Super Rugby: Israel Folau only tip of necessary contract fear factor

Within seconds of the NSW Waratahs blundering their way to another unforgivable loss, the mobile phone began to buzz. The short, sharp text message was from one of Australian rugby's most authoritative figures. It read: OVER PAID UNDER PERFORMERS.

After witnessing the Melbourne Rebels and Waratahs dud their supporters last weekend, it was impossible not to agree. It is all about value for money- and those involved at the high levels of Australian Rugby are not providing it.

At the administration level, Rugby Australia continues to confound, endorsing a Super Rugby competition that is tired and uninteresting, providing minimal support to the important lower levels of the game, lacking courage to take on those superstars who taunt the public with inflammatory comments and prop up a national team who are the masters of disaster.

At the coaching level, the standard is poor.

That is shown at the playing level, where the basic skills of an Australian Super Rugby performer leaves a lot to be desired. When rugby footballers are on incomes that surpass those of other codes which boast impressive skills, you would surely expect them to be able to properly pass a football, properly catch a ball, know how to execute a tackle with commitment and be intelligent under pressure. Remember these are full-time professional footballers, not Saturday afternoon plodders, playing for a lukewarm pie and a free keg.

Really what do they do at all those training sessions, pow-wow meetings and seminars? They are clearly not improving their elementary skills or working on ways to make them smarter on the field. Probably just pumping each other up with coach-speak, or devising the latest excuse to bluff the rugby media for a few more days.

And sadly, these blunderers keep getting selected, keep getting paid good money even though they continue to make the same mistakes.

First up, the Rebels' deplorable 45-point loss to the Crusaders. On the long list of Rebels staff members, they have someone called a defence coach. He is clearly under-utilised or speaks an indecipherable language because many Rebels players either think it is below themselves to tackle, have a deficient technique or do not understand the philosophy of combining as a unit in defence.

They are now the worst defensive team in the competition, being effective in only 80 percent of their tackles. One in five they miss. Even the Sunwolves are better. So, maybe it is time for the Rebels to focus on fixing up their defence. Leaking at least four tries per game is unacceptable.

You also must question their selection policy. Surely, they cannot persist with Jack Debreczeni any longer at No 10. His defence is feeble, even though he is often hidden away near the wing. His goalkicking is wayward. And he is now doing little more than pointing his arm this way and that, before shuffling the ball to anyone nearby. He poses little threat. After four straight losses you would assume it is time for a shake-up. It definitely would happen if this was an AFL or NRL organisation.

So, the Rebels would do Australian Rugby a huge favour by either trying Jack Maddocks at pivot, or intensify the push to get Quade Cooper to move south.

The Waratahs also have no excuses. Everything was primed for them to at last end the 37-game losing streak to New Zealand teams. They were back in the 'burbs, with more than 15,000 invading Brookvale Oval -- the home of the NRL's Manly Sea Eagles -- to scream their home. They had the support, but failed to repay it through a lack of common sense.

What was going on in the final minutes? The Waratahs were given several chances to win the game, but decided it was time to be brain-dead. Really where was the logic of a cross-field kick? Because someone thought the referee Jaco Peyper may have given them the advantage?

Then Bernard Foley made the fatal mistake of passing to the error-prone prop Paddy Ryan, who a few days earlier said crowds would return to Super Rugby if they played out in the suburbs and guests were served 'steak sangas' rather than duck pancakes in a marquee.

Some years ago, Simon Poidevin was described by his NSW coach as Venus de Milo. Compared to Ryan, Poidevin had the hands of Tim Horan.

So in the final charge, Foley threw the perfect pass to the too erect Ryan, who first juggled it, before the ball spat out as soon as he hit the Blues defender. This is nowhere near the first time this has happened in Ryan's career. Thus ended the game.

When it occurred, one immediately thought of the legendary sledge aimed at South African prop Ollie le Roux when he once fumbled the ball close to the tryline. An opponent cried out: "You wouldn't have done that if it was a donut."

In this instance, replace donut with steak sanga.

The great performers don't make mistakes under pressure. The mediocre do. And that's why the Australian conference is easily the worst of the three. There are too many mediocre performers in the Australian teams, who for too long have been able to get away with substandard skills and application.

Surely it's time for Rugby Australia to get tougher. The Israel Folau contract renegotiation is a test case. Ignore the babble about Folau going back to league. Why would he want to? In rugby he can cruise, get away with his anti-gay sentiments on social media, and be fawned upon. He is his own boss.

In league, that wouldn't be the case. He would be under constant pressure, exposed far more often by those who want to bring him back to size, and would probably struggle to make an impact in a game that is increasing in intensity each season.

Has Rugby Australia enjoyed value for money from their highest paid player? No way in the world. Mat Rogers and Lote Tuqiri were better league imports.

So Rugby Australia should propose a player pay cut from Folau down, using the money saved to provide much needed funding at the lower levels of the game... and then watch the Australian professional player skill level suddenly lift. The fear factor works.