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Personal agendas rear ugly heads up north


Spiro Zavos

Team under spotlight … Will Genia of the Reds.

Team under spotlight … Will Genia of the Reds. Photo: Getty Images

A month ago the Brumbies were at $13.25 to win the Australian conference of this year's Super Rugby tournament. After their defeat by the Bulls at Pretoria, though, they have firmed to outright favourites (just) at $2.63. The Waratahs, who defeated the hapless Rebels at Allianz Stadium, are at $2.64, virtually equal with the Brumbies. The Reds, who were the favourites at the start of the season, have drifted to $3.08 after their defeat at Brisbane by the Stormers. What this suggests is that the way a team plays is more instructive than the result.

The Waratahs were sensational when they scored an ensemble try from the kick-off against the Rebels. Unfortunately, that was the end of the ensemble play for the rest of the match. Towards the end of the match when the forwards won a turnover, the ball was kicked away by the halfback Brendan McKibbin. "Oh, no!" an agitated, frustrated supporter yelled. The Waratahs have suggested they will run at the Crusaders tomorrow. But can they do this for more than last weekend's one minute, 26 seconds of play?

The Reds kept on chip-kicking, even inside their 22, despite the Stormers having three runners back (like the Crusaders) to field the errant kicks.

There was also a tactical mistake by coach Ewen McKenzie when he played five forwards and two backs on the reserve bench. One of the backs, Sam Lane, the young No. 10, had a history of serious knee injuries. Early in the match he suffered another knee injury. Then Ben Tapuai damaged his collarbone. Within 10 minutes the Reds had run out of back reserves.

All the Australian coaches have been given a master class from former Springboks mentor and now Brumbies boss Jake White. He has found new stars (Jesse Mogg, Michael Hooper). No-names such as Fotu Auelua are playing strongly. Senior players such as Stephen Moore, Christian Lealiifano and Pat McCabe are in career-best form. The Brumbies' revival as a competitive and enjoyable team to watch (as with the Chiefs under Dave Rennie) is a coach-led revival. White, not the administration, has created the new Brumbies.

This makes what the Reds franchise is doing by moving McKenzie into administration and bringing in Richard Graham bewildering. The Reds did brilliantly last season under McKenzie's coaching. When the news of the Graham appointment broke, Phil Kearns asked on The Rugby Show: "What has Graham done as a coach?" Good question. The answer is nothing much. At the Western Force, he had more quality players than White. His team has won just two matches this season. Moreover, his team sacked him when his defection was announced. It is unlikely that in similar circumstances the Brumbies players would sack White. There is also the uncomfortable fact that Graham's manager, Chris White, is also a member of the Reds' board. This conflict of interest is surely unacceptable. With the news, too, that the Reds have terminated the contract of their strategy guru, Phillip Fowler, the impression is that personal agendas are trumping what is good for the Reds.

The senior players were not informed about the Graham-McKenzie change. Why?

The real "winner" is McKenzie. He becomes director of coaching next year and then director of rugby in 2014. Bath Rugby tried this system for two years with Ian McGeechan. It has been terminated as a failure. But for McKenzie, the new structure has the personal advantage of removing him from the coaching box. This means that his credentials for the Wallabies coaching job, when it comes up for contention perhaps at the end of next year, will be last year's Super Rugby tournament win, and what successes he can scramble out this season. If the Reds are not successful next season, the blame can be attributed to Graham.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that McKenzie's interests are being looked after, to the detriment of the Reds team. This can't be right for Queensland rugby.

19 comments so far

  • @ Spiro
    It was the Cubans that assassinated JFK and Elvis is still alive, a little fatter, but alive! Or was it the Mafia that killed JFK?
    I get a little confused sometimes but someone definitely killed JFK. I'm positive Elvis is alive and reasonable well.

    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    April 28, 2012, 9:28AM
    • An excellent piece by Australia's second best rugby writer-a touch behind the eloquent and insightful John Eales.

      Yes the winner is McKenzie. Now perhaps McKenzie is taking a purely altruistic view that this is the way forward for Queensland rugby. I think he probably is.

      I disagree with him on that score. However he lays himself open to the charges Spiro has levelled of self interest-ie if the Reds prosper under Graham, Mckenzie as the head coach can take the credit and if they flounder he is distanced from it-it's Grahams fault essentially. McKenzie can rest on his one title laurels.

      This view may be as out of left field as Gregory Growden's assertion that the move is designed to free McKenze for the Wallabies' job but never-the less the perception is there.

      McKenzie will have to rely primarily on an old super victory to define his bid for the Wallaby job. One super title doth not a champion coach make Ewen. Dingo has five and he struggles at international level. Eddie Jones, Nucifora and Connolly all had super or provincial titles and all flummoxed at international level where they came up against the best in the business-Henry and Wayne Smith

      The ARU wanted a hands- on coach after Connolly's disastrous tenure. Are a scrum coach, a defensive coach and a backs' coach not enough for McKenzie for godssake. He needs another coach?

      And how can Queensland afford this. What is the ARUs attitude to this coaching overkill?? The Force as rugby's focus in the West must be protected.

      Whether this is about McKenzie or Queensland rugby its a bad move I believe.

      Date and time
      April 28, 2012, 1:18PM
      • @ mick-e
        Seriously, where have you been? There is nothing more to this than succession planning which will alllow Link to take the reins of the Wallabies. Give GG some credit, although he didn't advocate it, he quite rightly gave the nod that Deans was a done deal and Link was to be the heir apparent.
        And yes where does this leave the Force?
        And YES success at Super 15s doesn't translate to International success.
        Therefore a case maybe made that this is another 'knee-jerk' reaction to finding THE perfect coach for the Wallabies.
        I agree that this is A BAD move on ALL sorts of levels.
        As the fellow whose father grew opinions for a living once said (you all know who he is) - please discuss!

        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        April 28, 2012, 7:51PM
    • Don't know where you're going with that Machooka, but on form thus far this season it sticks out like dogs balls that Jake White should be given serious consideration for the Wallabies coaching job when Deans departs.

      Face the Facts
      Date and time
      April 28, 2012, 1:31PM
      • Except that the main reason people give for disliking Deans is that he is 'not an Aussie'.

        Perth via Rakaia
        Date and time
        April 30, 2012, 5:43PM
      • The main reason that people I know give for not liking Dingo, in his current position, is his failure to make the Wallabies perform to a consistently high standard, including strange selections for the WC and less than intelligent strategy and tactics on the field.

        Date and time
        April 30, 2012, 6:42PM
      • 2

        Spot on. Nationality isn't the issue, the empty trophy cabinet is.

        Piru, do you think the NZRU (and more so the public) would accept a record like his and sign him for 2 more years?

        Date and time
        May 01, 2012, 12:57AM
      • Deans has done a fantastic job given the circumstances, we've been over this rubbish about no back up 7 for the RWC a thousand times. Who was he to take? A substandard 7 or another international loosie?

        He took the broom to the team, cleaning out dead (and not so dead) wood and bringing in the young blood, something that has always been a problem for Wallaby sides. Think of the names he has brought through - O'Connor, Beale, Cooper (yeah, alright), Pocock. In the meantime showing the door to players who had become part of the furniture - Smith, Waugh, Giteau.

        The fact is, if he were an Aussie, everyone would be behind him, because he is at least trying to create something, he sometimes has short term pain, but it's all in the name of the long term gain.

        But, unfortunately as with the question about super 15 depth some people are unable to see the forest for the trees.

        Perth via Rakaia
        Date and time
        May 01, 2012, 2:03PM
      • Piru

        Answer my question, would Deans' record be acceptable in NZ?

        I couldn't care less about his nationality, his results have been extremely irratic - yes or no?

        Losses to Scotland, Samoa and no Bledisloe.

        He has had the talent at his disposal, he just hasn't been able to channel it into a CONSISTANT winning formula, which is the key to being a coach.

        There is more to coaching than unearthing talent, in fact I would argue it is more important in getting the new talent to win games and tournaments.

        You mentioned "short term pain for long term gain". HOW LONG??? I recall him wanting to be "judged on the RWC". Perhaps he was referring to RWC 2015...

        Sorry Piru, but just like many players, he just hasn't been able to step up to the international stage.

        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 3:01AM
      • What part of his record?

        The part where his team was knocked out of the RWC and he had lost games leading up to it while trying out combinations etc etc?

        Seem to remember this happening to a certain Sir Graham Henry a few years back, don't you?

        There were howls of outrage when he was rehired, true, it seems Kiwi fans are no more patient than Aussie ones when it comes to 'wins-right-now!' but sometimes it's necessary.

        So, to answer your question, if we are talking about the general NZ rugby public, no, his record wouldn't be acceptable, but that is neither here nor there.

        The general rugby public don't make the decisions, and thank goodness, or NZ probably never would have won the RWC.

        I submit to YOU that if Deans was an Aussie, his record would be seen as acceptable. Aussie rugby put up with a lot worse from Eddie Jones and John Connolly.

        He is held to a higher standard because he is a Kiwi.

        Flattering, but hardly fair.

        Perth via Rakaia
        Date and time
        May 03, 2012, 3:15PM

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    Super Rugby 2015

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