Monday, 17 December 2007

Foreign Affairs

Forget the English Football Association appointing Fabio Capello as the new England football manager - we've been down that particular road before (i.e. of having a foreign coach) and are pretty much resigned to the fact that there are no suitable home-grown candidates.

No, the more controversial appointment made last week was that of kiwi Robbie Deans to the post of head coach of the Australian rugby team.

Not that you'd know it from looking at the Australian press. In fact the Sydney Morning Herald was particularly effusive in its praise for Deans, who it claims is "the No. 1 available coach" and who "doesn't come with any baggage. He doesn't owe anyone favours and is not aligned to any of the factions which have so often disrupted Australian rugby."

Well, that may be the case, but consider this - a few weeks ago Deans didn't want to coach Australia. Being a proud kiwi he, quite rightly, wanted to coach the All Blacks and, also quite rightly, was considered by many to be favourite to get that job. For reasons only known to the duffers in the NZRU Deans was overlooked and, with indecent haste, was then installed as the Aussie coach by the ARU.

In doing so the ARU effectively tore up its own selection process, having previously interviewed David Nucifora, Alan Jones, Ewen McKenzie, Laurie Fisher and John Muggleton, all of whom (unlike Deans) had applied for the position and all of whom are entitled to feel a tad miffed at the way they've been treated by the ARU.

So not only do Australia, a nation with a huge history of sporting success and who have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup on two occasions, end up with a kiwi who didn't really want the job as their head coach, they've done so having decided that none of their own coaches are good enough for the role (and I'd have thought that at least three of the applicants would have been suitable appointments).

That there has been barely a whimper of protest from the Australian press or public about the appointment or about the way in which the selection process was abused is also a concern - effectively what this suggests is that Australians are now buying into the theory that New Zealand rugby is superior, something that would previously have been an anathema to to all Aussie rugby players, coaches, administrators and fans. It is also entirely misplaced - Australia have for a few years now been two good props away from being a very strong international outfit. Heck, they even made the 2003 Rugby World Cup final with two of the worst props the international game has seen and would arguably have been at least semi-finalists this time around had Stepehen Larkham been fit.

Who knows...Deans might turn out to be a hugely successful appointment and no doubt his appointment will add even more spice to the Bledisloe Cup encounters in 2008 but, whatever the outcome, for me a kiwi being in charge of an Australian sports team simply doesn't look right.


Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

Hey TF,

Your opinion is pretty much where I, and a lot of Aussie rugby followers were a few weeks back. However if you look at the Aussie contenders:

- Fisher: not enough success at S14 and looks weird

- McKenzie: A good coach, but no cigar yet in S14. Probably future Wallaby coach

- Muggleton: worlds best defense coach, but that's it

- Alan 'Gloria' Jones: as fuggles said, he hasn't actually coached this century. A joke.

- Nucifora: only serious Aussie candidate, but the reason why is because he has a S14 record that approaches that of Deans

In the end O'Neil has made the only real choice when answering the question: "who's the best coach we can get?" and he doesn't give a toss for procedures and pissing others off - the sign of a focused winner I'd say.

The same attitude the England team had in the RWC when they decided they didn't care about the beauty of the rugby and the feelings of Brian Ashton. Just winning.

Also, nicking your closest rival's best coach isn't a bad side-effect is it?

Total Flanker said...

Hi Matt

I don't doubt that Deans is a fine coach, although having a great Super 14 record is as much down to having a collection of great players at the Crusaders as it is down to great coaching imo.

Logically there are no flaws in your opinion - if he's the best available coach then why not - but instictively it still feels wrong.

I can see the point of perhaps one of the so-called minnow nations -Wales for instance ;) - employing an overseas coach to benefit from his expertise, but Australia are consistently one of the top 4 teams in world rugby and as such really should be able to appoint a home-grown coach (and I'd have said Fisher, McKenzie or Nucifora all could have done the job pretty well).

Australians are, by and large, a fairly self-confident bunch and, as I mentioned, it's the lack of any real protest or outrage from the Aussie public that's disconcerting here.


Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

Like they say in prison, it only stings the first time.....

Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

Help me understand how keeping Ashton on for a year makes sense?

Total Flanker said...

Re Ashton - as far as I know nothing's been announced yet, but keeping him on a yearly rolling contract only makes sense insofar as the RFU won't have to pay him off if the 2008 season goes tits up.

It's hardly a ringing endorsement though...

Nursedude said...

Maybe the ARU hiring Deans as the Wallaby coach will bring in a fresh view or new approach. Our coach of our club in Minneapolis, the Metropolis RFC, is an Aussie, yet when the club offered him to take higher level coaching classes on rugby, he did not go back to OZ, he went to a NZRFU course. I have to say he came back with some great ideas and it has helped our club a lot.