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Hardy times: Waratahs' slapstick routine no laughing matter


Spiro Zavos

Michael Foley ... Waratahs former coach.

Michael Foley ... Waratahs former coach. Photo: Getty Images

WHAT a fine mess the Waratahs franchise is in. The team manager, Chris Webb, has resigned. The coach, Michael Foley, has defected to a rival franchise. And the chairman of the board, Ed Zemancheff, has stood down without an adequate explanation.

These ructions remind me of a brilliant Laurel and Hardy short film. The two slapstick stars, playing door-to-door salesmen, pull up in a car outside an isolated house. They knock on the door and badger the grumpy occupant to buy their product. The occupant isn't buying. The salesmen keep up the hard sell. In exasperation, the occupant walks to their car and removes a door handle. The salesmen remove the handle to the front door of the house. The occupant takes off the car door. The salesmen take off his front door. In the end, the house is demolished, the car is demolished and the salesmen, wiping their hands in satisfaction, swagger off into the distance.

In a rugby version of this slapstick comedy, Zemancheff and Foley are Laurel and Hardy. The irate householder is Nick Farr-Jones, the chairman of the NSW Rugby Union which has leased the Waratahs franchise to its board. The destroyed car, going nowhere, represents the Waratahs franchise. And the house which needs to be rebuilt is rugby in NSW.

Last week on The Rugby Club, Phil Kearns maintained the slapstick routine. He claimed he was disappointed about Foley walking out, that Zemancheff was always leaving, that the Waratahs board is doing a good job, and that NSWRU needed to have a good look at itself. He also nominated Alan Gaffney, a key member of the failed Waratahs coaching staff, as the next head coach. What was not revealed in this nonsense commentary is that Kearns is on a subcommittee, answerable to the Waratahs board, to select the coach.

But how can NSWRU, and not the separate Waratahs board, be responsible for the falling revenues of the Waratahs, the slump in crowd attendances at matches, an abysmal Waratahs playing record, no coach, player power rampant and the Waratahs administration in a shambles?

Why was the announcement of Foley's defection made by Al Baxter, a recently-retired player and, apparently, the interim chairman of the Waratahs board, rather than by the club's chief executive Jason Allen? Why is Kearns trying to pre-empt what should be a competitive selection process by nominating Gaffney as the next head coach? Why not Michael Cheika, who another Waratahs great Simon Poidevin supports? Or other possibilities like Todd Louden, Tim Lane, Scott Johnson or Steve Meehan? Why has the selection process been so secretive?

The point here is the process of selecting the coach is badly flawed. It should not be the wink-wink nudge-nudge process currently in place. Benn Robinson, the Waratahs captain, is calling for input from the players. Perhaps. There is already too much player power at the Waratahs.

What is really needed is a selection panel that does its work as openly as possible, a new coaching staff and a new administration. Root and branch reform, in other words, along the lines of the intervention in Queensland that led to the revival of the Reds. The best way to achieve this intervention is for Farr-Jones to cancel NSWRU's agreement with Waratahs Rugby. There is no hope of bringing in private investment which was the point of the agreement.

In future, all franchises must allow the ARU to select their coaches. This is what is done by New Zealand Rugby Union. This model is clearly successful. Last season, NZRU appointed Dave Rennie as coach of the under-performing Chiefs. Tonight, the Chiefs are playing their first home ground Super Rugby final.

Meanwhile, there is no hope for the Waratahs, only another week of slapstick antics.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
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