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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.

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
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SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
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SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
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FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
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NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
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ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
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SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
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NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
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ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
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CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
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NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
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SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
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Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
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ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
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