The biggest challenge facing Robbie Deans ahead of the Lions tour is to accommodate his brilliant mavericks within a team ethic. My hunch is that he can’t do it. There are just too many ‘characters’ to make it work. Deans will have to choose the ones who can make the biggest difference and leave the others out.
A number of the current Aussies like to be seen. Quade Cooper posted an image of himself, James O’Connor, Digby Ioane and Kurtley Beale hanging around in gangster poses on a Melbourne rooftop. These guys want to be stars and Deans wants them to be part of a team.
It is a dilemma for any coach. Ewen McKenzie recently decided enough was enough and stood Ioane down. It was a decision based on the team ethic, setting an example to younger players and respecting the Reds standing in the community. A coach sets values and players have to understand what is unacceptable.
When a coach selects a team, 10% will do the right thing regardless of the environment. 80% are affected by all the things that go on around them. And 10%, the hard ones, the ratbags, aren’t affected by anything or anyone. But that doesn’t mean they are automatically on the outside.
In the 2000/2001 Brumbies we had a player called Andrew Walker. He was a winger and our top try scorer and I changed the team environment to accommodate him. We let his wife come with us to South Africa. The players accepted the special conditions because he gave the team so much. Lote Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor could also be troublesome, but also made a difference.
You need characters. Not everyone can be squeaky clean. But the best footie is about consistency. Players have to be 7/10 every week. Their off field preparation needs to be solid. The player has to help the team. Danny Cipriani is one who obviously fell short of that standard.
You look at the current Brumbies and their success is being built on a team ethic. Jake White had it with South Africa where he had an outstanding captain and a coterie of five or six players who were consistent in what they said and how they behaved.
It becomes hard for players not to follow that ethic. If people come from outside and don’t meet the standard, then the onus is on them to change. The Brumbies have a strong captain in Ben Mowen – or a fit David Pocock – a strong influence with Stephen Moore and the stability of their midfield.
When Deans looks to select his Australia team to face the Lions he will be preoccupied by the team ethic, as he has been for a couple of years. He will have to decide between Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale and then leave the other out of the squad. Can he accommodate both O’Connor and Ioane. These are difficult questions.
This would be my team to face the Lions, provided the likes of Ioane and O’Connor are willing to commit to the standards set by the leaders of the squad. Mogg, O’Connor, Ashley-Cooper, Leafanu, Ioane, Quade Cooper, Genia (captain), Alexander, Moore, Palmer, Douglas, Horwill, Smith, Palu, Hooper.
Can all of the Wallabies’ mavericks be accommodated in the side? Comments below…