Dear players and coaches,
Whilst you may think of me as a traitor who defected to the other side coaching the Poms against you last year, I am still and always will be a devoted Australian Rugby fan through and through.
Like many other Aussies, I desperately want to see the game of rugby union grow and live up to the potential our players have in them against the best in the world.
I did state on too many occasions last year, although I wasn’t the only one, that when the Wallabies were playing their skills were average in most facets of the game.
I’m sure Mr Cheika would like the basics of the game done well but I don’t think it should be up to him to get these skills up to speed as he hasn’t got the players for months at a time like our Super franchises do.
So before the start of the 2017 Super Rugby season I’d like to propose something simple:
Catch and pass under pressure. Run into space and call the ball. Kick only when necessary and do it with some accuracy. Compete at the breakdown. Tackle the man with the ball. And do all the other silly stuff forwards do.
I’m sure you’ll agree that if we can get these basics right we will compete with our Kiwi mates and have no problems against the Japanese, South Africans and Argentinians.
2016 was a glitch, a hiccup, a once in a ten-year occurrence where we were totally demoralised by our friendly Kiwi neighbours.
So is 2017 going to be any different?
This year, the Reds and Force both have new coaches so change for you is inevitable.
The Waratahs, Brumbies and Rebels now have well established coaches and support staff along with strong player rosters so you should definitely be showing strong improvement.
I acknowledge it will take at least half a dozen games for some of you to sort out your best combinations but I’m sure you can get there.
Now some specific messages.
ATTN: QLD REDS
You’ve definitely looked to have had the best offseason in terms of recruitment.
It’s great to see some big names coming back into the mix like Quade Cooper, George Smith, Scott Higginbotham, Leroy Houston and Wallaby captain Stephen Moore.
I’m not surprised if you’re feeling the pressure to perform as you’re starting to look like the team that won the Super Rugby Championship in 2011, minus the great Will Genia.
Nick Stiles, I know you were a frustrated five-eight whilst playing prop for the Eddie Jones Wallaby teams in the early 2000’s but you have a talented team here that should work well together and not cause you too much more frustration.
ATTN: NSW WARATAHS
You have been quiet in your build up this year.
Daryl Gibson, it’s good to see you’re going about business as normal and exuding confidence without shouting it out.
In your second year as head coach, much is expected this year from your team.
How and where you play Israel Folau will be crucial to your team’s success.
Bernard Foley, after a poor 2016 you need to ensure that you’re getting the ball into space as much as possible to create some opportunities.
Michael Hooper, we all know you will always lead by example and it’s up to the rest of your teammates to support you as you are only human.
ATTN: ACT BRUMBIES
Stephen Larkham, I know you’re feeling under the pump again to perform and you’re already behind the eight ball.
You’ve got limited ball players. Stephen Moore has gone home to Queensland and there’s been some well documented illnesses and injuries that will really test your coaching ability.
Were you really considering our old mate Andrew Walker as a possible option?
Nothing against Walks but I am sure there must be better alternatives out there.
This year I would like to see your team’s flare for having a go instead of watching rolling mauls.
I know they’re worth the same in terms of points, but the Wallaby attack coach should be a bit more inventive, especially if this is going to be your last year before committing to the Wallabies on a full time basis leading up to the 2019 RWC.
ATTN: REBELS AND FORCE
As much as it pains me to say I don’t have high expectations on either of you featuring towards the end of the year.
I’d be extremely happy to be proven wrong as you have some very good players in your rosters, but I just don’t think you have enough to get there.
For the Rebels, it will be interesting to see how Melbourne Storm recruit Marika Koroibete goes. Like with his fellow rugby league convert Israel Folau, you need to get the ball in his hands.
My old Randwick mate Morgan Turinui, having you looking after the Rebels backs, I’m sure you’ll be looking at opportunities to inject the fastest player in all our franchises into the game as much as possible.
Reece Hodge, Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty, it’s important from a Wallaby perspective that you continue to play well no matter how your team is going.
So in summary,
I hope that I and other rugby scribes are not continually bagging you all out this year for simple things that can be fixed through hard work, thoughtfulness and solid coaching principles.
Us Australian fans deserve better. Australian Rugby deserves better.
- Glen Ella, exclusively for Sportsta.