RATHBONE: My take on Jake’s resignation

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Sharks coach Jake White (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

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“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s quote can be interpreted many ways, but to me it represents that the best writing, and in fact the best anything, is that which is founded on the truth.

Yesterday I jogged through a beautiful coastal village in England.

The track ran parallel with the ocean and arced through blindingly green meadows and thick blueberry undergrowth.

The supple tones of Angus and Julia Stone flowed through my headphones, melting my brain into an almost transcendent bliss. If I didn’t know better, I’d have called it a religious experience.

Halfway through my run I was interrupted by a text message that told of Jake White’s resignation. My spiritual awakening ruined, I pondered the news as I trudged home.

I know that, in the greater scheme of things, who coaches which team in any of the world’s sports is a relatively insignificant matter. And yet, despite this, I can’t help but fixate on the issue, if only for a moment.

Jake and I go back a long way.

Our paths intersected at a similar time in our respective careers – both unproven, standing at the foot of the mountain, wondering if we could summit the heights of world rugby.

Winning the 2002 Junior World Cup launched both our careers.

Jake went on to become a World Cup winning coach and my career promised much but ultimately never really got off the ground at Wallaby level. Such is life.

I loved being coached by Jake as a junior – his passion for rugby was palpable and he believed so strongly in me that I could not help but believe in myself.

His complete faith in his program borders on the delusional, and yet he seems to have an uncanny knack of willing his vision into a reality.

When he called me early last year with the offer to return to the Brumbies, I initially turned him down. But the seed was well and truly planted and I couldn’t shake the sense that he was on the verge of something special with a raw, untapped group of players.

Jake understands the factors which underpin success in team sports as well as anyone.

He ensures that he surrounds himself with the very best personnel. He pays attention to standards and details and he always maintains the infectious conviction that his program will produce success.

He is usually right.

At the same time, I’ve come to know Jake as a highly strung, emotional and complex individual who can get bogged down and consumed by irrelevant issues and peripheral details.

For all Jake’s success, he appears unsatisfied, always chasing the next opportunity. And so it was when he applied for the Wallaby coaching position.

I know how disappointed Jake was at missing out on the Wallabies Job. He felt as though the politics that marred his time with the Springboks, and which he believed he had escaped in Australia, had burnt him once more.

With that said, failure to secure the Wallabies job is not an acceptable reason to resign from the Brumbies. It’s not even close to being an acceptable reason.

If Jake made his decision for family reasons, it’s an entirely different matter. No reasonable person would stand in the way of somebody with a desire to be closer to loved ones.

I hope that this is the sole reason for Jake’s decision. But if pining for home and family is Jake’s rationale for relocation, why apply for the Wallaby coaching job?

It’s all rather perplexing.

Ultimately, no team wants a coach who is not fully committed and passionate about achieving team goals, which is why Jake’s decision appears to be in the best interests of both he and the Brumbies.

What Jake and his support staff have created at the Brumbies is remarkable.

It’s safe to say that Jake achieved the goals set for him in half the expected time. Working with a unknown group of players and a clean slate, Jake revolutionised the Brumbies’ rugby program.

Along with Dean Benton, Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham, he drove the program to unprecedented levels of professionalism.

As a result, the current generation of Brumbies are indebted to Jake for creating the best rugby program in Australia.

I, for one, will always be grateful for the opportunity Jake gave me to return to the game after a four year absence. I can tell you my phone was hardly ringing off the hook with offers before Jake arrived in Canberra.

In Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham, the Brumbies have two utterly selfless individuals to carry the team forward.

Both Laurie and Bernie will always put the team first and have long been doing the bulk of the hands-on coaching. In this sense, the Brumbies are well-positioned to transition into next season in good hands.

But for now, I’m on holiday, so enough about rugby. Exploring Berlin will always be more interesting to me than anything about any coach of any sport. And that’s the truth.

Follow Clyde at his blog or via his Twitter page.

Former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone has returned to Super Rugby with the ACT Brumbies, following an injury-forced retirement from all forms in 2009. He writes columns for The Roar and has made his return to top level rugby with the Brumbies. Follow Clyde at his blog or via his Twitter page.
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