Thursday, 2 May 2013

Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland & SBW: what they tell us about the Crusaders

That Israel Dagg has been stood down by the Crusaders should come as no surprise.  When a team is playing badly the temptation is  usually to look to star players and expect them to provide the spark and change necessary. Dagg has never looked comfortable within the Crusaders; it appears the reality of the Crusaders set-up and systems do not match with his skills and possibilities.  So I wonder how Dagg with go at the Chiefs or the Blues because his type of play seems to fit better with not only how those teams play- but also with the coaching ethos and structure they appear to represent. How would Dan Carter have been if he had to start and play his early career under the current Crusaders structure and type of play? Would his particular genius  have been able to transcend the obvious limitations of the systems and players  he would be expected to play within and with. Sean Maitland is another example.  That he made the Lions is not due to favouritism by Warren Gatland, nor is it a sign of weakness at wing within the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish teams. Maitland was and is a much better player than the current Crusaders set-up would allow and that he was so easily let go exposes a central problem that is now being highlighted by the treatment of Dagg. Consider also the way SBW made an exponential jump as a player when he left the Crusaders and went to the Chiefs. The question is never about the quality of the players in themselves- which is something that the All Black coaches recognise- it is more often to do with the environment, systems and team cultures that excellent, gifted players find themselves expected to operate in. I have made comments about the expectations of fans that top players play well for their franchises- but the other side of this is the expectation that franchises raise when coaches and systems operate against the best interests of the players.
 Consider the  case of Robbie Fruean- is his failure to capitalise on his immense potential necessarily due to him  and his on-going health issues? Or, is it also a case that the type of  game he has had to play over the past few years, coupled with the limitations of those around him, has held back his development as a player.

So SBW leaves the Crusaders and becomes a world-beater. Maitland leaves the Crusaders and makes the Lions in his first season in Scotland. Should Dagg leave the Crusaders for the sake of his career- and take Robbie Fruean with him?

Is it the case that the Crusaders forward coaching and  ethos is first rate but the back play and ethos need a serious re-think- and the bringing in of non-Canterbury intellectual capital.

When things don't go well it is usually the case of the management first blaming the employees for not doing their job properly.  This is what has happened with Dagg. Yet those who relocate from a business not doing well often exceed what they were doing under the old management structures and systems. And that is the lesson for not only the Crusaders but also for the Highlanders. Punishment never gets the best of the best in the long run..., the best need to be faciliated, not limited.

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