So in order to give praise to Rod the God Macqueen the scene has to be set. Try if you can to cast your mind back to those dark and unguided days of Greg Smith’s role as the Wallaby coach. Greg Smith took over after the Wallabies dismal effort in the 95 World Cup in South Africa.
The wallaby coaching appointment is always a bitter experience in the land of the Reds. As a NSW dominated board yet again ignored a successful Qld state coach and appointed a person who had only 1 years experience at coaching NSW. Who can then forget the results. I for one, wish I could.
Who can forget Smith’s wonderful decision to play the World’s best IC at any other position than IC. Tim Horan became the drifter and he played anywhere from fullback to 5/8 where he ended up with a broken thumb when playing the ABs. All the time the crowd was chanting to have the old combination of Horan and Little put back in the fray to re-establish the premier centre combination.
Smith’s back peddling on his decision to ignore Knox for 5/8 (for that game where Horan got his thumb broken) against the ABs and then putting him in against the Boks. Knox played a scintillating game at Lang Park where single-handedly, in front of my eyes, he tore the Bok’s backline to pieces and unleashed the Wallaby backline.
Smith constantly tried desperately to explain why it wasn’t his fault that the Wallabies stumbled and bumbled their way through yet another dismal Tri-Nations. He said it wasn’t that bad if we only kept losing to NZ and losing to the Boks in SA. This is not what you want any coach to say, except if you are the opposition.
At the same time as the Wallabies started lurching from an unconvincing wins to losses. A bright star in the Australian rugby circles was spotted. The development of the ACT Brumbies under the coaching development of a certain Rod Macqueen. In the space of two years he had taken a bunch of rejects and formed them into such a dynamic and skilful side that they were runners up of the Super 12 in 1997.
This time the appointment of the new Wallaby coach wasn’t so bitter in the land of the gods as in his achievements in 2 years as a coach in Super 12 had to be respected.
Macqueen reinvented the Wallabies. Introduced was a league trained and stylised defensive patterns; backline flair with decoy runners and Tim Horan was put back into his spot at IC. The Wallabies adopted the now respected and feared ability to maintain possession, wait for the opposition to make mistakes and then exploit them.
In his first attempt at the benchmark of world rugby, the ABs, the Wallabies won the Bledisloe series 3-0 and Australia hasn’t lost the series yet (its been drawn but we haven’t lost). So much for Greg Smith's attitude, see we can beat them. The phoenix had risen.
The development of Larkham from fullback to 5/8 was inspirational and filled the gap of a 5/8 that Australia had struggled with after Lynagh. Larkham has developed into a freaky 5/8 and is most dangerous when he takes the ball up and makes the defensive line commits. It is a masterstroke that many coaches have toyed with but have failed to implement correctly.
At the same time he has helped develop a depth in the national playing ranks by encouraging youth and spotting talent a mile off. The introduction of the Wallaby training camps allowed a vast number of other players to receive incentive to make that extra effort to get hold of the Wallaby jumper.
Then winning back 'Bill'. It mightn’t have always been pretty but it was effective. With just one try scored against them at the World Cup. The Tri-Nations last year and the first ever series win against the Lions.
Rod the God and his team dragged Australian rugby from its amateur days into a professional unit that has won everything that has been on offer. Macqueen and the Wallabies have risen from a star in the distance to a great big bloody sun on top of the world that everyone keeps trying to knock over (or emulate as the world is currently buying Australian coaches).
The best of luck to Rod Macqueen in all his future and business efforts as Australian rugby owes him a dept of gratitude that never be fully expressed.
Now for Steady Eddie Jones to continue to evolve the Wallabies. They just need one major final finish and that is the ability to put a minnow to the sword. Its one thing that the ABs can do that Australia still needs to perfect.
In regards to Eddie if he could just take on board some of Macqueen’s sensibility, humility and dignity when it comes to public speaking he would then appear a more sensible coach. (The outbursts in regards to Finnegan before the Super 12 final this year that are the things he needs to curb).
Now lets make Rod an honouree Qld’er as one thing is certain. Australia has found its first President, Sir Rod the God Macqueen.