Old heads to steer Brumbies in Super 14
The Brumbies are easily the most successful Australian Super Rugby franchise in the short history of the competition and arguably rank second behind the all-conquering Crusaders as the best performed franchise to date.
I say this with gritted teeth.
With enormous exasparation it was that I watched players of the calibre of Finnegan, Knox, Langford, Young, McKenzie, Waugh, Smith, Gregan, and Mortloc form the nucleus of the trendsetters.
The aforementioned should all have been Waratahs, and due to a mix of incompetence and arrogance on the part of the Waratahs and clever recruiting on the Brumbies front, they were lost forever.
In recent times, however, the Brumbies have lost their way. Who knows why, but no doubt the ageing of champions had something to do with it.
But now some former champions return.
Brumbies fans rejoiced when former players Owen Finnegan, Bill Young and Julian Huxley were appointed to the coaching staff under Andy Friend, an ACT Rugby (as opposed to Brumbies) stalwart.
Finnegan and Young are from a different era to the current crop. They cut their teeth in pre season trials at Latham Park South Coogee and the back ovals at TG Milliner Field Eastwood. When they started in senior rugby, the game was not yet professional and their early experiences resound today.
They will call a spade an effin’ shovel.
They will encourage youngsters to enjoy their rugby on and off the field, to play right on the edge of the laws, to niggle, but most of all, to enjoy their team-mates’ company.
Both may well prove to be like vegemite. Too much of it is, well … too much. This is where Andy Friend’s skill and experience will tell.
Will he be able to properly harness his forward coaches zeal and enthusiasm so it translates for his younger players? Time will tell.
Julian Huxley will be an inspiration to the players, if he is able to commit sufficient time to his role amidst his personal battles.
The Brumbies may well be a bolter in 2009, if the jockeys trainers and strappers can get the preparation right.
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