Monday, September 24, 2012

Hey Quade, sounds like you need a cuddle!

All Black fan Tim Cronin from rugbyshirts.net thinks Quade Cooper’s latest whinge helps put the “twit” in Twitter…

LR-QUADE_COOPER_GWE-461

Wow! I simply could not resist biting when I heard of Quade Cooper’s comments about the ‘toxic environment’ in the Wallabies, and how much he hated losing to the All Blacks.

Posting on Twitter (an appropriately named forum for this twit), Cooper bemoaned the Wallabies’ conservative tactics, claiming he was only able to express himself on the pitch when playing in the Queensland Reds’ side, and that Australia would continue to suffer defeat at the hands of the New Zealanders unless their current tactics changed.

I couldn’t disagree with him more.

Cooper would prefer a less structured style of play because it suits him personally. He possesses all the skills that a good Touch Rugby player does, and on his day can be quite brilliant. But when it’s not his day he can be shocking, and by putting all their eggs in the basket labelled ‘flamboyant’ the Wallabies put themselves completely at the mercy of Cooper’s mood and his form on the day.

For years the All Blacks have shown the world that you don’t need to be one or the other. You can pride yourself on your attacking ability and name players with flair in your side, but at the same time you can be accurate and precise, playing for position when appropriate and taking the points when presented with the opportunity.

Great Wallabies’ teams of recent-history, with legendary players who wore the Australian jersey with pride, like Michael Lynagh, Nick-Farr Jones, Tim Horan and Jason Little subscribed to a similar theory. All those players were skilful and exciting, but they also understood the need to graft first; to gain field position, to wear the opposition down, and to create the right opportunities to show their full range of skills, rather than a blanket approach to run the ball from anywhere on the park.

There’s plenty of fire-power in Australian rugby at the moment. Players like James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Digby Ione are all blessed with the full gambit of skills. But that doesn’t mean that throwing caution to the wind and giving these guys free range to play however they feel like playing on the day is the way to beat the All Blacks.

The Wallabies need to sharpen up on some basic fundamentals of the game. Their set-piece needs to improve, and they need to get considerably better at getting out of their own half. Sure, once you’re in the opposition’s 22, players like Cooper should be encouraged to ‘have a crack’. But quality international sides defend too well these days, and a game plan that too heavily revolves around individual skill will be picked apart time and time again by not only the All Blacks, but the South Africans, the Argentinians, the English, Welsh, Irish and French as well.

His bleating about the environment frustrated me too. I accept that the buck needs to stop with someone, and that in most circumstances that someone is the coach. It’s quite obvious that Robbie Deans hasn’t gelled with Australia Rugby, but there comes a point where a coach can’t do anything more if the players aren’t committed enough, dedicated enough, and professional enough to get on board.

A coach could have the best team building ideas ever. He could be as open-minded as any coach ever has been; willing to accept feedback and input from his players, and determined to build a great environment. But if his team won’t play ball none of that counts for anything.

When players start to speak out like Cooper has the effect is more often than not devastating to team culture and cohesion. Even if only one of two players are dreadfully disconcerted, others soon start to buy in to it when they hear constant chatter in the sheds, or in this case, the media.

Regardless of whether or not Deans is the coach moving forward, the players need to man-up, realise they are the ones who have the ability to put the results on the board, and understand that they are professionals – rugby is their job; you might not always like your boss, but sometimes you’ve got to bite your tongue, buy-in to what they’re trying to achieve, and get on with the job.

As for Cooper himself? No matter how good he is on his day, the fact is that those days are relatively infrequent, and I think his poisonous attitude probably does more harm than his ‘flair’ does good. If he does end up going to league, as he has threatened/intimated, Aussie Rugby might just find it turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Tim Cronin is a Rugby fan and full time writer based in the rubble of the Canterbury Crusaders’ home town, Christchurch. Tim is a part of the Pukeko Sportsteam, where his role is watching, writing, and complaining about all things rugby.

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