A few days ago, I was cleaning out my books in readiness for a garage sale, because we are moving and downsizing to live in an apartment.
One or both of my knees are shot and I need at least one, if not two, replacements. Stairs are about to be a thing of the past, at least for a while.
The point of that is you have to watch your wife like a hawk, or she’ll innocently throw out all your sacred rugby, cricket, golf and other prized books.
I came across Simon Poidevin’s book, For Love, Not Money – powerful, that! It neatly encapsulates what is different about today’s Wallabies from those of only just 20-30 years ago.
I immediately knew this is the current theme that is exercising our thoughts.
How to make Australian Rugby great again and climb up the rankings.
The problem now is climbing up the rankings will be like climbing a greasy pole – it ain’t going to be easy.
We are not going to sweep all before us, we are down at no.7 and that may be where we belong, for a while – heaven forbid!
I’m a bit lazy (not an esteemed journo, like Lordy or Brett) so I’m not going to do the research that this treatise deserves.
Instead, I’m just going to guess that in a typical Wallabies team of the 1970’s or 80’s you would have had a mix of; doctors or medical students, lawyers or law students, engineers, architects, labourers, public servants, a few tradies or apprentices, a policeman or two, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker!
Whatever, but most would have had a career pathway ahead of them, outside of Rugby.
These days it would be professional rugby player times 22, withh one or two doing a part time University degree, and at what universities?
Now I’m not being a snob, but how many Wallabies, or Brumbies, or Waratahs, or Rebels or Reds or Force players would be attending a mainstream university undertaking a mainstream degree? A small percentage at best.
The advent of professionalism probably spelt the death knell for most blokes who wanted to follow a profession or calling, outside of rugby.
Remember Steve Merrick? Her played one or two Tests and then decided the significant investment in his coal truck was more of a priority than playing professional rugby – which was just in its infancy.
He was the first of the professional era to publicly make that choice, but no doubt many promising rugby careers never got off the ground to start with in the amateur days because blokes knew they were making the right decision for them and their families not to pursue Rugby.
These days, the powerhouse schools of Australian rugby are offering rugby scholarships and all that, but are they really sending those lads on to meaningful tertiary education?
I really don’t know and maybe someone in the schools organisation can enlighten, but I suspect those kids are just being channelled into the system, the gyms, the training paddocks and the playing fields and not really being prepared for the lives that their predecessors experienced. They’d have high-priced managers, looking at their best options, such whether they stay with rugby or go to league, or whether they stay in Australia or play in Europe or Japan.
Talk about pathways!
Professional rugby is also a calling, and you can only follow one or the other. How many professionals, or students, do you see in rugby these days?
Maybe one or two, a medical student, or a law student here or there. Yes, I know the franchises encourage their guys to get degrees, but do they really? Do they really care?
So what is my point?
I stopped coaching adults in the early 2000’s – a couple of years with littlies, but that was it for me.
Back in my day, we took a team of blokes, mostly private or at least good schools, and they were pretty much capable of thinking on their feet.
We made them do drills at training and, while they complained, if we explained why they were doing them, they bought into it, because by and large they were above-average intelligent individuals.
The standard of the rugby was high, even in the lower grades, because, as a coach, you could expect your team to think their way through a game, and you usually had five or six natural leaders on the paddock.
So, there has been a fair gap in years since I last coached and, these days, I am just an innocent bystander like everyone else. I’m like all of us Roarers who are asking what has happened, what has gone wrong, why have our standards dipped and why is there not a coherent coaching system?
Back in the 70’s when we were in crisis, the Australian Rugby Union stepped up and appointed the esteemed Dick Marks to head the National Coaching Panel and we got a system in place.
Who remembers that book with the green and gold stripes on the front cover?
The exercise of cleaning out my bookcase last weekend resulted in triumph because I found my copy, heavily thumbed through and a bit dog-eared (thought I had lost it) – and I will never part with it.
It reminds me that there was a time when Australian Rugby was in crisis and great people stepped up and did something about it – I really hope it can happen again.
So, please don’t ask me if you can borrow it. Take my ladder, my power saw, my kids, but not the book!