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Thread: Wallabies poor but Deans safe

  1. #1
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    travelling_gerry's Avatar
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    Feb 2006
    Perth, Western Australia, Australia

    Wallabies poor but Deans safe

    Safe for now ... John O'Neill says that Robbie Deans will not be sacked as coach of the Wallabies despite the team performing poorly in 2009.Photograph: Amos Aikman Source: The Sunday Telegraph

    TWO years ago, Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill was considered the best sports administrator in the country; now he's a man under fire.

    As tired and frustrated rugby fans turn away from the Wallabies and the game, O'Neill invited The Sunday Telegraph's David Riccio inside the ARU bunker last Friday.

    He admitted the game had gone backwards over the past 12 months.O'Neill also said Robbie Deans' strike rate as coach of the Wallabies was not good enough and explained the reasoning behind a full review and how he intends to pull rugby out of the mire.

    ST: In the 2007 ARU annual report you said: "Change was not only desirable but necessary. On and off the field the business was failing to deliver the success required and expected." What has changed since then?
    O'Neill: Progress has been slow. Those observations, coming back into the game after an absence of three or four years, is like any other business experience. It's not that hard to identify the problems. But the execution of the strategies to fix those problems is the hard part. We're two years down the track and we've really had mixed results ... if the Wallabies are winning 85 per cent, as we did between 1998 and 2002, everyone feels good about themselves.

    ST: So winning matches will lift Australian rugby out of the mire?
    O'Neill: Well, winning and playing attractive rugby. The nature of this market is that winning isn't a very high expectation. If you win in style it's a bonus.

    ST: So since you've come back to the ARU from the FFA has there been any improvement? Or has rugby gone backwards?
    O'Neill: In 2008, there was definitive improvement. We went from a ranking of sixth in the world and by the end of 2008 we were ranked third. We had the highest average crowds for Test matches since 2003. The loss in 2007 was about $8 million and we turned that around with a $9 million turnaround in 2008. We shut the door on 2008 feeling like progress had been made but with the blooding of a lot of new young players, 2009 has been a backward step. In 2009, we've remained financially stable, but the on-field performance at Super 14 and at a Wallabies level hasn't been what it should be.

    ST: In that annual report you declared we had not been delivering on the objective of a 75-80 per cent win-loss ratio, but Deans has a 35 per cent winning ratio this year.
    O'Neill: Overall it's more like 55 per cent, but that's still way off the mark. There's no point gilding the lily. We've played the All Blacks eight times in two years and we've won one, so seven of those losses are to the All Blacks. We've beaten everyone else ... and on this tour a draw with Ireland and a loss to Scotland. The aspiration is 75 to 80 per cent, so when you're not hitting that mark or accumulating the trophies, our objective is to win the Bledisloe and the Tri Nations.

    ST: So at what point does his position become untenable?
    O'Neill: Look, there's no definitive point. You can't go bang, on such and such a date. Robbie has signed up through to the World Cup. The apportion of blame is a very inexact science. Great coaches, in my experience in two sports, happen to be around coaching great teams and you've got to have the cattle. We've got to be demanding yet be patient. We haven't performed to our ability or expectations, but I'm convinced we will and 2010 will be the start of the turnaround.

    ST: Fans ask why an Australian coach couldn't do a better job.
    O'Neill: That was the decision of the board at the time to appoint the best person for the job. Deans was rated the best coach in world rugby. He had Jack Gibson-like credentials. You don't suddenly become a bad coach. Clearly the bloke can coach and he's still the best man for the job.

    ST: If he's so safe, what's the purpose of the review?
    O'Neill: Well, it's not just a review of the coach - and the review was always going to happen. At the last board meeting of every year, the board reviews the whole year. Every aspect of the business, including the performance of the Wallabies. Undoubtedly, the performance on this tour and the Tri Nations means the review has increased emphasis. But the emphasis is across the board. The review needs to be done, it was always going to be done, and it will be done very thoroughly.

    ST: There have been suggestions that you shouldn't be involved in that review process.
    O'Neill: Inevitably I'm involved because David Nucifora and Robbie Deans report to me and I'm a member of the board. David chairs the review, not me. But it's ludicrous to think that I'm not ultimately part of the board that receives the review.

    ST: So would you rate your return to rugby successful?
    O'Neill: I'm in for the long haul - two years into it and with two and a half to go. I think those judgments of whether I've done a good, bad or indifferent job are to be taken by others at that time.

    ST: It'll only be up until that time?
    O'Neill: I'm contracted until June 2012. I'm not getting any younger.

    ST: Is this the toughest job in Australian sport?
    O'Neill: They're all pretty tough. I'm good friends with David Gallop and some days I phone him when he's had to appear without notice and you shake your head at some of the things that David has had to deal with. There's the AFL, given the sheer size and complexity of it, and James Sutherland at Cricket Australia. Ben Buckley at the FFA is another one. This isn't a walk in the park, (but) I'm passionate about rugby and it's a job worth doing.

    ST: Is attracting rugby league players still an interest and where does Mark Gasnier fit?
    O'Neill: Mark's now a rugby union player so I would put him in a different category, but certainly he's a wonderful talent. And if he comes back and plays Super rugby that would be good to see. We don't have a hit list of league players, it's a more benign approach these days. We're not out there trying to buy Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Johnathan Thurston, as attractive as some of them may be.

    ST: Is the AFL's new franchise, GWS, a threat to the ARU?
    O'Neill: I don't think there should be too much leaping and gnashing our teeth. The Swans took an eternity to get traction and had a lot of false dawns and I expect the GWS will, too. The AFL is the gorilla in the room, they've got a lot of dough, a lot of profile and it promotes itself well. But they've got to be careful they don't overstretch in Sydney.

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  2. #2
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    Burgs's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    Country WA
    So, no blame at the Boss's feet, nice one JO'N, must be nice making the rules.

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