Dismay ... Benn Robinson says the Waratahs are frustrated by the loss of their coach. Photo: Jon Reid
WARATAHS captain Benn Robinson says the players are shocked and upset by coach Michael Foley's sudden departure and want some involvement in finding his replacement.
The prop yesterday rejected suggestions of team factions and said every player he had spoken to, which included most of the team's senior playing group, continued to be frustrated at the behind-the-scenes drama at Waratahs headquarters.
''It's a big shock to the players,'' he said. ''I spoke to 'Foles' on the phone and I think he addressed most the players individually. I think after recent weeks and all the chat going back and forth, from the players' point of view it's very disappointing to lose a coach of his calibre … The players I spoke to had full support for Foles. To lose a coach of his calibre is very disappointing.''
Robinson said Foley's drawn-out demise had hit the younger players hardest. ''It's been challenging,'' he said. ''For the younger players coming through, this is their first experience being involved with the Waratahs, and it's not how it normally is. It's been a tough, challenging year with 'Webby' [Chris Webb, football manager] going and now Foles and Edwin [Zemancheff, chairman] going.
''I think the next few months will be very crucial for us. Things have been a bit rattled the last few months with speculation going back and forth.''
A proud supporter of Foley, the Wallabies prop said he would ask that the players be involved in the selection of Foley's successor.
''It'd be nice for [the Tahs administration] to speak to a few of the key players who might have a fair say or fair influence on how the team should be moving forward,'' a clearly angered Robinson said. ''I think it'd be good to have a few players involved in that process. I'd like to have at least word or a few words about certain issues there as well.''
He said it was imperative a coach be appointed sooner rather than later before the search became a Western Force-like farce, with players forced to spend months without a head coach.
''For us now, we need to move on and as quickly as possible get a new coach in and hope the transition is pretty seamless,'' Robinson said. ''The worst thing we can do is to harp on it, be disappointed and be fractured for the next few months. We need to move on pretty quickly.
''You get an understanding early of where they want the team to go over the next period and making sure all the players are on the same page.''
Sacked Stade Francais coach Michael Cheika is the frontrunner for the head coaching job, with Alan Gaffney expected to be retained as the team's backs coach at the expense of Scott Bowen.
Meanwhile, Wallabies and Brumbies inside-centre Pat McCabe will miss at least the first month of the inaugural Rugby Championship with a stress fracture to his lower left leg. Scans confirmed the injury yesterday, and McCabe will miss four to six weeks.