It’s 75 minutes into the match. The score is 15-all. The team hasn’t been playing that well, truth be told.
Awarded a kickable penalty, Aaron Cruden (25 – currently starting first-five, but really second choice behind Dan Carter who is currently on sabbatical) along with Beauden Barrett (23 – up-and-coming, but on the night a replacement fullback) and Victor Vito (27, another reserve, back for his first game after last year being told he wasn’t up to the standard expected of an All Black) together spot an opportunity and decide, without even consulting Richie McCaw (33 – the captain on the field), to instead take the quick tap and go. It leads, a few minutes later, to the match winning try.
This is what Richie had to say afterwards:
“You’ve got to back the guys to have a crack. If they’re always looking to me they’ll never take an opportunity. I was ready to point at the posts but he thought better of it, and it paid off.”
And, the coach, Steve Hansen (55, for consistency):
“It was one of those games where someone had to take it by the scruff of the neck.”
We can only speculate about what might have been said all around if that decision hadn’t lead to a try and the match had ended a draw, or a loss. As it was the headline was “All Blacks lucky against inspired England” (really, that was luck?)
There is a massive organisation that exists to support the All Blacks – the NZRU board, CEO and high performance staff, the All Blacks selectors, coaching and management teams, including specialist coaches, media liaison, medical support staff etc, not to mention the many stakeholders (including all of us as fans).
But, I’m fascinated by how accountability and responsibility is delegated down to the youngest and least experienced, and the culture that is created within the team as a result. We would consider it remarkable for a 25 year old team member or 33 year old executive to be making big decisions in a large company, where the leaders tend to be much older and tenured. But, in the All Blacks, by the time you’re over 30 you’re as experienced as they get, and certainly considered old enough to handle the pressure of making decisions in the moment on the field.
How about In the organisation where you work? Do your junior staff have the freedom to respond to opportunities when they spot them? Or, do they do as they are told until they’ve done their time?