as a major goal as all that matters, otherwise crowds will not turn up to games in 2010 but I’m sure the Wallabies internal goals are not going to be revealed to the public, and nor should they be.

I’d be really surprised if the Wallabies internal goals revolve around winning a certain number of games in a tournament or in a year.  As we’ve all heard before, winning shouldn’t be the goal – winning is an outcome.  This isn’t just a cliché – it makes sense and is the easiest way to manage a group of individuals.  Coaches try to get players to focus on specific areas of improvement, such as lifting and then maintaining the percentage of successful tackles made, reducing  the percentage  of possession lost or winning a minimum percentage of set pieces, rather than how many points each team scores or indeed who wins the game.   If a team sets goals in these types of areas , buys into them, works hard to achieve them,  then once the goals are achieved they represent success, which helps to develop a successful culture along the way to achieving the end goal.

Having set goals, it’s best to stick with them unless something happens where it becomes clear that they have become absolutely unattainable.  At those points in life it becomes necessary to re-set goals because there is no point in just bashing away trying to achieve goals and failing because that actually has a very negative effect on the group.

It must also be remembered that the Wallabies are primarily a group of young men and the last thing you’d want to convey to them is that if you fail to achieve your goals, you just re-set them, as that would also send completely the wrong message.  It’s a bit of a juggling act, but that is the role of a coach (or group of coaches).

The Wallaby players are all highly skillful rugby players and know how to play rugby. A coach can work on improving skills, build team cohesion and give a team an overall game plan which means that primarily the coaches job is about man management and the management of the group’s goals.

Robbie Deans strikes me as a very intelligent man and a great student of the game so I’m sure the Wallabies would have set a series of goals similar to what I’ve outlined above.

After the Wallabies indifferent performances in 2009, I was concerned but prepared to wait and see what 2010 brought.   After the first four games of 2010 I was further concerned by the Wallabies performance.

The statistics that the team at G&GR bring you have shown there are significant deficiencies with what the Wallabies have been doing in 2010 but after Saturday’s performance against the All Blacks I have now reached the point where I ask two questions (like many others on this site who’ve already reached this point); Is it time to change the Wallaby coaches and/or is it time to re-set the Wallabies’ goals?

My answer to the first question is in three parts; Is it too late to replace Robbie Deans before the World Cup?; Who could replace him?; and Should he be replaced?

Eddie Jones was replaced at the end of the 2006 Tri Nations before the 2007 World Cup with John Connolly but that didn’t go so well, did it?  What about Rod Macqueen – he replaced Greg Smith a little under two years before the 1999 World Cup but his first tour in November 2007 was when he’d just taken over, so he didn’t have any time to stamp his authority on the team.  It wasn’t until the start of the 2008 international season in May 2008 that he really took charge – not that different to where we sit today, so it’s not out of the question.  Would it be disruptive? Yes, but that could probably be managed by the right replacement.

Given the above, the only person you could bring in would be someone who’s had recent experience with the players through Super 14 contact.  Therefore I only see one option – Link.  He showed last year that he can take a bunch of young blokes and instill discipline in them in a very short period of time, he’s coached many of the Wallaby players who’ll likely be in the 2011 squad during his stints at the Waratahs and Reds and I’m sure the Reds could be persuaded to let him go in the national interest.

Regardless of my views in the first two responses to this question, my answer to the third part is no!  Robbie Deans is a good coach – he’s just not getting the best out of the players at the moment and I do think this has to do with his NZ background.  Rugby is such a religion there that you don’t need to motivate players, direct them or fire them up. It seems to be inbuilt in the Kiwi DNA to know what to do on a rugby field – give them your game plan and they’ll go out and do a pretty good job of executing your plan (except in World Cup crunch games).  That doesn’t seem to be the case with many of the young Wallabies at the moment.  I do think Robbie needs to change his approach as there hasn’t been enough improvement in key areas and it seems his message just isn’t getting through to the players.  If the players aren’t capable of changing, then it’s time to change some players.

There will be plenty of people who disagree with my answer and I’m sure there will be plenty of comments on this point alone.  I make no claim to being right – that’s just my opinion.  I do however think Robbie should take on two new assistants as soon as possible.  I don’t think Jim Williams or Richard Graham have offered much at all.

Regardless of who we individually think should be coaching the Wallabies, there is still question 2 to answer.  Should the Wallabies goals change?  Given that we don’t know what the current goals are, that’s too hard to answer, so maybe a better question is what would should the Wallabies goals be?

Before goals are set, a SWOT analysis is extremely important.  What are the Wallabies strength’s today and what are their weaknesses?  What are the opportunities the Wallabies have in the remainder of 2010 and what are their threats to moving forward in 2010?  Once you answer those it makes it much easier to set goals that play on their strengths, fix their weaknesses, take advantage of their opportunities and minimise the impact of their threats.

For the sake of this exercise let’s forget 2011 goals – we can deal with 2011 later and I’m going to assume we can all agree that winning the World Cup next year is the end goal.  Let’s also forget the win/loss ratio for the reasons outlined above.  Right now I think we need a focus on short term improvement, albeit one that doesn’t interfere with, but compliments the end goal.

Tell us what you think the short term goals are that should be set for the Wallabies for the remainder of the year, regardless of which coach you want to implement them.  Having given us your goals, how would you go about achieving them?

  • Scoot

    Firstly on the coaching side. It seems to make sense to me that Link be brought in as an assistant who also keeps his job with the Reds as long as Deans doesn’t fell undermined by it. It would make for a smoother change of guard if Deans moves on after the WC. I do think Deans is the right guy but just lacks good enough deputies.

    Secondly on the difference in Rugby culture on either side of the Tasman. Having lived in NZ for a decade it’s hard to impress on people how attaining the All Black jersey is the highest honour you can reach in that country. Thats not limited to sport, its how they feel about life in a wider sense. These guys live for the honour and the privilege.

    It explains how provincially they had an ordinary S14 and yet come together as an unbeatable juggernaut in Black.

    Switch back over to our current crop of players and for those you that use twitter and follow the backs it’s like keeping track with The BackStreet Boys while they fuss over haircuts, celebrity dance shows and what restaurant or movie to go to.

    They strike me as just successful pro athletes who seem to look up to the State Of Origin as the pinnacle of rugby in OZ.

    You can see it means the world to BAM, Sharpe, Rocky, Genia, Barnes, Diggers when they are on the pitch but I don’t think it runs right through the squad.

    • boogieblunt

      awesome summary bro i agree 110% with you im an All Black ill never go for that Gold Jersey but since ive lived in Oz now for 12 yrs my children are born here i encourage them to support The Wallabies.I too follow the young fellas on Twitter yr observations !

      • Rocky Elboa

        I agree with you generally about the backs on twitter, except for (amazingly) Cooper
        He is a young and a little in love with himself, however there is a real sense of excitement and privilege in his tweets about playing in gold. Most notability reading his tweets over the past couple of days he is gutted he isn’t out there

    • fiona

      These anti-twitter comments I’ve been reading are getting a bit old. These guys have a life outside rugby, and from the volume of tweets they post, I’d hardly say it’s all-consuming for them. A number of All Blacks have twitter accounts as well – doesn’t seem to be adversely affecting their games too much. I have to agree with Austin, that it’s their religious reverence of rugby that seems to be the difference.

      • Rocky Elboa

        I don’t think the idea is anti twitter remember everyone commenting has a twitter account, the point is through twitter we get access to their thinking and some of them seem more concerned with what they bought while out shopping that day than how they play on the weekend.
        Also the point is they will go on and on about the state of origin and not mention any rugby game being played aware. That is all except Cooper

  • Ruggo

    As we are pretty much at rock bottom, I think the first goal should be to have the courage to try some players who have talant but are unproven at this level. Inexperience should not be treated as a hinderence when the status quo is not getting the job done. Anthony Faingaa would be my first man in. Nothing flash but he has shown the determination to suceed and has left nothing on the field this year. I don’t think he will take much motivating. Simmons and Higgenbotham to start as well. Yes I am Reds bias but these blokes are comming from a culture at the Reds this year that if earn the oppurtunity, seize the day.

    I understand where Robbie is comming from as playing for our country should be motivation enough.

    The goal should be one game at a tme and complete accountability.

  • Needs more Bam Bam

    The goal should be to bring back some passion into the team. Do you think Kefu and Gregan would’ve missed those try saving tackles on a virtually static Corey Jane?

  • Simonr

    Another good post Austin. I’ve just finished wTching the replay and have a few opinions. First, I agree we shouldn’t be changing the coach now. It’s too late to make any difference in the RWC, and secondly, I’m not sure it’s warranted. Last nights game is hard viewing, but watching a second time (sober) the obe thing I can take from it is the improvement on last year. Or the year before. Ok, we were outplayed in most facets of the game, but not by much. The bounce certainly went the ABs way, and elsom did a hoiles on Joubert ensuring he had his eye on everything we did. But our play at the breakdown was better (if not as good as the ABs) and our defense was better (if not as good as the ABs) and our patience in attack was much better (even if the ABs didn’t need patience as they scored within 5 phases).

    I also don’t think throwing in a bunch of untried, inexperienced players is the answer. I’d try one or two (higgers?) but wholesale changes arent the answer.

    So what is? Focus, training, and skills practice.

    Just my echidna coin

  • CanadianRugby

    I think one of the Wallabies short time goals as been to add some depth, which I think is being achieved. When you factor in the current injuries, this is not a bad Wallaby team Deans is putting together. Deans is trying to put together a good core of players to build a team around, and he’s beginning to achieve that. Benn Robinson, Moore, TPN, Pocock, Elson, Genia, Cooper and AAC are currently automatics on any team sheet and you’d be happy to put them against anyone in their positions in the world. This is a good core.

    The rest is settling on a style of play and gaining some experience (or “learning to win” as the cliche goes). While I totally agree that the ABs were the better team by a lot on Saturday, the Wallabies could have been much closer if they had done things like finding touch when they were up a man, or catching a lineout a bit earlier, catching the kick-offs. Doing this things wouldn’t have won the game, but it would have got them closer.

  • Pete

    I think they are physically weaker than the ABs, so fitness related goals would be a start. The big thing I would like the coaches to figure out is how to balance the preparation so gains or “achieved goals” are maintained while new improvements are chased. The fluctuations of our scrummaging standards and our backs’ creativity and execution come to mind. If we start working like mad on restarts and first up tackles and get those up to scratch but get scrummed into the mud and can’t get past 5 phases this week it will all have been for nothing.

  • Robson

    I was once faced with a group of dejected premier grade rugby players in Auckland who had just come off a series of pastings from other clubs in the competition. The players were all representatvie of a group of very good to oustanding NZ senior club players. There was nothing wrong with their coach or what he was doing with them either. There was, however, a lot wrong with the team’s individual and collective mindset. The task that was undertaken with them was to start playing the game with their brains first and their brawn second.

    It led to an immediate improvement and the ultimate winning of the secondary trophy in the competition; the first one was well out of reach by the time we all met up.

    After the match on Saturday night Robbie Deans said that the first task in the new week would be to get the guys bodies right and when that was done to get their minds right.

    That was one of the few piercingly accurate things I have heard him say recenty.

    Get the minds right.

    I realise that the name of the game in this thread is to talk specifically about the Wallabies, but in this instance it’s not really possible without reference to the All Blacks. The ABs may have all kinds of wonderful generational rugby patterns in their DNA, but where it is really counting with them currently is “in the top two inches”. Their mental attitude. It’s very different to what it was during the last Tri Nations, of that there is no doubt. Could it be perhaps that their sports psychologist Gilbert Enoka has got them all tuned in to the right wave length. In my personal opinion, I think that Gilbert can quietly take a lot of credit for what is going on in Camp All Black right now.

    So who is the mind guru for the Wallabies? Do they have one? Is it Deans himself or the whole coaching panel. I haven’t read Rod Macqueen’s book, but he has always struck me as someone who had a deep and very empathetic insight into the rugby player’s mind. Without knowing it for sure, I have a sense that he worked instinctively and unobstrusively to develop positive and creative mind sets among his players.

    It’s something that needs some urgent attention with the current crop of Wallabies, because at least half of them are just not switched on mentally. And it shows from one Saturday to the next. There is no doubt that the ABs presented a sterner test than the Springboks did in the preceding week, but there is also no doubt that the Wallabies work eithic and attention to detail in contesting Saturday’s test match against the ABs was nothing like it was at Brisbane.

    There was a “mental edge gap” which showed in just about every aspect of the game. My first goal for the Wallabies is to start addressing the “top two inches” with someone who really knows what they are doing.

    And then set all the other goals from the mind first, not on the whiteboard first.

    • RedsHappy

      Robson – very sound guidance IMO.

      If perhaps you have some some of my postings in fora, you will have noticed I started a thread with just such a reference to Wayne Smith’s high, and recently restated, regard for Enoka. Dan Carter mentioned him just last week in Melbourne as a highly important contributor to the ABs, especially to younger, new players coming in. Here was the best team in the world bar none positively highlighting the key attribute of mindset coaching, and actually have a coach devoted to it!

      What was remarkable for me was how little interest this post generated here. I say that as mental skills development and enhancement is widely recognised in most major sports globally as central to sustained success at the elite level. ‘Sports psychology’ and all its derivates has boomed in the last decade, and the best (often Australian) practitioners are highly sought after. This is no accident – the best team owners and general coaches recognise its huge utility in consistently succeeding.

      The Australian elite rugby culture is often in denial about these trends, and lives far too much in an insular, ‘old school’ world where the guiding idea is that player selection is everything and ‘our Aussie tough players should come ready for the bash and biff and if they’re not up to it, then out’. Very macho, but not very enlightened or modern. Especially when it’s blindingly clear – as you say – that the ‘Wallaby mind’ of today is a troubled, unstable and soft thing leading (in part) to faulty and ill-disciplined execution (and more IMO).

      The big issue with Deans in this context is a central, and major, flaw is his earliest period here: namely, he took on poor assistant coaches, and couched himself as the dominant ringleader who could do it all, master it all, and control it all. I suspect he considered that he’d automatically get pre-constructed Australian player feedstock in the right shape, and that his role would be to bring Crusaders-like masterful game plans and attack strategies, etc to the Wallabies. I doubt that mental skills coaching was anywhere on his agenda.

      Perhaps now, only now, 2.5 years later, it’s dawning on him to know better. He certainly needs to know better, as does the ARU. So, the first thing I’d recommend to RD re Austin’s ‘goals’ request is: get a first class sports psychologist into this Wallabies group now, and determine what needs to be done to uplift and refocus and ‘make hard’ this struggling team’s mental state. But it’s no small task.

      • RedsHappy

        Btw, the reference above is to Wayne S of the ABs coaching staff, not the Aus rugby journalist!

    • Scoot

      Great post.

      NZ have two assets as a rugby team in terms of their psychology.

      First you have the national team – New Zealand with a bunch of fantastic athletes then you have the ethos – All Blacks which has now come to globally stand for aggressive, uncompromising perfection. That ethos now transcends rugby and is respected across all sporting codes. It must be easy for a sports psych to get these players to push towards the AB ethos without ever having to rate yourself against the opposition.

      The flip side is that the rest of the Rugby world is totally obsessed with the All Black Ethos and never fronts up to play a national team called New Zealand.

      If there are fractures within the psyche of the squad as many suspect due to vanity over captaincies, positions, selections or what ever then Dean’s must first exorcise those demons before they will move on.

  • Skip

    The coach’s have some responsibility and showing up together at the press conference would be good start. It’d be interesting if Link would want the job yet, probably but who knows.

    As for the players. Top players ought not make soft tackles, constantly boot kick offs too far, miss kick off returns, miss touch, etc etc. Some soul searching is required from them and then to front up Saturday.

  • Bangkokwobblybit

    Firstly, I would like to point out that noone so far seems to have made much of the loss of QC on the game. I think he is now such a consistent talent that it could have made some difference (though no doubt not a winning one), esp given he plays in what most regard as the key rugby position.
    OK, that off my chest, now…. goals….
    To me, the most obvious short term goals (remainder of this season) would be:
    – kick goals consistently and find our one designated kicker (Gits is far from locked in IMO)
    – two or more wins in a row – consistency game to game must be a big goal for the wallabies and would have been for a long time….
    – discipline and no more send offs – a given after last week, especially relating to ANY form of cardable offence (actually even traditionally non cardable ones given what we have seen over recent weeks….I’m guessing its about an image clean up delivered from on high before RWC??)
    – restarts and defence are also given short term goals (improved %’s)
    – improved captaincy/leadership – I actually believe a change could be warranted here, I love Rocky the man and player but that was probably the worst captaining I have seen in a long long time -failing to deliver game changing ref’s messages and generally non-communicative, gaining the ire of the ref, visibly flustered. At second half kickoff all wallaby eyes were out of it – someone needed to rally the troops and it needed to be the captain. Of all the changes being suggested (coach, assistant coaches, players) I think this one makes some sense. The Rock does not seem a natural captain – it almost seems draining for him. Last week was prob the first good game (to his high standards) he’s played since being captain. He’s not a natural talker seemingly with players or the media. Maybe he wouldn’t mind giving up the pressure? Who should be given the call is an interesting question (Sharpe, Genia, Pocock, Van the Man?). Sharpie’s pretty practiced at losing speeches and media profanities – another one when discussing his tooth – the guy can’t help himself! We also know Van can deliver no holds barred fire up speeches but guess he should make the team first! Seriously, if Rocky’s staying on as captain (which is most likely) I really hope Deans has told him his whole approach to captaincy must change (not just failing to deliver ref messages etc).
    – psychologically overcome the ABs – maybe they should do something to counter the haka…moving slowly towards it maybe? I’ll never forget Sam Scott Young’s face off all those years ago……or Campo’s tracksuited drills…..

    • Rocky Elboa

      What crap! You don’t go on to score two tries with 14 men when you are well out of the game without a good captain rallying the troops
      Just because he doesn’t prescribe to some school of captaincy you all think he is good
      While he isn’t perfect (mainly due to the fact he had never captained before) I think he is getting better every game, last week he lead from the front to win the game, on Saturday he lead from the front kept the players going when all was lost. without him there the loss could have been so much worse

  • Langthorne

    Short term goals:

    1. Everyone make the team bus
    2. Everyone make it to training

    I think those are achievable, given the right sort of application to the task.

  • Paris Tah

    Top article Austin, as G&GR continues to set the benchmark for rugby journalism in Oz.

    On short term goals, IMO you have them in your piece Austin, so for clarity I quote:

    “lifting and then maintaining the percentage of successful tackles made, reducing the percentage of possession lost or winning a minimum percentage of set pieces” (i.e. re-starts) “If a team sets goals in these types of areas , buys into them, works hard to achieve them, then once the goals are achieved they represent success, which helps to develop a successful culture along the way to achieving the end goal.” Get the basics right first then work on the bigger picture.

    And I think you are on the money re Deans’ kiwiness being a factor in not getting the best out of the players. The sheep shaggers as a nation live and die by the All Blacks, which genetically transforms into player desire to give their utmost. With all due respect to the current wobs, I just think a coach can not assume that is the case thus needs to work them a lot harder in this respect. I’m with Robson in that they need a ‘head’ coach to help out with player mindset.

    On another note, didn’t we miss TPN and Cliffy Palu big time, and someone like Horwill.

    • Gouldie

      On another note, didn’t we miss TPN and Cliffy Palu big time, and someone like Horwill.

      forwards set the platform for the backs and many of Australia’s best forwards are injured… it hurts :(

  • RedsHappy

    Austin:

    I have some queries for you, that IMO logically precede your (good) request for ‘goal suggestions’. My queries relate to core assumptions you make, and that thus underpin your whole approach to this key issue of Wallabies coaches:

    1. ‘Deans is a good coach’

    Could it be possible that RD ‘was a good coach for the special setting, time period, and development of the Crusaders’ but is not necessarily a good coach for Test Wallabies in Australia post-2007′. As you’d know, there are plenty of cases of, say, CEOs who have succeeded in one particular market or competitor environment, then have been hailed in triumph, only to be found wanting when that specific-circumstances triumph could not translate to another environment that kind of looked the same, but was not in fact the same at all. When we assess RD, we always seem to forget this very real possibility and constantly refer to RD’s glory days with the Crusaders as sort of guaranteeing RD’s core excellence for the task here, in another time and another place.

    2. ‘Help get RD’s message across’

    IMO this is a very generous – or debatable – assumption. You directly ‘blame’ some kind of communication process flaw for what you seem to assume is a quite excellent, correct, and appropriate set of messages emanating from RD and that are being somehow blocked in the telling. How and why do you automatically assume this? What if in fact RD’s messages are not so coherent, consistent, clear or accurate (for this time in this situation)? In other words, what if there are problems of substantive correctness of guidance in what RD is, or is not, telling this team?

    This ‘communication problem’ assumption is at the heart of your recommendation that RD be kept. So it deserves debate, and if it’s wrong, the argument goes with it IMO.

    3. ‘Perhaps sack the support coaches’

    I for one believe that this is an area of major blunder by RD. But, if it is, and you seem to agree (confirmed by many of your KPIs still extant after years of coach input), is this not a pretty major part of a Head Coach’s job that has to be got right in elite coaching? If RD can’t pick and manage the right support coaches for a Test-driven environment, is he perhaps not a significant part of the problem?

    4. ‘Any replacement has to know the Aussie players now’

    I think this is debatable. It’s just as arguable that a totally fresh coach may bring a totally fresh set of eyes and ideas as to how Wallaby selections can and should be made, and how these players should be developed and by which plans they should play. Effective new leaders can often be radical in their approach and totally transform an enterprise quite quickly by so being. I am not saying you are fundamentally wrong, but I am strongly questioning your assumption in the context we face. The assumption looks too risk-averse and conservative for me.

    • Robson

      Item 1 Above

      Yes, Winston Churchill was the greatest political war time leader of all time. His star quickly faded in peacetime. Crossing the Tasman hasn’t helped the shine on Robbie Deans CV.

      Item 2 Above.

      It is assumed that Deans has a message which fits. It’s impossible to get a message across that doesn’t fit. So maybe there are some struggles going on getting square pegs to fit round holes.

      Item 3 Above.

      Acceptance of the existing support coaches by Deans may have been deliberate. Weak support increases the power in the hands of the Head Coach. The last thing Deans would want is Link as his assistant. Kaaaabooom.

      Item 4 Above.

      Risk avoidance is not an option right now.

      I genuinely feel very sorry for Robbie Deans and the plight he is in must make the Kiwi 3 Wise Men feel very self satisfied. Frankly the thought of such smugness makes me bristle with rage.

      However you have to look at it like this. If a new coach was brought on to the scene now, he would definitely bring something new and unexpected to the mix. There is no way he would be following this well tried and true recipe for failure. Deans must do the same if he is to survive.

      I repeat – risk avoidance is not an option right now.

    • Austin

      RH

      1. Deans is a good coach – his record was so good for so long with a number of different playing groups coming through the Crusaders that it can’t be put down to a temporary thing. I don’t think he’s suddenly forgotten how to coach. Let’s not forget that in his first year coaching the Crusaders they won their third title in a row but the following year slumped to 10th in the 2001 competition. In 2002 they came back to win the title undefeated. So he’s shown he can coach a team that is highly successful but also can coach a team that’s not performing and get them back up to the top. I’m not sure if he kept just pounding away doing the same things in 2002 that he was doing in 2000 and 2001 or whether he changed his approach. In my opinion, regardless of what he’s done in the past there need to be changes in what he’s doing with the Wallabies, hence my call for new goals and methods – I’m not a supporter of just keeping going down the same path.

      2. Communication – I have been in a group of coaches listening to Robbie explaining his views on rugby and some of his delivery was excellent and some was far too complicated (in my opinion). As part of that session he used some of the NTS players (so all 16-18) to run some drills. Although it was clear they had never seen the drills before, his message was clear and concise and the kids got it pretty quickly. I’m not sure how he communicates with the Wallabies because I haven’t been close enough at training to hear his words. If his message is not getting through it is entirely RD’s fault as any failure in communication is always the fault of the person conveying the message, hence my statement “I do think Robbie needs to change his approach”.

      3. Assistant Coaches – I agree that this is a failure that RD must bear responsibility for.

      On the three points above, I think change is needed in all of those areas. Coaches (just like CEO’s) have to be flexible enough to change if their program is not being successful. If a coach or CEO can’t acknowledge there is a problem and come up with solutions to fix the problem, they shouldn’t be in that position. Is Robbie a good enough coach to come up with solutions? In my opinion his track record supports the assertion that he is.

      4. Replacement Coach Criteria – I don’t think the Wallabies are that badly broken that there is a need to take unnecessary risks. If Robbie was replaced as coach (and no matter what we think, I can’t see it happening) I’d look for an option that is a known quantity for players, fans and sponsors. I think that narrows the field to only one option – Link. If he wasn’t an option then you may choose to go a bit more outside the box. Link wouldn’t have too many issues selling his vision to players, fans or sponsors – I’m sure his core message would be that when he arrived at the Reds things were far worse that the position the Wallabies are currently in and with hard work and discipline, good things can be achieved in a short space of time.

      • RedsHappy

        Austin – thanks for such thoughtful and considered replies, it’s appreciated. Look forward to more dialogue on this critical topic!

      • Robson

        Doing things differently is not necessarily taking unnecessary risks.

        But clearly Deans thought there was an elememt of risk to make the selections he avoided. So, for him, I think there is an area of risk avoidance inherent in his current situation. Note that I said his current situation. If the Wallabies lose at Christchurch they will feel stink about it, but although he doesn’t show it too much, the inner world of Robbie Deans must be a torrid battle ground for him right now. Another loss and he has equalled a record – the most consecutive losses by a Wallaby team in history. And there is still South Africa to come before coming home to face the All Blacks again in Sydney. The potential is there for the record to be eclipsed. The last thing Robbie Deans wants to do is preside over that. He looks to me like he has lost weight and there is something more and more gaunt and hunted looking about him each time he is interviewed. I don’t say these things unkindly. I feel dreadfully for the man. He actually needs the team to win right now for his sake not for their sake. This is not a trivial matter, I believe the man is going through hell right now. I could be wrong and I hope I am, but I am personally concerned for him.

        He doesn’t have to chuck the baby out with the bath water, but he does have to chuck something out, and that is the sum total of 3 or 4 players who are not performing. It’s been done in other international sides including the All Blacks and it’s produced immediate results. I hope Robbie Deans can take this step.

  • Geeves

    A number of very good suggestions have been made so far. There is still to me (perhaps I missed it or rephrasing) a couple of things that need a bit of attention:

    1. the lack of professionalism they have this annoying habit of switching off after they do something good or fail to deliver basic skills (i.e. kick out on the full) when are given an opportunity (stuff up the lineout).

    2. the best players are not necessarily the best team players. I remember Todd Blackadder and playing in the Super 12 finals there was someone with a banner “not even a hot Toddy can warm a cold Hart”. What Blackadder could make his team do was unbelievable and when he finally got the chance to play for the ABs it was special, not the best lock going around but a rock for any side. Having an individual the team rallies around when thing goes shit or is willing to bleed for the team (David Croft) is something that I see in some of the younger players (Pocock) that is missing in the older established players. Perhaps it as already suggested get someone like Van Humphries (or is he injured, like half of the players I want to see) who just doesn’t stop.

    3. The injuries are robbing us of some great players. But at the same time it once again reminds us that the lack of a national domestic comp means that when the shit hits the fan the development and standard of the players coming through just isn’t good enough. Did anyone else watch some of the NPC (yes I know its the ITM cup) on the weekend. Every year after the NPC at least one of those unkowns makes the tour and deservedly so. There have been a couple of times that players would have been dropped (Mitchell) but the cupboard is bare. The fact that Deans makes his squad players take part in the city based comps is great but we need a national comp on free to air.

    Just changing the coach is not enough and I believe it sends the wrong message to the players, its their mind set, the lack of professionalism and dare I say it heart is fundamentally missing in key players. Deans has to make some big decisions on players for this weekends game. Even if it is to drop some players just to make them better in the long run. I’m expecting a loss this weekend but if there are a number of young players there who make it to the run on side and are willing to bleed for each other and do the basics right then they will not be letting us down. Lets not forget this is an exceptional AB side.

  • mark_s

    I agree with our thoughts re Deans knowing how to coach Aus rugby players (cf NZ rugby players) Austin and posted something similar (although more clumsily worded) on the forum.

  • Robson

    The very, very first goal that the Wallabies should carve into stone right now is to stop playing the game for eighty minutes. A minute provides multiple opportunities in a game of rugby to wake up and go to sleep again. The 80 minute game is a myth.

    A game of rugby lasts for 4800 seconds and playing it in those time allotments is the first goal the Wallabies must accomplish.

    Falling off a tackle which leads to a try takes a nano second. Batting the ball out of an opposition player’s hands and getting red carded for it takes another nano second. Getting wrong footed on the wrong side of a ruck is another nano second episode. Charging a kick down which leads to a try likewise is a mere split second matter. Same as chopping back in field to pick up a poor pass on the half volley and opening up a gap which previously wasn’t there takes just a couple of seconds.

    Seconds are crucial. Executing the right technique to put the ball out when taking a penalty employs just one second of precision boot to ball accuracy.

    When a team plays with a “seconds” consciousness their level of accuracy and intensity in everything goes up exponentially, even in the hurly burly collision area of the breakdown.

    At the moment the Wallabies look like they are playing the game with half an ear tuned to the full time hooter.

  • Jon Cooper

    Food for thought.

    Here is a WALLABY SQUAD of either injured, suspened or players just plain left out of the squad.

    Front Row; Laurie Weeks,Ben Alexander, Al Baxter.
    Hooker; TPN
    Lock; Horwill, Kane Douglas, VAN HUMPHRIES.
    Back row; Palu, Waugh, Leroy Houston,
    Scrum Half: Well lets face it only really two Aussie options aint there?
    Fly Half: Quade Cooper and again Australias only real option.
    Inside centre; well all the really option are in the squad i.e. Giteau, A Faingaa and Shook face
    Outside Centre; Will CHAMBERS the real future 13 for Aussie RUGBY! Ioane.
    Wing/Fullback : Ioane, Turner, Rod Davies, Hynes, Fainifo, McCabe.

    Im sure Ive left out a lot of “good” players these are just names off the top of my head. A lot of these blokes are injured, but think what a team Dingo would have if he had none of these injurie woes?

  • shane

    Why do you guys think that the wallabies are the only team with injury worries the all blacks have at least six front line players out injured, can you imagine James O’conner up against Sitiveni Sivivatu? And don’t forget SBW should be there for the world cup next year. I think that you really need some beef in your backs, Conrad Smith might look small but he weighs 95kgs, you guys need another Mortlock that guy was a beast whenever he played against the blacks you knew the game would be tight and you knew he could handle Umanga or Nonu one on one, the skills are there in your backs you just need some beef.

  • Rocky Elboa

    Medium term goals for rest of 2010
    1 – Win in Australia (one game left), to be honest we are unlikely to beat the AB next week and our record on the high veldt speaks for itself
    2 – Win all games on the Spring tour, including HK v the AB
    3 – Smaller goals; reduce error rate, reduce penalties and increase defensive percentage

    Coaching, I think Deans is a good coach but he is not getting through (for whatever reason)
    With this in mind it is time to clear out the assistant coaches
    Patricio Noriega – gone, seriously we have a scrum coach
    Jim Williams – gone, our general forward play has been poor
    Richard Graham – gone, what skills training is being done?

    new set up
    Deans – Head Coach looking after attack
    Link – Assistant Coach – Defence
    Foley – Assistant Coach – Forwards

    Link and Foley can bring the fire back and they can play it out for coaching job post WC
    Also need a kicking coach and a team shrink

  • Who?

    This is a tough post to reply to. The questions asked are clearly difficult, because the ARU and Deans haven’t found the answers yet. So I don’t think it’s surprising that replies haven’t flown in.

    Short term goals? By the end of the 3Ns:
    1. Cull handling errors- handling errors to be fewer than 15% of all possessions. That’s still a high number – at the end of June, we were 17%, in Brisbane 54% (though with less kicking), Aussie S14 teams were under 11% (averaged).
    2. Reduce missed tackles. 90% of all attempted tackles to be made.
    3. Improve kicking. Re-starts have been consistently slightly too deep, and we have issues finding the sideline – on the full when we don’t want that, and not finding it when we need it. We should be securing at least 50% possession from re-starts (including possession regained from a kicking opposition less than 40m from their defensive tryline).
    4. Numbers at the breakdown. Yes, we’re playing ball in hand. But we need our tight five to increase their presence at the breakdown. I’m sure there’s a statistical way of expressing this, but I don’t have stats to show where we are and where we should be.
    5. Better selection balance. We need more power and work in the tight five, we need more runners and involvement in the backline. On the weekend, it felt like Gits didnt’ have a runner near him to pass to – and it’s not the first time this year the 10’s had no runners. This means there should never again be a time when Barnes and Beale are on the field at once. They’re all serviceable players (to varying degrees), but if you’ve got Gits playing 10 (i.e. not running much), having Barnes and Beale in support doesn’t leave one with confidence we’ll get to the line before the cover arrives. This goes to the unacceptable stated public policy from the coaching staff that they pick the best 15, then squeeze them into the jumpers, rather than picking the best for each position and squeezing the best of the rest on the bench.
    6. Win rate – 4 losses unacceptable, 1 win not happy, 2 wins a good effort, 3 wins excellent, 4 wins… Dreaming.

    By the end of the year:
    1. Average less than 2 tries conceded per game. This will likely include shutouts in most of our Spring Tour games.
    2. Average of more than 3 tries scored per game.
    3. Scrummaging improved. Fat Cat’s return hasn’t brought our scrummaging back as far as one might have expected. There is technical work to be done here. I can’t remember seeing Fat Cat looking like he was going to be popped before, but, over the weekend, Franks was packing lower and driving hard.
    4. Meaningful attacking plays created and exploited. Under Deans, we’ve rarely seen more than one set play with runners in motion per game. Under previous coaches, we always had runners in motion.

    For next year, I’d like to see all ARU contracted players (well, those with ARU top-ups as a minimum) given a copy of a playbook, stating the style of rugby we want to play, showing a good number of attacking plays, showing the Wallaby defensive structure and patterns. I’d also like to see a front row camp in early January – before trial games. Just a week, but spent up at the Gold Coast with Alec Evans, Pato and/or whoever the then scrum coach is. A week spent analyzing themselves and the opposition.

    I believe the assistants need to be changed over. And increased in number. Whilst I don’t want to follow the 2005 Lions (with innumerable support staff), I find it amazing that the Brumbies have more coaches than the Wallabies. Deans is both our attack and defense coach. Our defense has improved (last weekend doesn’t show it well), but it’s still behind where it was when we had Muggles. Our attack often lacks precision and direction. Less so this year (thanks, Quade), but it comes down to a lack of basic style. Williams is forwards coach, so is responsible for the breakdown. It wasn’t terrible last weekend (thanks mainly to Pocock), but it was well beaten. Graham’s the skills coach – our skills have been terrible! Pato’s scrum coach – given our regular 3rd prop has less than 250 minutes of Rugby at Super or higher levels, I find it hard to criticize him right now.

    So… Williams might be gone. Graham might be gone. Deans needs to hand over responsibility for some of his detailed coaching areas. I believe he needs a defense coach and an attack consultant. Deans can take over skills, find a new breakdown coach, and perhaps a lineout consultant.

    One thing I’ve always questioned about Deans is his game plans. They always appear so thin. Hence the focus on an attack consultant. It needs to be someone Deans can’t ignore, too – and not necessarily someone close to the squad. Eddie Jones wasn’t close to the Boks before he consulted in 07. I remember too many times on the weekend we had isolated ball runners going to a wide blind side and running into a wall of Black. Genia was often waiting long periods for an option to appear. We rarely have multiple runners in motion. This wasn’t the case under Connolly (and Johnson) or Jones. Under them we were too stuck in set plays. Under Robbie, we are too focussed on playing what’s in front, and we don’t know how to create anything in front worth playing. This, for mine, is a major problem. It’s great to have instinctive players, but if all their instincts are telling them they’re going to get smashed and there’s no way through, no way to provide quick ball… Playing what’s in front of you shouldn’t mean a lack of structure, it should mean freedom to pick which runner (of several) gets the ball, depending on what the defensive line in front is doing.

    I don’t think the problem is with Robbie not managing the players well enough. Obviously, he’s always had his favourites. But every player who makes the squad goes into their first game with confidence they’re up to the required standard. He clearly gives the players self confidence. He also gives them responsibility – which is a good thing. But I don’t think he gives enough guidance. I think this was illustrated by him telling Gits to figure out his kicking dramas, with Gits shelling out for Ben Perkins’s help (including airfares), even though JON offerred to pay for it all out of the ARU’s coffers. It’s one thing to demand accountability for doing the job, another to make it clear how you want the job done. The Henry game plans are a great example of this. I don’t think we saw them once. He had enough other plays. How many did the Wallabies put on..?

  • Photon

    If the Wallabies cut out the errors, and just do the percentages correctly they will give themselves a chance. They probably won’t win but their aim should be to make their tackles, win their lineout ball and not giveaway any dumb points. Make sure the game isn’t over by half time, maybe they still lose, but if you’re still there and there about after 70 mins anything is possible.This All Black side is good not great YET, if you play badly and make bad dumb mistakes they’ll crush you but if you do the percentages well, just put together a disciplined 80 minutes, which is something I might add no one has managed to do against them so far this season, from Ireland, to the Boks, to The Wallabies, you’ll have a chance you really will.

  • Gallagher

    I think Deans has done a fantastic job to date. Im sick of all the up and down antics of the media AND fans. The Wallabies but a week ago where Gods, ready to rival the All Blacks. Now they have been rated as no hopers (I had to say the same thing not long ago!).

    A few bad efforts in defense and a few good breaks that where lucky to be turned into points is what made the win flattering, not to mention the weakest red card in history. People also forget that we killed the Boks last week with eight or so of our leading team out. You CANNOT ignore that. Imagine how the All Blacks would be with 8 first line injuries? All they have is Kahui and scrumhalf issues.. Cowan and Weepu are average at best anyway. We have been blooding 1st cappers with a ‘new’ captain and hes still taking it to them with a man down for an entire half, with a running/ball in hand strategy!

    Turn the tables, give us back Quade, Palu, Hynes, Digby, Horwill, Alexander, PolotaNau and take away Carter, Richie, Nonu, Mils, Thorn, Mealamu, Woodcock. Who’d be in trouble then I wonder? Everyone knows we have depth problems, but we have lost quite a few talisman, and if the same positions went down on the other side of the ditch, and we got ours back, things would look a whole lot different. We have been able to take it to the Boks with half our first choice players down, Im not worried, disappointed, but not worried. Our game plan is right, we just need some of our harder heads back, and a few things to go our way at the same time and a flogging is even on the cards for the All Blacks, we ARE the goods, and injuries pending, we WILL be the goods come world cup. We will have much needed depth and our boys step up as underdogs in the World Cup, we will thrive off this pressure, the All Blacks will be lucky to beat the French/Boks in their draw.

    Christ Church here we come!

    • Will Johnson

      That just inspired me mate – cheers!

      Let’s hope some of the wallabies read that post?

      Hopefully they can arrive in NZ, with the feeling that the world is against them and written them off….then as Van Humphries would put it….”roll those c$nts!!”

    • Robson

      I admire your optimisim mate.

      What you are talking aout though are “what ifs”. What if we had our full line up of players and “what if” they didn’t have theirs. What if we didn’t have Mitchell sidelined with the softest red card in history etc, etc.

      Unfortunately the facts are much closer to reality. And the fact is that we had multiple moments of serial dumbness on Saturday and I’m not going to replay them all or even one of them, because everyone knows what they were and who were the guilty parties.

      I would like to be optimistic that we can leave these moments of madness out of the Wallabies actions next Saturday at Christchurch and if we can who knows what might happen. But it won’t happen by itself. The players have absolute and total responsibility for giving one hundred per cent concentrated effort on accuracy and workrate for one hundred per cent of the test match. If they can achieve this they might – just might – come away with a win. Anything less, however, is going to see them equal an all time record of defeats for the Wallabies.

      So for me the Wallabies goal this Saturday is to spill their last drop of emotional, mental and physical energy in second by second attention to the game in front of them and committing their bodies, minds and souls to it like they have never done before.

      That’s my interim goal for the Wallabies and it might work for them. As sure as hell, there will be no rewards for anything less.

    • All Black Fan

      What about Ali Williams, Andrew Hore, Richard Kahui, Sitevini Sivivatu for the All Blacks?

  • Gallagher

    Robson, I dont quite think you get where I was coming from? You mention what I was saying is all ‘what ifs?’ and the ‘facts are closer to reality?’ The first half of what I said (which is the basis of the rest of the comment) IS fact/reality. We ARE down half of a very strong team, and it is a fact half of our team on the field are ‘1st cappers’ with little to no experience at test level, let alone Trinations, let alone Bledisloe (dig at the Boks)… This fact alone plays a major influence into everything else said, by everyone on this thread. Goals can be accomplished in leaps, bounds, minutes or seconds, but if your players who are capabale of reaching higher goals are not available, you are stuck with ‘lesser’ players with lower ability in acheiving those goals, whatever they are. Deans puts confidence in the best players he has available, his assistants teach them the skills and set plays etc, and the players do their very best physically and mentally on the field, on the night. This is our problem at the moment I feel. In the meantime all we can do is get the best out of what we have physically and mentally. The ‘what if’ part is to emphasise that the gap may not actually be as bad as everyone envisages, just imagine if you will, and then watch it all come together…

    • Robson

      Fair enough mate – just my opinion.

  • Langthorne

    Another area that might be considered, if it hasn’t been already, is non rugby goals. I think that it would benefit many of the young men in the Wallaby squad to have some worthy things to occupy their minds in non work (ie non rugby) times. Maybe it would help with the mental toughness side of things – I don’t think they lack heart or conviction, but maybe have trouble bringing it to bear in pressured/stressful situations (certainly David Pocock’s very worthy charity – which is advertised on this very website – hasn’t hindered his ability to perform when it counts on the rugby field).
    Rugby has only recently become a professional sport. We are only now seeing young players coming through who have only known it as a professional sport. Maybe the effects and challenges of this new professionalism on our young players, and the real life experience they might miss, has not been adequately dealt with.

    On the rugby side of things, on field discipline is a good short term issue to deal with, as are the basic skills that have occasionally let them down.

    The other issue is having the right support and guidance to help the players set realistic goals and to achieve them (Robbie Deans can’t be expected to do everything).

  • Gallagher

    All Black Fan – I will give you Andrew Hore, but Ali Williams and Sivivatu are by no means certain starters for the All Blacks anymore.
    Robson – Even Clarkie on foxsports agreed with me, his comments have to carry some clout, ha
    Whatever our problem is, I’m still just an optimistic, addicted, diehard Reds and Wallabies fan through and through, and proud of it!
    A few years ago, I used to work with (not directly) the All Blacks mental skills coach, and I tell you what, he is a very strong minded, smart and driven man. I believe the mental strength and skills he imparts on the All Blacks is one thing the Wallabies would find an invaluable asset! With mental toughness, the Wallabies could achieve all personal performance based goals, which just leads to on field success as discussed above.

    • Robson

      I think that both Ali and Sivivatu would need a lengthy re conditioning phase to rebuild badk to international standard. But I would expect that both players, especially Williams, would be more than capable of doing just that.

      Clarkie is a good and knowledgeable rugby commentator so his opinion is probably worth reciting. However, it doesn’t change my own opinion on the questions in hand.. I don’t live in Australia and I’m not an Australian, but my support for the Wallabies and Australian rugby goes back a very, very long way and is total. Sometimes a bit of distance provides some clarity and balance. But I repeat my opinions are just that – opinions – and whilst it is nice when people agree with them, I don’t go off my food or lose any sleep when they don’t.

      Gilbert Enoka (the All Blacks mind coach) has had a long association with various sports in NZ. His association with netball and the Silver Ferns in particular was not emminently successful. Maybe he is able to communicate with the male personna a little better. Or maybe he is doing things differently. I don’t know, but what I am convinced of is that whatever he is doing with the ABs is paying some dividends.

All Blacks
@ScottA_

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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