Diagnosis: culture fail? Former Waratahs and Queensland Reds Rugby player Cameron Treloar gives us an exclusive insight into what is wrong with NSW’s beloved ‘Tahs.
What’s wrong with the Waratahs? It’s a question that has plagued every fan dressed in blue, every coach knowing his tenure is coming to a premature end and many Waratahs players with talent to burn.
My personal experience with the Waratahs was very limited, to be fair – I only won two caps. But I was lucky enough to go on tour in 2004, taking on some untamed and yet-to-turn-professional teams in Argentina. The following season I toured Argentina with the Queensland Reds. The difference between the two tours was startling and, to me, can answer a lot of questions about what’s wrong with the Waratahs.
I was an older debutant at 24 years of age. I jumped on the Waratahs bus excited and a little nervous. A player, younger and smaller than me, saw me sitting three rows from the back and asked, “What are you doing? You have to earn your way up here. Get up the front.” The sense of entitlement oozing from this smug SOB stung more than getting shipped down the front.
It continued for the rest of the tour, with no real effort being made to welcome new players. Even though we wore the same jersey, it felt like our place was to revere the regulars, and they in turn made us feel like the amateurs we were.
There is a lack of character there. A lack of gumption. I often notice the words “me” and “I” being used extensively in interviews – where is the “we”? Just being a Waratah is the thing that leads these guys to believe they are better – not being a winning Waratah. It gets them to the front of the line at a trendy bar, but never to the top of a podium.
In the current crop of Wallabies, the NSW Waratahs had the most representatives of all the provinces. Why hasn’t this translated for them in the Super 15? The skill is there. The individual will is there. But there is nothing that binds them together. The self-loathing comes because they are booed by their own fans, not because they lose matches.
The closest the Waratahs have come to finding the elusive team bond was when Phil Waugh was captain. He was a true warrior, but too often he was left to fight alone. Even at the end of their forgettable recent season, one of the Waratahs coming back from injury admitted, “I don’t know whether it’s more difficult to be playing at this point in time and have a say (in the next two games) or whether it’s better to be on the sideline and wash your hands of it all.” I can only shake my head. A player not just thinking but verbalising that he considers washing his hands of his teammates is against all that the word ‘team’ stands for.
Touring Argentina with the Queensland Reds a year later, I saw the beginnings of why they are the current Super 15 champions. I sat down the front of the bus having learned my lesson. David Croft, a veteran, called me to the back and got to know me. I was welcomed and the tour was fantastic.
33 Reds players won the right last season to think they were better than everyone else because they were – they won the Super 15 championship. But I guarantee that when the next season started they still welcomed new players to the back of the bus.
And now for something that might make you laugh…