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Thread: Morgan Turinui: Australian rugby faces its moment of truth but the people can restore

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    Morgan Turinui: Australian rugby faces its moment of truth but the people can restore

    By Morgan Turinui
    5 hours ago

    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... I come to praise rugby not to bury it.

    The second coming of Eddie Jones is over and many are asking, how did we come to this?

    The fall has been quick and devastating for those of us who care about the Wallabies. Like the pulling back of the curtain on the all powerful Oz. But there's been a fair bit said and written about the ignominy of 2023, and how we got here.


    I profess myself biased and culpable. Eddie coached me and was a significant figure in my early adult years. I learned life lessons that have helped me throughout the ensuing years and he, and the environment he created, made me a better player.

    At the time of his appointment, while I publicly stated I'd have been happy to see Dave Rennie take the Wallabies to the Rugby World Cup and finish the cycle he had built, I understood the logic. I helped sell it in my role as a broadcaster.

    At that time, Rugby Australia had a plan, for the first time in a long time, a succession plan.

    Rennie to the World Cup and Eddie after.

    Looking at it even from where we are now it was a sound plan.

    Bringing home the most experienced and qualified international level coach Australia had in the world of rugby.

    Then, last November, England lost to South Africa and were booed off the Twickenham pitch. As we have learned in recent weeks things can move quickly once momentum starts and suddenly Eddie was gone and, critically, available.

    I wonder now what the world would have been like if England had put a non-compete into his release.


    When Eddie showed interest in starting immediately, chairman Hamish McLennan, CEO Andy Marinos and the RA board had a problem. Could they risk losing the prodigal son? In what has been presented as a unanimous decision, the board decided to act.

    Rennie is a footy guy, a fine man and a fine coach. Happiest on the field moulding play and players. But at that time his win percentage, in the 30s, left him vulnerable.

    With Daniel Herbert and Phil Waugh on the high performance committee, the board knew that Eddie could be difficult to deal with, impossible to control and relentless in his pursuit of the resources he felt he needed to get the job done.

    I know him as insightful, innovative, precise, organised, indefatigable, hilarious, domineering, brilliant, demanding, uncontrollable, smart, mischievous and unpredictable. A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

    The appointment was lauded everywhere. Even by, perhaps especially by, all of us who knew the intense environment he would bring and bloody minded way he would go about it. I thought, perhaps still do, that's what the Wallabies needed.

    So I helped sell it and justify it and explained the logic of every decision all the way through.


    Remember those first five months? He got off the plane and headed straight to the Sydney Sevens. Typical smart, hardworking Eddie. My colleague Sean Maloney interviewed him pitch side.

    He got a rockstar welcome from the crowd when he was put up on the big screen. I didn't get it, it was just Eddie.

    He had become a symbol of hope for the future of our game. A good World Cup draw gave birth to the 'smash and grab'. A golden decade to come on its heels and everywhere he went during Super Rugby he was met with adulation.

    His most prophetic utterance of them all was something like "let's see if they're still cheering once we've played a game."

    He certainly was 'Eddie Everywhere.'

    Saying yes to everything and everyone in selling the game, talking up the game, bringing Wallabies fans in and selling the dream.


    The reality we know and perhaps that's why it's hurt so much, because we believed, we wanted to believe, it made the fall even harder. It has also been hard to swallow the attempt to push the narrative back to blaming the system. Yes, the system is flawed but 2023 has been full of mistakes and wasted opportunities.

    With Eddie the great things have usually outweighed the bad. An organised, smart, hardworking environment that gets the best out of a group by forging them through fire. This year the Wallabies environment didn't look settled, his dealing with the media descended into farce and disrespect.

    The risky selection calls backfired once first Alan Alaalatoa for the whole World Cup, and then Tate McDermott, Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou for the crucial Fiji game were unavailable. A mix of experience could quite simply have been the difference against an excellent and deserving Fiji. We just didn't get the best of him.

    And what about McLennan?

    Some of the smartest people I know have told me he should resign. When I ask why, I hear because that's what accountability is.

    He appointed Eddie. Sure did. 'Captains pick'. Not quite. He and the board pulled the trigger on a completely justifiable and in the end poor appointment. I supported it, many did. If Eddie was a cardinal, he'd have attained the papacy through adoration and acclamation. But it must be acknowledged that looking back with the 20/20 vision of hindsight it was the wrong decision.


    It's worth revisiting, accurately, McLennan's arrival and time as chair.

    Named chair-elect when replacing Peter Wiggs on the board in May 2020, the world, and governance of Australian rugby, was in chaos.

    Raelene Castle and Cameron Clyne had departed and two fine men in Paul McLean and Rob Clarke were interim stewards. It was thought that Wiggs would lead the game but he lasted six weeks and so they pleaded with McLennan to take the reins. No else wanted it.

    There was no broadcast deal and no rugby. Super Rugby AU was an idea, no one knew if it could whet the appetite of a broadcaster or even be able to go ahead in the Covid shutdown world.

    Quite simply, McLennan, the board and RA senior executives and the state unions did a great job.

    Rugby had no cash reserves, so the Nine/Stan broadcast deal, the Queensland Reds run to the Super Rugby AU title, the players' sacrifice to be separated from families, keep playing on reduced salaries (like the rest of the population) and the negotiated loan from World Rugby were all crucial in keeping the game going.

    The World Cup bids. Australia will host the men's and women's World Cups in 2027 and 2029 respectively. Don't underestimate this.

    Winning the rights to host is the most significant event in the history of Australian rugby with the possible exception of the arrival of professionalism.

    Without this there is no true sustainable path forward for the game. It is the injection of funds and reach the game simply must have.

    When combined with the Lions tour of 2025, the projected eight, possibly nine, figure Australian rugby share of revenue is the last great opportunity for the code in Australia. For example, World Rugby's projected profit for the 2023 World Cup of 450 million euros is expected to be surpassed, as is the $2.5 billion estimated injection into the French economy.

    Make no mistake, McLennan was the driving force behind it. There was a great bid team, every RA staff member pushed hard.

    Classic Wallabies and Wallaroos ran over 70 free kids clinics in every state and territory in the lead up to the bid decision to showcase the sport but McLennan was the one obsessively demanding excellence and results.

    Much has been made of McLennan and Waugh being in France at the back end of the World Cup even though the Wallabies were out. Let's be clear, this is exactly where they needed to be.

    I'm reliably informed from the World Rugby side that they fund the accommodation and costs for key figures of each country's union for the meetings that are held during the World Cup finals. I'd assume McLennan would be one of them.

    Even without that, a World Cup, and especially the last two weeks of this one, is where the future of our game has been shaped. At this World Cup perhaps more than ever, the backroom lobbying was absolutely crucial. The World Rugby councils' announcements around the 2027 World Cup were wins for Australia.

    Increasing from 20 to 24 teams means more travellers arriving to support their team. Pushing back the tournament two weeks gives absolute clear air for the sport as AFL and NRL will be finished for the year for the bulk of the tournament.

    Other announcements regarding the Nations Cup were also hugely positive through an Australian lens.

    The Nations Cup is designed to be the end of 'B team' tours in July. Those Tests will be against three different full strength Six Nations teams who will need to come out here with ambition to accrue points in that championship.

    The strengthening of regulation nine, which pertains to the availability of players for international duties, should aid that.

    The evolution of the international game is of course not moving quick enough for the 'tier two' nations and Australia has a responsibility to aid and advocate.

    But if looking at it selfishly, every single announcement was a positive for Australian rugby. That doesn't happen without presence and lobbying.

    The other thing happening at the same time in France was state governments lobbying World Rugby to host World Cup matches in 2027 and 2029. This is of course big business for the states and absolutely crucial for RA to maximise revenue and foster relationships with state tourism bodies.

    Australian rugby needed its advocates in the halls of power as the game was being shaped for years to come. All feedback I've received has been that World Rugby has had their view reaffirmed: that Australia can once again be trusted Word Cup hosts.

    I don't always enjoy the way Hamish has fired away in the media but it has been refreshing to have someone punching away for our code.

    We've often just sat quietly and copped it from all sides.

    This approach was at the other end of the spectrum to what we saw from Clyne.

    Not being able to back it up on the field takes the wind out of it and as a person who enjoys rugby league and admires the work Peter V'landys and his team has done with the NRL, I don't think we needed to be at war with each other.


    I would think the way forward for McLennan as chairman is to allow Waugh as CEO to be the visible leader and to go back to what you would think is his preferred role as an influential powerbroker in the background. He is perhaps rugby's Winston Churchill, a war time Prime Minister who now can play a key role in what must be peaceful negotiations for the future.

    I said at the beginning I come to praise rugby. This is what I mean.

    This is a brilliant game full of passionate people who carry the values of the game on their shoulders and show their love of it in their contributions. In running the Classic Wallabies community programs right around the country, in the privileged position I have to travel around as a broadcaster and in running the rugby program at my own beloved Randwick club, I see perhaps more than most the breadth of our game at all levels.

    Our sport is robust, it needs to be and it is carried along by its amazing people. The Southern Lions All Abilities program in Western Australia. The absolute guns in the Australian women's sevens team.

    Volunteer referees and ground marshals. Junior club presidents and committees. Old boys and girls that go back and help out their schools. Passionate rugby teachers who introduce rugby to schools that have never tried it before.

    Camden Rugby Club who've been running their off season academy to keep kids in the game. Andrew Fraser and his Rugby Palooza. Nudgee College and their youth rugby coaches forum. These Wallaroos and their best ever win against France last week.

    Sarah Stone and her work in promoting girls rugby in Victoria. RA employees, they work above and beyond at every turn. Working there is more vocation than employment. They work extra hours because they love the game and often do everything they do without adequate funding or manpower.

    They've helped sell out stadiums in the last two years and have no control over on field performances. The Wallabies fans who spent thousands of dollars to travel to a World Cup and proudly wore their gold even though the wallabies were out before they even arrived.

    My aforementioned colleagues, the Classics. From Hall of Fame Wallabies and Wallaroos to uncapped Wallabies tourists and international sevens representatives, they continually put their hand up to give back to the game they love all around the country. If they can help they do. Heck, if you need help wherever you are with your clubs or schools here's my email: .

    We'll try and get out there to help you.

    So many people contributing to our game and yes we need to get better at the top. You know how it's going to be done? Coaching and collaborating.

    We're going to coach our way back. I'd be getting Laurie Fisher and Scott Wisemantel and sending them around the country coaching core skills to every player they can get in front of and coaching every coach how to do the same.

    While you're at it get Fisher and Wisemantel part of the coaching of our junior rep teams.

    Catch and pass, breakdown technique, tackle technique, running lines, kicking skills. Let's get brilliant at the basics, and then coaches, go and innovate. Try things. Don't all play the same way at junior and community level, have some fun with it.

    But do it with quality core skills.

    Bring back our coaching IP. Simon Raiwalui, Toutai Kefu, bring them home and stick them in environments. Next Wallabies coach - the best candidate no matter what their nationality.

    Centralisation, alignment, collaboration. I'm not interested in the semantics.

    What is great is that all five Super Rugby teams have signed on to the centralised high performance model. If you look at the five coaches, they're all quality men open to sharing ideas and I know a lot of that is already happening behind the scenes.

    There's hesitation and questioning from some quarters. Good. The way forward should be questioned. If we can convince someone of the standing of former Wallabies team manager and current Brumbies CEO Phil Thomson of the benefits of the different layers of greater realignment then we must be on the right track.

    Our young, quality, school leaving backs who Super teams may be tempted to warehouse should have the opportunity to go into the sevens program. They're just not ready for Super and they'll come out with great core skills, improved athletically and matured by travel, playing when not 100 per cent and backing up for multiple games in a day and days in a row.

    Our women's sevens post the 2024 Paris Olympics should play 15s as well.

    I began this piece with the opening lines to Marc Antony's eulogy for Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play. But this is not an article about the death of Australian rugby. Far from it. This is about us standing on the banks of a river.

    When the grieving process is over, it's time to put down our pitchforks, pick back up our ball bags and cones, whistles and clipboards, because the river in front of us is our Rubicon.

    Right now is the time to cross it. We've been humbled, but the way forward has never been clearer and the river must be crossed together.

    However, if you want to use this moment to shore up your own little patch of power or for self advancement, a word of warning: now as never before we will see your true colours.

    We've taken our first steps into the water.

    Alea iacta estÖ the die is cast.

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  2. #2
    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Coincedence? Turinui in hyperbolic Humphrey Appleby mode sayse trust the people who ran the ship aground because they did some good things along the way. Things that don't directly win Test Matches. And from the same hymn sheet Cully pens a pay walled blurb saying pretty much the same. More power to Waugh and follow Ben Darwin's cohesion anylitics because the Kiwis do and especially the Saders.
    Obviously sound reasoning as the development structures are identical. Right?
    Doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see which road that ends up going down.
    Can't cut n paste the Cully piece as I'm not home with a desktop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shasta View Post
    Doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see which road that ends up going down.
    Can't cut n paste the Cully piece as I'm not home with a desktop.
    Have never had much time for Cully. Point one of his seven point plan barely lasted 12 hours ... Predictably still wants an Aussie team axed ...

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    Anyway, here it is:

    Australian rugby can be great again Ö hereís seven things it must do

    Paul Cully
    November 4, 2023 ó 5.00am

    Changes to Australian rugby are badly needed - and theyíve already started. Here are seven ways the sport can climb back off the canvas.

    1. Hire Dan McKellar

    The Wallabiesí underperformance at the Rugby World Cup is a different issue from the ďsystemĒ issues that exist in Australia. Theyíll take longer to sort out but hiring the best coach is clearly the first step to getting the Wallabies back on their feet. McKellar, who has just started the English Premiership season with Leicester, would take a bit of persuading to return.

    Barbarians co-coach Eddie Jones takes another swing at Australia after quitting on the Wallabies.

    Letís be fair dinkum about this - heís coaching Handre Pollard, Jasper Wiese, Juan Montoya, Freddie Steward and others at one of the traditional powerhouses of European rugby: itís not easy to walk away from that into a dumpster fire. And, even if he does want to return, itíll cost Rugby Australia, whose ďno payoutĒ line about Eddie Jones rings a little hollow given that they had to pay out Dave Rennie on top of any McKellar release fee.

    But, McKellar is the man for the job because he understands what actually works in modern rugby. While Eddie Jones is trying to reinvent the game, McKellar pays homage to its fundamentals: set-piece and defence. If itís not McKellar, then Ian Foster becomes an option - if he can persuade his mate Joe Schmidt and possibly Tony Brown to come with him.

    Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh.Credit: James Brickwood

    2. Listen to the outside voices who arenít nodding dogs

    Former Wallaby Ben Darwin is highly respected in New Zealand for his work on cohesion analytics but seems to struggle to get a hearing at Rugby Australia. The Crusaders swear by Darwin, and the Herald understands that New Zealand Rugby has also been very open-minded to his ideas around what makes a successful sports team.

    Rugby Australia doesnít need to implement every little thing Darwin says, but they do need to listen to him - especially as he will tell them things they donít want to hear. Any credible organisation must be prepared to put their hands up and admit they donít have all the answers - and there are also analytical firms in the UK - similar to Darwinís crew - who are sitting on a trove of data that will tell Rugby Australia where the issues are.

    3. Ditch the NRL Ďhitlistí

    Roll it up in a ball, throw it in the bin, douse the lot in petrol, set it on fire and throw it off a cliff. Thatís the only way to deal with the whole business of league recruits. In any case, the entire pitch has been wrong. Rugby Australia should be telling NRL players they would be safer taking the money in a domestic competition, playing against blokes of similar attributes, rather than actually challenging themselves against the big South Africans or best New Zealanders.

    Rugby-bound Roosters star Joseph Suaalii.Credit: Getty

    That would light a fire in any of them brave enough to switch. Otherwise, forget about rugby league and put your time and money into the Jack Barretts and Massimo de Lutiisí of this world.

    4. Empower Phil Waugh

    Whether Hamish McLennan stays as chairman or not would appear to depend on whether he is prepared to take more of a backseat role. He canít be near any high-performance decisions after the sacking of Dave Rennie and the hiring of Eddie Jones months out from a Rugby World Cup, but the board must also now decide whether sponsors, broadcasters, state government allies, prospective Wallabies coaches, the Super Rugby clubs and so on feel McLennan is part of the solution or an impediment to moving forward.

    Waugh has been thrown into the fire in his first months in the job and is in an incredibly difficult situation, but he has shown signs that he can grow into a capable CEO and effective operator behind the scenes. He has to be the boss from now on.

    Waratahs star Jed Holloway runs through a tunnel with juniors cheering on.Credit: Getty

    5. Play more games of rugby

    Itís hard to find consensus in Australian rugby, but you can bet the house on the fact that no coach or player believes that they are getting enough rugby at the moment. Super Rugby Pacific is a relatively short competition, so unless you are involved with the Wallabies you arenít being challenged for the second half of the year.

    Former Force chief executive Tony Lewis implored Rugby Australia to start up a ďthird tierĒ competition, although the current financial realities make that a long shot. Yet, with plenty of already contracted Super Rugby players effectively sitting idle for six months there has to be a creative solution.

    6. Widen the base

    There are two ways of doing this: cutting the number of Super Rugby teams or expanding the competitions underneath Super Rugby in a meaningful way. It should be extremely hard to get a Super Rugby contract in Australia, and yet the brutal reality is that every year there are players in each Australian squad who are no more than NPC-standard operators.

    Cutting teams would be painful, but there canít simply be an open-ended commitment to the five-team Super Rugby model if there are neither the players nor commercial benefits to justify it. Well after the establishment of the Force and Rebels, the Australian under-18 and under-20 sides continue to be heavily stocked by NSW and Queensland talent. Incidentally, the same logic should apply to Moana Pasifika - this isnít simply an Australian issue, itís a competition issue.

    7. Make Super Rugby credible again

    Heading into its third year, the ĎLí plates have to come off - the eight-team finals format in a 12-team competition isnít working. There isnít the remotest chance that the team that finishes No.7 or No.8 is going to win the competition, so participation in the finals series is an achievement badge they donít deserve.

    Thereís no way that a pitbull like Waugh, who was an absolute competitor in his playing days, would deep down back the current format, with clubs being able to dine out on ďmaking the finalsĒ when they didnít earn it like in the old Super Rugby formats. Itís a cop-out, and if it remains then Super Rugby will breed players who take shortcuts.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shasta View Post
    Coincedence? Turinui in hyperbolic Humphrey Appleby mode sayse trust the people who ran the ship aground because they did some good things along the way. Things that don't directly win Test Matches. And from the same hymn sheet Cully pens a pay walled blurb saying pretty much the same. More power to Waugh and follow Ben Darwin's cohesion anylitics because the Kiwis do and especially the Saders.Obviously sound reasoning as the development structures are identical. Right? Doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to see which road that ends up going down.Can't cut n paste the Cully piece as I'm not home with a desktop.
    Turinuis logic is flawless"I was wrong to talk up my good mate and respected role model Eddie Jones, he performed badly and made some unexplainable decisions. Now listen carefully while I talk up my good mate and respected role model Hamish McLennan because HIS porr performance and unexplainable decisions will save Aussie rugby" 🤔

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    C'mon the

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    It appears Paul Cully is setting up his run for the useless flog world championships.

    In one article he's managed to support playing more rugby and cutting teams which will guarantee that 80 Australian players will play less rugby.


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