McKenzie: no messiah, but a visionary
New Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will tackle lingering discipline issues in the Australian side by clearly outlining what is expected of players representing their country.
Promising to deal with players who have “fallen off the perch”, McKenzie was officially unveiled as the new Wallabies coach during a press conference with Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver in Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon.
Pulver said McKenzie was conclusively the stand-out applicant for the role following a series of interviews with domestic candidates two weeks ago, the rugby boss convinced the Queensland Reds coach can get the Wallabies playing a running style which will capture the nation’s imagination.
But Pulver also identified team discipline as a key issue which needed to be addressed.
Pulver said he and McKenzie would be drafting a set of principles of behaviour that were acceptable at the Wallaby level.
“I will make it quite clear about what I think is important to be a Wallaby and what that means, and the sacrifices you need to make, and in due course whatever players are lucky enough to get the opportunity to step up, they’ll understand what I think and what’s important,” McKenzie said.
“In the end players have a very simple life, they’ve got to contribute their skills, but I’ll ask them to wear the right clothes and do the right thing at the right time and turn up on time.”
McKenzie stressed the Wallabies team was a representative side that needed to be treated by the players with reverence.
“The only opportunity you get to play for the Wallabies is if the Wallabies coach chooses you to play and to me that’s a week-to-week contract, so if you’re not doing the right thing at the right time that week-to-week contract might not be there,” he said.
“I want players to step up, to be very proud of the opportunity and I don’t want to make it an opportunity that everyone gets easily. When you’re there you’ve got to make the most of it.”
McKenzie dodged questions on current Wallaby flyhalf James O’Connor and Reds star Quade Cooper, reiterating his admiration for Cooper as a player.
He said that selecting the team was his most important job, and he’d be reviewing every position in the Wallabies side, noting that some positions, which he did not disclose, could be filled by up to eight or nine players successfully.
“I’ve got to find ways to get exposure to those players so that I make sure we’ve got the best players now or in a couple of years time,” he said.
Pulver said he met with Robbie Deans yesterday afternoon and agreed the Wallabies mentor since 2008 should step down.
He said McKenzie would sill have been announced as the new coach today even if the Wallabies had won the final Lions Test on Saturday night.
“Ewen has served what I think is the perfect apprenticeship preparing for this role,” he said.
“He rates extremely highly against all the key criteria such as leadership, discipline, coaching capability, coaching record. He’s a former Wallaby himself, having played 51 times for his country.
“Arguably the most important variable of all is that Ewen has the capability of coaching the way the Australian public wants to see the game played and that is smart, creative, running rugby.”
McKenzie said he felt proud and privileged for the opportunity to coach the Wallabies, having put his hand up for the role earlier this year.
He will start coaching the Wallabies full time in five weeks in the lead up to Australia’s next Test against New Zealand in Sydney on August 17
“[There is] no better job, no better task, no better coaching assignment than to go and pit yourself against the All Blacks,” he said.
“I’ve played in a bunch of Bledisloe Cup games in my time and to get another crack against the All Blacks is terrific.”
McKenzie, who won the Super Rugby title with the Reds in 2011, saw off a challenge from South African Brumbies coach Jake White to claim the position.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.