Great sporting teams have at its core an excellent, brutally honest team culture. They keep success in check, don't blame others when they are occasionally overcome, respect their heritage and demand humility from those within the brethren. Big-heads are beaten down. The All Blacks are the glowing example of that. As were the Wallabies during the glory days- long, long ago.
Bad teams do everything they can to cover their tracks, blame others for their faults, develop an unnecessarily arrogant streak and look for excuses. That's all part of a poor team culture. The 2018 Wallabies are in that category.
As expected, the Wallabies' final Test appearance in a dreadful season was miserable viewing. They were completely outclassed, outcoached, outmanoeuvred, out-everything by England and could have lost by more. And so the Wallabies completed their worst season since 1958, with only four wins from 13 internationals, under Michael Cheika their sixth straight loss to England, just one win -- a substandard Spaghetti Western effort against Italy -- in a lamentable four-match northern hemisphere tour, while a head coach's success rate drops to 48 percent, and a miserly 40 percent win-rate since the last World Cup. The Wallabies are now sixth in the world, and sinking fast.
The distressing signs of decay at the core of Australian rugby have been evident for some time, but were dragged right into the public's face before the Twickenham international, with suggestions of a cover-up over why Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper were suddenly not in the Test line-up.
Something is inherently wrong with the Wallabies team culture when it takes its team leadership group ten days, repeat ten days, to tell Cheika they were concerned with what Ashley-Cooper and Beale had got up to on the night of the loss to Wales in Cardiff.
Then again it is a strange team leadership group when three of the five members -- Nick Phipps, Allan Alaalatoa and Samu Kerevi -- are far from regular Test representatives. David Pocock and Michael Hooper, the other two in the group, are leaders, but the other three? Hardly.
Then it appears the story of Beale and Ashley-Cooper breaking team protocol only got out due to good old fashioned media persistence and pressure.
The Australian newspaper's experienced rugby correspondent Wayne Smith broke the story, even though he wasn't on the Wallabies tour. One of the most telling paragraphs of Smith's exclusive went: "The incident, which Cheika admits would have been covered up for a time had it not been for the questions raised by The Weekend Australian, comes at a critical moment in Cheika's coaching career."
Back in Cardiff, Cheika, who earlier in the week had come up with different reasons- primarily form - for Beale not making the Twickenham line-up, had to deny on the eve of the game he had been lying, or was involved in a cover-up.
Not a good look.
Then again, Cheika should have known Beale, a serial offender, is accustomed to killing off Wallabies coaches. After all, Beale was at the centre of Ewen McKenzie's departure.
The team goes to Twickenham, and after a conclusive defeat, Cheika took aim at the referee, complaining about Owen Farrell's shoulder charge of Izack Rodda that stopped a try from being scored.
Did this moment ruin the Wallabies' victory hopes? Far from it. But it had the desired effect of some sympathetic We Wuz Robbed-esque media yarns.
Cheika's persistent complaining about referees has clearly infiltrated the players' persona.
During Cheika's reign, they have lacked discipline. They have constantly been guilty of silly penalties, such as Sekope Kepu picking up the ball from an offside position at the breakdown, and then looking surprised he was pinged. Does he actually know the laws?
But Cheika can't really bollock his players for upsetting the referee, when they so often see him yelling and screaming in the coach's box about decisions. Not a good look. It also sets a precedent. Good coaches don't do that. I can't ever recall Graham Henry, Steve Hansen or Joe Schmidt going berserk after a dubious decision. They remained composed. Such calm usually seeps through to the players' group.
The Wallabies antics are glaring indicators of a team management out of control, and a playing group that has lost its way.
All the Twickenham Test proved was that without David Pocock, the Wallabies are soulless. His replacement at No 8 Peter Samu was near invisible, while the team's back-row play was below Test standard. The lineout throwing was a little better, but remains a serious concern. If this was a professional dart's match, numerous Australian throws over the season would have been lodged into the back of the official scorer's head.
The Australian scrum remains inconsistent, and Bernard Foley is out of position at No 12. Israel Folau showed what he actually could do with a masterful try, but as usual immediately slipped back to cruise control. The team defence was at times embarrassing. No wonder England players started to sledge them for being 'snitches'. No one respects them anymore. Again not a good look.
This is a scrambling, forever looking-over-its-shoulder team that has lost all of its confidence and requires far more than a match day rev-up from an over-emotional coach. Good, constructive tactics are desperately required.
Getting out of this mess requires leadership. Rugby Australia are way out of their depth in this area. Raelene Castle is floundering, even contributing to the slump in team standards by allowing the Wallabies' pin-up boy Folau to this season repeatedly get away with inflammatory social media comments. If Folau was in an All Blacks jersey, I simply cannot see their team management allowing him to get away with that.
Then just before the Twickenham Test came the usual wishy-washy Cheika endorsement from Castle over the Beale/Ashley-Cooper bedroom farce. Soon, we will hear her say that a 50-point Wallabies defeat was because they had no luck with the game toss.
The obvious line is that 'fish rots from the head.' And that can be directed at Rugby Australia, who misguidedly believe that women's and sevens rugby -- fringe elements of the code which provide little financial return -- is the way to success.
The greater concern is that those in charge at Rugby Australia are performing more like lost tadpoles about to transform into fat, motionless toads.
There will be the obligatory tour review, and RA will undoubtedly find one easy-to-get-rid-of minor scapegoat - so that for a change it looks like they're actually doing something. It's not hard to guess who will go. Mere window dressing though.
But sadly due to RA being in its own words 'financially challenged', the real culprits in the Wallabies management who have choreographed the demise of a once magnificent national team will remain.
And that is blatantly wrong.