Test Driving the Next Wallabies Coach

John Connolly is the smartest man in the world. By agreeing to coach the Wallabies only until the end of the World Cup there are only two possibilities. Either he retires, reputation enhanced, richer in wallet and stature, the genius that turned the team around. Or the Wallaby dream is shattered, team and administration bickering and long-in-tooth, a task too big to hurdle, Connolly enjoying the view from his retirement couch where he came from in the first place.

For Connolly’s successor, World Cup success could be a nightmare. Old players may not retire, new players clamouring for more money, incessant demands from sponsors, broadcasters and an adoring public, no chance to stamp one’s authority and build a team to match your plans. But let’s face it, that’s not looking likely, no matter how much the All Blacks are following the time honoured path to peaking too early.

So with this in mind let’s assess the applicants. In no particular order:

Ewen Mackenzie
– Long association with the Waratahs and is from New South Wales but played for the inaugral Brumbies so knows what it is like to hate. Likes to eat, especially pies. Has cauliflower ears so remembers when scrummaging was a tough man’s game unlike the feeble touch and cuddle variety of today.
Cons – Waratahs are having a shocker. Former prop so has no idea what goes on away from the immediate area of his legs. Writes for the Sydney Morning Herald so likely to blow his own trumpet.

Scott Johnson
Pros – Current Wallabies assistant coach so knows the set-up (then again, that could be a con) and the players (then again, that could be a con). Not afraid to turn up to a press conference wearing army fatigues and making practical jokes at the expense of the All Blacks or the Welsh. Former Wales coach so can probably sing well. Born and bred and played for New South Wales.
Cons – Has long hair so sets a bad example for the kiddies. Wales weren’t much better than Australia when he coached them (0 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses). Considered to be a ‘free-thinker’ which is bound to cause friction with the fascists at ARU headquarters. Played as a fly-half or back so thinks forwards are there just to make space for backs.

Laurie Fisher
Pros – Looks like Colonel Sanders so is bound to be a hit with obese people ultimately leading to a better Wallaby front row. Comes from a long line of Brumbies coaches (well, two) who went on to coach the Wallabies so a no-brainer for the ARU. Gets on well with Gregan, Larkham and Mortlock – the mafia who sacked David Nucifora as Brumbies coach.
Cons – Gregan and Larkham at least will retire or be sacked after the World Cup so no support from the team. Brumbies have done nothing since he took over from Nucifora. Hair will detract from on-field performance. Born in Canberra. Never played for New South Wales (or Queensland or anyone of any note for that matter)

David Nucifora
– Coaching Blues to Super 14 glory despite missing all his All Blacks for most of the season. Nobody in Australia likes him or wants him, why do you think he went to New Zealand? Coached the Brumbies to a Super 12 title despite imminent sacking by Gregan, Larkham, Mortlock troika. Played for Australia in winning 1991 World Cup so knows how to drink beer.
Cons – Has no loyalty to Australia (he went to New Zealand after all) is just a mercenary going where the money is. Has probably picked up a Kiwi accent. Players hate him – Gregan, Larkham and co got rid of him – they must have known something. Queenslander. Hooker (no wonder those backs at the Brumbies couldn’t stand him).

Robbie Deans
Pros – Most successful Super Rugby coach ever coaching Crusaders to 4 out of the last 6 titles. Works for New Zealand dollars so good value. Is not a Queenslander.
Cons – Sunburns easily. Has a thing for sheep. Doesn’t like the beach. Speaks with a funny accent. Likely to stay in the country after being sacked and go on the dole.

The Verdict
Winning a game of Rugby is not a popularity contest. Money can’t buy love and can’t buy victory but it can buy David Nucifora, the best coach on the planet.