Roger Pugh ponders whether it might be time for Tony Abbott to return to his former career, where his tendency to be unpopular could kick goals.
Leading career advisers have long held the view that Tony’s talents could be applied more constructively to shark-wrestling or cage-fighting, but I am convinced he was at his best as the coach of the Sydney University rugby team, an experience that has arguably shaped his prime ministerial style.
If the Wallabies don’t win the upcoming World Cup he could be a shoo-in to take over from Michael Cheika.
His natural instincts as a rugby coach were apparent in his pick for the parliamentary referee, who was relentless in sending off the opposition, and his pick for Royal Commissioner who has investigated every union except the Rugby Union.
As a rugby coach, Tony was particularly strong on defence and he’s been no different as prime minister. Despite repeated attempts at a breakthrough by teams from Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, none of them have crossed the line in Australia for over a year.
Critics argue that Tony’s rugby coaching experience has made him reluctant to include women in his team, but on the other hand, it also gave him the tactical nous not to fall for a dummy from Julia, especially Wayne Swan.
Advocates of Tony’s return to rugby coaching also point to his strategic success in dealing with dropkicks, his shrewd adoption of shirt-fronting from the AFL and his tactics for dealing with pushy people in the media scrum. He is also a great advocate of strength in the front-row whether it applies to parliament, rugby or waiting for the pubs to open.
There is persistent criticism however that his natural rugby coaching instincts are less than ideal when it comes to addressing gay marriage and climate change. He seems to ignore altogether the potential for gay marriage to strengthen team bonding and has never accepted that a potential increase in temperature is a reason for changing team tactics.
The calls for Tony to move from the frontbench to the coach’s bench are intensifying following so many losses in the polls. If they carry on much longer, people could even begin to question whether he could regain his winning form as a rugby coach.
He should be inspired by the thought that coaching the Wallabies to Bledisloe Cup success would bring him much greater public acclaim than fiddling around with things like climate change and gay marriage…because there’s the danger in those games that even if he wins, he could lose.