A half-hour before Bledisloe Cup kick-off, the Australian Rugby Union sent out a wizz-bang media release announcing that 'leaders and performance experts' had assembled to drag the local game out of the poop.
The release explained that these 'key leaders' including former Test players, Australian Super Rugby officials and ARU board members had on Friday discussed a range of topics, 'from athletic performance to player welfare, coaching and talent management.'
Everyone was going to report back in 30 days 'with a draft implementation plan' to revive Australian Rugby.
Thirty days!! Forget it. Far too long. As Australia's disgraceful effort in Sydney on Saturday night showed, the problem is so serious, this supposed brains trust should reconvene today to try to provide immediate answers to bring some respect back to the Wallabies jersey before it's all too late. Australian Rugby is in crisis, and there's plenty of serious work to do.
First up, ignore the scoreboard. As All Blacks coach Steve Hansen correctly explained his team were in the second half 'seduced by the scoreboard.' They dropped a gear, enabling the Wallabies to rally. Until then, Australia, who had completely lost the will to tackle, were confronting their worst-ever Test loss. They weren't a 20-point inferior team to the All Blacks - more like 40.
As for 'athletic performance' - On Saturday night, it was unacceptable. Numerous Australian players just went through the motions. In defence they were cardboard cutouts.
'Player welfare' - How much more molly-coddling do these over-paid, under-performing players deserve? Several who are not playing up to Test standard are only there because the alternatives are worse. The depth of quality players in Australia is alarming. There is no edge. Pay-cuts may wake a few of them up.
'Coaching' - What is being provided by the Australian coaching staff is not up to standard. Basic catch-pass skills are not improving. Tactics are bewildering. There doesn't seem to be a general purpose. There is absolutely no hunger. Where is the intelligence to their play? They are nothing more than dysfunctional robots.
'Talent management' - What talent? A guide to how poorly Australian Rugby is faring, ask yourself - would there be one Australian player who would make the current All Blacks team? Not one would come close. We are a long way from the days when Australia could easily command five or six spots in a World XV.
Back to coaching. An exasperated Australian rugby public is beginning to lose patience with Michael Cheika, whose win ratio now sits at an underwhelming 54 percent, and will most probably drop to 52 percent after next weekend's Dunedin Bledisloe Cup match.
I sat among the punters at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, and there was general disbelief when the Wallabies fell apart in the first half. Some in green and gold started mocking the Wallabies. When the crowd highlight of the night was successfully getting a Mexican Wave going, then you know the Wallabies have lost their audience. As for big-match atmosphere - non-existent. The love is gone.
And for good reason serious questions are being asked over whether Nathan Grey is the right, inspirational dynamo to be the Wallabies defensive coach. You can't actually say Grey transformed the Waratahs into tackling machines this season. They instead turned into vegetable sieves - leaking more than four tries and almost 35 points per Super Rugby game. Defensively they were abominable and Grey must take some of the blame.
So now Grey heads to a full-time gig at the Wallabies, explaining when he got the job that he had aspirations of 'getting Australian Rugby loving defence', and then they let in eight tries in the space of 38 minutes -- many of them due to basic defensive lapses. And this follows an unacceptable effort against Scotland in June. So far this year, Australia has conceded 16 tries in four Tests, and that includes easy internationals against Fiji and Italy.
What was most disconcerting was how simple several of the All Blacks tries were -- coming about because the Wallabies were either out of position, made only half-hearted tackling efforts, or seemed confused, relying on the teammate next to them to do something about it because it was all too hard. Their defensive alignment, which often tried to hide Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley, was often amateur and easy to expose. The All Blacks must have sometimes thought they were involved in a training run.
And the official list of missed tackles is damning -- Henry Speight and Curtis Rona five each, Samu Kerevi four, Michael Hooper and Beale three each, Foley, Will Genia, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Sean McMahon, Rob Simmons, Nick Phipps and Tevita Kuridrani one each. Israel Folau officially missed none, but he was made to look so foolish when Rieko Ioane slid past him to score.
Keveri looked slow. Rona out of his depth. The backrow of McMahon, Hooper and Ned Hanigan was ineffective -- more onlookers than participants. Once again the Australian backrow was exposed for not being up to Rugby Championship standard. It lacks drive and presence.
Prop Allan Alaalatoa was often flat-footed, and hooker Stephen Moore a mere shadow until replaced. There was a bit of thrust from the reserves bench, but the game was gone, long gone. If backups -- No 8 Lopeti Timani, centre Tevita Kuridrani and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau don't start next weekend, then it shows Cheika is not much of a selector. And in recent times some of the line-up choices made by the Wallabies coach has been perplexing, reeking of desperation.
The only consolation for the Wallabies is that this could be far worse. If the All Blacks had remained in top gear they could have won by 60.
Back to the ARU media release, there was one interesting quote. Damien Frawley, a honest, no-nonsense Wallaby forward is now the Queensland Rugby Union chairman - a very good appointment. Frawley said the meeting agreed that where "we can have a significant impact is in High Performance, where improved alignment can carry the game forward in Australia."
First step - An improved Wallabies defensive alignment, or any form of alignment. It's not hard. Coaching 101.