The Wallabies need change now, and it will take a lot more than an independent review to initiate it


So the latest Rugby World Cup is over and the recriminations are well underway, the Wallabies coach has fallen on his sword, a replacement will be selected in due course and the inevitable ‘independent’ review will soon start.

Based upon history, the wider community stakeholders, (including us the fans) are unlikely to see the resulting report and in due course, the dust will settle and business as usual will recommence. This is, unless we the supporters and fans of rugby and those men and women within the wider rugby community who share our concerns are willing to exercise our voices and alter the trajectory of Australian rugby.

Without developing an effective voice for change, it would seem inevitable that our slide into irrelevance in world rugby will continue. The revenue base will continue to decline and the available talent pool will diminish further. Were this scenario to unfold, it is foreseeable that professional rugby will effectively cease in Australia in the foreseeable future!

We all hear constantly about the revenue windfall that will come from the upcoming Lions and World Cup events; yet how confident are we that this administration has the collective ability to:

1) provide the means to produce a competitive Wallabies squad for these events

2) invest the expected windfall wisely (remember the waste following the last World Cup held in Australia)

As a representative of Wallabies supporters – which we all know is the hardest proposition in international sport – I say that even consideration of such an outcome is reprehensible and is not OK for fans and the wider rugby community.

A message to our fans. Thank you.#Wallabies

— Wallabies (@wallabies) October 12, 2023

Quite simply, we the wider rugby community need to become an irresistible team of change agents speaking a unified and clear message that resonates with all people of influence in the administration and direction of rugby in Australia. I would respectfully suggest that such an approach needs to eliminate personal attacks and infighting amongst ourselves, team/club bias and any other characteristic that undermines our message.

Any change program will have several identified and prioritised ‘work-streams’ within the program that are invariably informed by the findings of some form of ‘independent review’ (sound familiar?). The review can reasonably be expected to have assembled a list of lessons learned from the matters under review and such lessons will have been informed by interviews with those directly involved and where available, objective evidence.

The independent review will produce a report which outlines the findings and associated evidence arising from the exercise. From these findings, the review team would develop a prioritised set of recommendations for consideration and further action by the organisation’s leadership team. All of the above is standard practice for such an activity.

Thereafter, the rubber meets the road at the leadership table: specifically, acceptance or rejection of the review recommendations.

It would be considered normal for the leadership to make some ‘adjustments’ to the recommendations. Thereafter, the leadership team and the accepted recommendations initiate the identification of the program scope and associated resourcing requirements.

Once established, the leadership team would then engage the services of a specialist and experienced program manager to develop and deliver a detailed program accepted by the leadership team.

It would seem appropriate at this point that I put forward what I would consider to be a high-priority work-stream within the proposed ‘program of change’ that can reasonably be expected to have been identified from an independent review.

 (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Work-stream 1: Identify, program and implement a dedicated strategy designed to provide elite players with the opportunity to participate in an increased number of high-performance matches which will provide players with improved match fitness, positional and game management skills (especially under pressure).

The identified work-stream is essentially an objective to be achieved – how it is to be achieved is the challenge.

In that context, I have detailed my thoughts on how the identified objective may be realised.

Work-stream #1 is to be achieved through the development of an inclusive program where each Super Rugby team would play a round against a ‘composite’ team whose players are drawn from all the other Super Rugby teams (e.g., Queensland Reds verse the best of the Waratahs, Brumbies, Rebels and Force). The following considerations should form the basis of such a program:

1) No player can be selected to play for the composite team from the Super Rugby team they are playing. Such an approach would provide all Super Rugby players with multiple opportunities to gain the extra competition necessary to satisfy the intent of work-stream 1

2) The team selected for each composite game will, by necessity, change as the players return to their clubs when playing against the Composite team.

3) The composite team would be selected by the incoming Wallabies coach, as such it could reasonably be assumed that each such player selected would likely be a Wallaby or a potential one.

 (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

4) The composite team would logically be stronger than the individual Super teams they are playing – hence, each Super team in turn would be playing against a stronger team (the Composites).

5) It would be true however that the composite team would lack cohesion, at least initially, but as each Super player has the potential to play multiple games for the composites as well as the game for his Super team, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the incoming Wallabies coach (and his team) would have been able to progressively establish an increasing level of cohesion.

6) It would be possible for an individual player to play an extra five matches under a single-round program; however, it can reasonably be expected that the incoming Wallabies coach would select a wider pool of players which would realistically make five matches for any one player uncommon.

The above proposal is a variation of the possible versus probable matches long used in the selection of representative teams in the past. In that context, each match has relevance as it is an effective trial for future Wallabies selection. I would submit that this proposal would meet the spirit and intent of those among us who advocate for an Australian-only Super competition. However, the relative superior strengths and benefits of this alternate proposal would seem obvious (I hope).

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I leave it to others better placed to find the time to schedule the proposed competition. In putting this submission together, I sincerely hope that it resonates with Roarers and, ultimately, the wider rugby community such that it inspires change, change the Wallabies need dearly.

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