Dave Rennie is an excellent rugby coach. Australia have some excellent rugby players. The formula need not be complicated – the ability is there, refresh in key positions, hold on to the older talent, bring the joy back to Australian rugby and start delivering results. Of course, it is easy for a sideliner like myself to say such things, it is much harder to make them happen.
Rugby Australia’s concrete stance on Folau has reportedly led to a significant improvement in the men’s side’s ‘BenchMark’ score – a ranking that determines their levels of respect, enjoyment, trust, pride and bond in the minds of the Australian general public.
In a country with a complicated and by no means wholly accepting relationship with union, this is a positive. The game in Australia is not the game in New Zealand or England, fans and playing numbers are far more fickle.
With television broadcasting issues lurking over the sport – a deal with either Foxtel or Optus is absolutely essential if rugby wants to progress – rugby in Australia is at a turning point. One would hope, anyway. Otherwise it is on a downward spiral. The last four years have been, frankly, dire, with The Israel Folau Super Debacle, dreadful on field results and the axing of the Western Force leaving the game in a mess.
More players than ever are heading overseas, and, with vice-captain Kerevi talking about turning out for Fiji at the next world cup, Australian rugby cannot be in a good place. Numerous top level players will be unavailable for selection next year, and, without an alteration of the so-called Giteau law, the Wallabies will suffer.
Sadly, it is the Fox Sports issue that reigns supreme – but then that is the nature of modern sports. Without television money and exposure the Wallabies are screwed.
But there are certain things that the players and coaching staff can control, and a bounce in the field performances is surely inevitable, things cannot get much worse. Dave Rennie is a man who has enjoyed consistent success in his career: as New Zealand U-20s coach, as Chiefs coach and, although not to the same extent, as Glasgow coach.
Young talent is slowly bleeding through. Jordan Petaia is a freakish player, and he is not an aberration, he sits at the head of a generation that deserves the opportunity to change things. Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi have been the only two consistently excellent performers for four years. Why then, Genia and Foley spring to mind, do certain players keep being selected?
Rennie must be ruthless, but, if he is, the Australian rugby may well be okay.
Written by Joe Ronan.