Following the 2021 festive break Kevin Foote did something very few first-year head coaches do. He kicked out one of his best young talents.
Yep, following the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, rising star Trevor Hosea was given his marching orders for the week.
It shocked the Wallabies squad member, who had passed his tests.
But for Foote, settling for the bare minimum was not good enough.
“We had a turning point with Trev,” Foote tells The Roar Rugby podcast in the first of a series of bonus pods with Australia’s coaches ahead of the Super Rugby season.
“He returned last year after Christmas and we tested, as you do, and his testing was fine, he passed, but that’s all he did was pass – and I kicked him out of training.
“I said, ‘I’ve got bigger things for you. If you’re just going to keep plateauing here that’s all we’re going to get, but that’s not where the club wants to go.’
“Honestly, thank goodness other staff were here because I could see him clenching his fists. He was furious, furious with me for kicking him out…
“But I think at that point he realised how much belief we’ve got in him and he went away and started to train and train and train. He’s not uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. His physical shape now is incredible.”
Foote’s story about Hosea came after he was asked to name some players at the Rebels that Australian rugby fans can be excited about ahead of the season.
As well as the exciting return of Josh Kemeny, Foote speaks about the development of Carter Gordon and his bumpy journey in 2022.
“That was a challenge because at that stage we had ‘Pup’ [Matt To’omua’] as well,” Foote said.
“I wouldn’t’ say it was his best game [in the opening round of 2022] and that’s fine. Did I protect him in that stage? Probably not. Maybe it was a better call to go with Pup at 10 at that stage and bring Carter off the bench, but I’ve got a lot of belief and he’s backed it up.
“Sambo [new assistant coach Tim Sampson] said to me, ‘jeez, this guy, he’s a student of the game, he’s diligent, he’s a good speaker.’
“Pup mentored him, but now Pup’s moved on and he’s got that space.
“I’ve spoken to the Wallabies staff around some bolters for the World Cup, and there’s obviously a surplus of really good young 10s in this country, which is great, but Carter should be there in and about the camps because he’s going to be really good.”
In a wide-ranging sit-down with the South African-born Sevens star turned coach, Foote opens up on his childhood and growing up in the Rainbow Nation, which was brought together by Nelson Mandela.
He speaks about his memories of Australian rugby as a teenager, of going to school and cutting out newspaper clippings of the Queensland Reds.
The son of a school principal, Foote opens up on navigating his way through school life where he was accused of only getting into teams because of who he was.
“I got into a lot of blues growing up, like a lot of fights, because I was fiery, I’m still fiery,” he said.
Foote also reveals what brought him to Australia and the difficulties of coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the Rebels were forced to leave Melbourne on a whim.
“We left and we were gone for three-and-a-half months … that was a real challenge because we’re family men,” Foote said.
“I still remember, and I’ll never forget walking home down the driveway after the three-and-a-half months, I didn’t tell my kids I was coming home and it was just so emotional for all of us.
“Sometimes, I go to work and my son will say to me, ‘Are you coming home?’ And I’ll say, ‘I’m definitely coming home.’”
Nor does Foote dodge the harder, vexed questions about whether Australia can sustain five Super Rugby franchises.
He reveals what he would do to ensure Australian rugby thrives.
Listen to the bonus Roar Rugby podcast with Kevin Foote in the above container.