Otago Highlanders Head Coach Tony Brown has been known to spit fire in his press conferences, last week calling the ACT Brumbies “un-Australian”.
After his side put six tries and 51 points on the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night, Brown was not about to leave the ground without a meat pie himself, teeing off on the Melbourne side in the press conference.
“It was good to score those tries and put away one of the weakest teams in the competition,” the former New Zealand five eighth said.
“We’ve got a massive challenge next week against the Blues. I’d say they’re going to be at least three times as good as the Rebels.”
He’s not kidding. The Rebels currently sit last in the Super Rugby standings, win-less from five matches, and with a worse points differential than even the Sunwolves.
A young team with a young captain and missing crucial Wallaby leader Sean McMahon, Fox Sports commentator and Australian rugby legend Tim Horan rightfully leveled a fair amount of the blame on Head Coach Tony McGahan.
“Is [McGahans’] job on the line going forward as well? You really need to start making some changes next week” Horan said.
“You’ve really got to try and change it up a little bit now because it hasn’t been working.”
Wallabies caps leader George Gregan chipped in also, noting “they had a couple of weeks there where their defence had improved…that’s another really disappointing performance.”
“A lot of missed tackles, didn’t control possession, they were back in that rut they were in about three weeks ago.”
That last line of Gregan’s in particular should concern Melbourne the most – the fact that what little gains the team had made so far this season have now been completely undone.
If this were any other Australian Super Rugby side, they would have a much easier time dusting themselves off and preparing for next week with clear goals and clear minds.
But this is the Rebels. The average age of their starting XV this weekend was 26 – the same age as their captain – and they boasted just three Wallabies in that side last night.
Of course, they are unlucky to be without two of their best players – Wallabies Sean McMahon and Sefanaia Naivalu – but it’s time for Tony McGahan to start taking some of the heat.
Currently in his fourth year of coaching the club, it would be unfair to say that McGahan had not done a fairly good job up until the end of the last year.
In his first season in 2014, the Rebels finished dead last on the ladder with only four wins. In 2015, that improved to seven, and last year they hit seven again.
But alongside the theme of all the positive work being undone, Melbourne look to have taken a monumental step back this season.
With the soft and supple clay of a young rugby side in his hands, the 45-year-old former Munster man is clearly not delivering the kind of leadership required.
If anything, by letting his side go through weekly poundings, including the 50 points put on them last night, and the 70 put on them earlier in the season by the Wellington Hurricanes, he is doing more harm than good.
What did McGahan have to say for himself and his team in the press conference?
“We fought hard…we fought and got the ball back, but then we gave it back to them cheaply, and hence they scored and all that good work’s gone to waste.”
Fought hard they may have. Teams fight hard for their mates. But the fight is not in question here.
What is, are the missed tackles (22), the handling errors (18), a lack of fitness and inability to run out a game, and of course, as coach pointed out, the confusion of what to do with the ball when they posses it.
These are all things that pertain to a stale football department that is not doing its’ job properly. Look at all the statistics you want to back that up, but a simple eye test and form guide will tell you that much.
Let’s point some fingers here - at attack coach Morgan Turinui, Head Performance Analyst Eoin Toolan, and of course, Head Coach Tony McGahan.
By whichever way you choose to measure it, none of these men are doing their job, and prolonging their stay at the Rebels is prolonging the futility of this club.
Speaking of responsibility, it is now General Manager Baden Stephensons’ job to make changes necessary to put this team back onto the path it looked as if it were on just 12 months ago.