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What the contrasting fortunes of Postecoglou and Jones say about their coaching styles

On Sunday in Europe, two things happened: Tottenham played Arsenal and the Wallabies played Wales.

Spurs drew with their bitter rivals in the north London derby, but as far as 2-2 results go it was a good one, consolidating the club’s best start to an English Premier League season since the mid-1960s.

In France, the Wallabies were humiliated 40-6 – Australia’s heaviest Rugby World Cup defeat – and the mob was mobilised against Eddie Jones.

A week prior, Tottenham scored in the 98th and 99th minutes to turn a 1-0 loss to Sheffield United into a 2-1 win. Players swung from the crossbar in euphoria and the crowd lost their minds, serenading Postecoglou with their reworded Robbie Williams love song dedication.

Within the same 24 hours, the Wallabies lost their second pool match to less-fancied Fiji and Jones urged travelling supporters to throw baguettes at him. Croissants, too. “I deserve whatever I get,” he said. And that was before the world found out he had interviewed for the Japan job while in camp before the tournament.

Two Australian coaches, both at the top of their respective sports and both, of late, experiencing vastly different levels of success. The word “experiencing” may seem unsuitable, given a coach is the person tasked with determining the success or failure of the team they manage. But it might be worth using for comparison’s sake.

Contrasting fortunes: Ange Postecoglou and Eddie Jones.

Contrasting fortunes: Ange Postecoglou and Eddie Jones.Credit: Nine

In other words, how much of one of Australian rugby’s darkest days can be attributed solely to Jones, and how much to the constraints within which he was working? It is the old agency-structure tension, structure being the factors of influence which determine or limit agents and their decisions.

That could be a broken grassroots system that has not nurtured enough talent over the past two decades, or a Super Rugby competition constantly fighting for survival. It could be an administration that put you in charge nine months before a World Cup and asked you to figure out whether to tear the whole thing down before or after the tournament.

Sometimes, there is only so much a coach of any calibre can do with a group of inexperienced players unaccustomed to the pressures and challenges of Test-level rugby.

But then there is Eddie the agent, who decided not to select at least some experience to help ease the others in. Who left out older heads to provide composure when a campaign is not going to plan and retain some form of continuity to offset the disconnect in unfamiliar combinations.

Dejection: Wallabies players after the record defeat to Wales.

Dejection: Wallabies players after the record defeat to Wales.Credit: Getty

Only Jones at this point will know for sure if he has any intention of honouring his five-year contract with Rugby Australia, overseeing the rebuild which must inevitably follow a disassembling, but that internal choice will have influenced decisions on the road to a historic pool-stage exit that is now just a formality.

And his mind games – with his players, colleagues, the media and the public – have not warmed him to many of these parties. It appears they have not extracted the best from his team.

Jones does bear some similarities to Postecoglou. Both are capable coaches, both have an ego and both are stubborn. Both are actually friends – at least until recently, they were part of a group of top Australian coaches who got together for mutual support sessions over Zoom.

One perceivable difference from the outside is that Postecoglou’s version of my way or the highway is built on face value and loyalty. His charisma is less Akubra hats and passive-aggressive digs, and more dry humour and unapologetic dedication to his attacking football philosophy.


In the wrong structure, that modus operandi does have its drawbacks. Postecoglou learned this some eight years ago when attempting to instil in the Socceroos a new formation that probably better suited Barcelona. Interestingly, his success in the top flights of Japan, and then Scotland, and now England, has been assisted by increasingly better players at each change of jobs.

But it would be erroneous to claim he is successful simply because he has talented players, just as it is mistaken to claim Jones is not currently successful because his players are young and inexperienced. The state of Tottenham before Postecoglou was appointed is testament to this, as is his capacity to exercise his own agency within the structures of a Daniel Levy-run club with a furious and fractured fan base and a Harry Kane contract issue.

Postecoglou possesses the rare intangible quality that transforms a manager from earthling to deity. The “nah mate, let ’em enjoy it” factor which can only be said to fans when hope of a better future is actually matched with results.

“My role is not to burst people’s bubbles,” he said after the late, late win over Sheffield. “Let them get excited and let them ahead of themselves. They go through enough pain, mate. If they think we’re going to be world beaters, great. That’s up to us to match that expectation.”

Right now, this is the key difference.

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