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Reds will handle both the truth and perceptions

Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Waratahs is tackled. Click for more photos

Reds steal victory at the death

Reds score a runaway try after the 80th minute to steal victory over the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images

The power of perception in rugby is massive. It's so powerful that as a coach you need to deal with perception as if it is reality.

Most fans watch a game just once - and they enter the game with an expectation based on what is generally derived by media reporting. At the end of the game these fans measure their thoughts against their opinion and come to a conclusion. Often this opinion is close to the truth although it's dependant on a number of factors, including how the match is physically watched.

If it's watched on TV, fans get the directors view. Colour is the order of the day with close-ups and action replays forcing the viewer to miss a lot of what is happening. You also have the audio input of the commentary which adds detail to the experience.

This viewing is stilted because the viewer sees what the director wants to be shown and the commentary is swayed to meet the chosen visuals. This approach means goal kickers and injured players get a lot of air time and a lot of commentary thoughts. It's quite easy to know a lot about the players who are injured regularly and the guys that kicks goals, but the reality is what is happening away from these visuals is what matters most.

If you watch the game live you are at the mercy of your own viewing position and can be distracted by what you are drinking or eating and by the fact that you are in real-time. Most of the time the crowd doesn't have the benefit of detailed replays and close-up vision. As a result the viewing experience will be altered with the emotion of the crowd and the event as it unfolds rather than factoring in any technical analysis that may be closer to the truth.

The reason I am mentioning this is because the perception of the weekend's Reds and Tahs game has been interesting in terms of the overall public opinion. As a coach you must deal with the reality of your performance internally but you must deal strongly with the external perception that remains.

I never feel successful unless we have influenced the mindset of the crowd and the media. The Reds have done so much in this space in a short period of time and perception is something we must continue to consider.

It's interesting however how the theatre of an occasion gets in the way of reality. This then turns into media spin and then popular belief.

From the weekend, the perception was that the Reds were “lucky”.

It's an easy assumption to make considering the ending but upon further review my opinion of the match changed.

Coaches and players are lucky as they get to deal in the reality of the performance as both have the ability to watch it over and over again from many different angles. We then get the statistics to back it up.

The reality in the raw numbers was that the Reds had one of their finest defensive performances since I've been here. In the end we had a 92% tackle success rate.

The try to finish the game was also a brilliant team effort from 80 metres out. Tapuai beat two tacklers, a prop filled in at halfback and Shipperley was forced to beat four defenders. This try could have happened in the first minute and been absorbed in the outcome but it was on the bell and therefore it becomes luck as opposed to the six tackle opportunities missed. It all depends on how you want to look at it really. What's the perception?

Digging deeper, a lot of stats were also skewed in our favour. We tackled better, made more linebreaks, had more phases, kicked less and conceded fewer penalties. We also won 100% of our scrum feeds and secured 89% of our lineout possession, the same as NSW.

The one stat however was we made too many handling errors that invited them into the game. We were the best handling team in the competition last year so our challenge now it to fix our errant ways from the weekend.

Ball control is what we will take forward to the Force game as the perception, or reality if you read the paper, is that they will try and stifle and slow down the ball.

It's interesting that teams spend so much time talking about shutting us down – perhaps the perception around us after all is not all bad.

20 comments so far

  • And Ewen is not the Wallabies Coach because...??????

    I still can't work it out.

    Sunshine Coast
    Date and time
    March 01, 2012, 9:57AM
    • Why isn't Ewen coach of the Wallabies? Because success at Super level doesn't always mean success at Test level. Just ask Robbie... So Ewen won 1 super title... Robbie won a handful... it still doesn't mean you are going to storm into the Test arena and be just as successful.

      Date and time
      March 01, 2012, 11:22AM
    • I was meaning because of his ability to work with on field and off field issues in such a way as to alter a culture and organisation from within and without. His understanding of the game, in my view, is unparalleled.

      Robbie Deans did the same at the Crusaders, but seems to have slightly misjudged the Wallabies. Whilst we won the Tri-Nations our WC campaign was, at times, laughable.

      Sunshine Coast
      Date and time
      March 01, 2012, 3:21PM
  • I'm an ex-pat New South Welshman living in WA and still support the Tahs. Unfortunately, the game between the Reds and Tahs showed the Tahs playing the same old boring rugby.
    I agree with Ewen, the Reds were the better side both in defense and attack. They just hadn't "clicked" properly.

    Mindarie WA
    Date and time
    March 01, 2012, 10:22AM
    • Am I sensing right? Ewen is relieved the Reds were "lucky" to win at the death? Why else would he bother writing about such a thing as perceptions???

      Date and time
      March 01, 2012, 11:17AM
      • Wow the QLDers are getting upset over nothing...

        It was lucky, the QLDers were down and out, NSW had possession 30 seconds from the end and were in front. 1 player had a brain snap and gave possession back to QLD which they capitalised on. That was LUCKY for QLD!

        Doesn't mean they didn't play well, or didn't play better than NSW, it just means that they were lucky to get the ball back then. They didn't force the turnover, it was given to them.

        Yes QLD played well, so did NSW, the game was close, but if not for that 1 lucky incident at the death, they would have lost.

        Date and time
        March 01, 2012, 11:34AM
        • Sadly the team that scored the most tries lost the match. One negative for NSW was way too many kickable penalties cost them the match, not the gifted try at the end. Other positives that Ewen fails to remember is the NSW scrum was going forward all night and at least NSW lost by trying to score a 3rd try right at the death. What is seen as a brain-snap by kicking with 30 seconds to go was an attacking attempt to kick into open space and score. So rather than say lucky, I agree that the canetoads were good enough to exploit the last chance given to them. But that's top level rugby, you need to close the match down in those vital last few minutes. If that was NZ or Canterbury, the last 5 minutes would have been a huge yawn with the ball kept in the pack the WHOLE time until the bell and not moved 1 cm past the half back. Would the 5-6 missing wallabies make the same mistake, who know? Aha the beauty of rugby.

          Date and time
          March 01, 2012, 12:38PM
          • Once again, Ewen McKenzie displays a rare depth of understanding here. Not only of the game tactically & mechanically, but also of the contextual implications that affect the followers (and reporting) of the game.
            I do agree with other posts that the Reds were handed a lucky break though.

            The Denman
            Date and time
            March 01, 2012, 12:46PM
            • "I never feel successful unless we have influenced the mindset of the crowd and the media."
              I think Ewan is stating why he wrote the article, and what he wants out of it.

              Date and time
              March 01, 2012, 1:37PM
              • Yeah, the Reds were awfully lucky all night. They were lucky that NSW were so ill-disciplined that they gave away 6 penalties in kicking distance. They were lucky Mike "Herrus" had a 100% night with the boot. They were lucky NSW failed to capitalise on opportunities, including knocking on just as TPN raced away. They were lucky ... ah I give up. A tremendous defensive game from both sides, I would rate this game with the RWC Quarter Final Aus-SA last year, except NSW weren't as dominant as SA were that day, and the Reds weren't as lucky as Aus were that day either. I reckon it's a game the Reds would have lost in 2011, so good luck with the rest of the season. Oh, and welcome back, Link. I missed you all summer.

                Date and time
                March 01, 2012, 2:33PM

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