Michael
Pascoe writes:

The
newspapers received the news a day early that John “Knuckles” Connolly would today be named Wallabies coach
a decade late. But
the ARU media conference being held on the Crikey sports desk’s deadline won’t
be naming the other half of the coaching team – Connolly’s assistant coaches.
That is intriguing and a little worrying.

The
Daily Telegraph
won the Connolly leak competition by grabbing the coach-in-waiting at Sydney Airport on his way
to final meetings with the ARU board. The Terror also scores for a nice story
that I can’t find online about how the NSW Rugby Union low-life stopped
Knuckles getting the job when he clearly should have in 1995.

Former
NSW board member Ron Meagher confesses that NSW voted as a bloc to block
Connolly and appoint the unfortunate Greg Smith without paying any regard to selecting
the best man for the job – a case of putting NSW status first and Australian
Rugby second. Meagher even admits some of them felt a little embarrassed about
it afterwards. Sounds like they could have found congruent employment with the
AWB.

And
they should remain embarrassed. Connolly had just led Queensland to triumph
in the two Super 10 competitions that preceded the launch of Super 12. Queensland was the
dominant Australian team playing the best rugby. Greg Smith’s CV didn’t compare
and his illness-effected term was a disaster. It was sheer NSW
bloody-mindedness – a demonstration of which administration was truly
parochial.

But
all the nastiness is supposed to be behind us now, OK? Knuckles has been
sweetness and light about the southern vermin and there’s a loud chorus of
approval
for his selection.

Much
of it centres on Knuckles’ strength as a forwards coach. An old prop himself, his two
successful seasons in European rugby show his appreciation of the Wallabies’
greatest weakness.

But
the ARU is only announcing half the coaching team today. The two assistant
coaches will be as important as the head coach, especially the backs coach. The
dogs continue to bark that former Wallabies hooker and Connolly associate
Michael Foley will be one, and Wales’ backs and
skills coach Scott Johnson will be the other.

Johnson
will be a vital appointment to supplement the Connolly/Foley forwards strength.
The lack of an announcement might suggest the ARU doesn’t yet have him in the
bag with Wales working hard
to keep him.

Peter Fray

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