There has been a common thread among numerous Wallabies players in trying to find positives from the Sydney Bledisloe Cup loss in The Rugby Championship; they've been banging on about how many points they scored against the All Blacks, and that finishing with 29 was a relatively healthy tally. Sure! But it should not be ignored that 19 of those points were from Christian Leali'ifano's boot, or that the Wallabies still struggle big time to score tries. In recent times, the Wallabies have lost the knack of finding the opposition line. They have scored just 16 tries in their past 16 Tests, a damning figure for a country that for so long prided itself in being one of the more adventurous and creative attacking teams. An interesting statistic is found in comparing the try-scoring averages under recent Wallabies coaches: Robbie Deans, the Wallabies scored 174 tries in 74 Tests (average 2.35 per Test); when John Connolly was in charge, it was 93 tries in 25 Tests (3.72 average); Eddie Jones, 201 tries in 57 Tests (3.52 average); Rod Macqueen 146 tries in 43 Tests (3.39 average); Greg Smith 61 tries in 19 Tests (3.21 average).
Winners are grinners, and they can also set the agenda. Sir Graham Henry, during the final years of his reign as All Blacks coach, loved to give a lengthy sermon to the media after a Test victory. Henry would say before taking questions at the official media conference that he wanted to say a few words about certain subjects, and he would reel off comments about players plus his thoughts on various issues. There was a lot of the autocratic headmaster talking down to the students about Henry's approach, but it was also a smart way of heading the media off at the pass. His comments would thwart some journalistic queries, and usually set the tone for future questions. Henry loved to dominate. Funnily enough, Steve Hansen opted for the same approach after the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup Test win in Sydney, saying he wanted to talk about certain subjects - which included expressing how Richie McCaw had proven to all the "doubters" that he was still a great player, and that Aaron Cruden confirmed he was a proper international performer. It was once more a case of the coach using this forum to stress what he wanted to push, and ensuring he would not get sidetracked. Wallabies coaches have never gone for that approach. It was hard enough to get Robbie Deans to comment on anything. But it will be interesting if the shrewd Ewen McKenzie decides to follow the All Blacks, and start with his own sermon from the mount. Before even contemplating it, he has to win a Test first.
New South Wales Waratahs this week placed a deadline by which Israel Folau must re-sign; we now hear that the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs National Rugby League club has upped its offer to the Wallabies winger, believing he is the man to replace Ben Barba. We keep hearing that bungles regarding mysterious Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Waratahs third-party deals have delayed Folau's re-signing.
Two high-profile Wallabies have a tense relationship due to a fascinating love interest. This was an issue some months ago, when it calmed down, but there were some testy moments when the love interest suddenly made an appearance before the Sydney Test. Our team snouts are adamant that one player is again struggling with his often-dubious off-field behaviour, with a recent altercation requiring intervention.
Matt Carroll is one of numerous capable administrators who recently left the ARU, but it is pleasing to hear he is not lost to rugby. An announcement is imminent that Carroll will be involved in the organisation of the Rugby World Cup 2019 tournament in Japan. He is scheduled to be appointed interim chief operations officer of the tournament.
As the Sydney club competition heads towards the finals, an emotional debating point concerns payments to grade players. The ARU want the payments stopped, which has bothered several clubs that argue they will struggle for talent if they don't pay players, but the no-payment philosophy appears to be gaining support among numerous influential clubs. Still the big question is: how do you police it? And will it just see a return to the old amateur days of "under-the-table cash in brown paper bags" payments that were rife in Sydney grade football several decades ago?
Queensland officials are unimpressed to hear about proposals for the Australian Rugby Development Centre to be located at TG Millner Field in Sydney. The centre was scheduled to be located at Ballymore in Brisbane, until Federal Government funding was suddenly stopped a few years ago. An official complaint has been sent to the Prime Minister's office. This is definitely not the last we will hear about the Millner development.
There was an interesting sighting in the official boxes at the Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney, from where a former New South Wales Rugby Union official suddenly left the game under strange circumstances. Is he planning a comeback? Oh no!
After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.