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Leahry

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Joined March 2021

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20 year Professional Coach and Manager having coached and managed at Super Rugby level, Tier 1 & 2 International 7's, Japanese Top League and Premier Rugby Level in Brisbane and the ACT. Long-Term Player Development facilitator. Foundational Director of Australia's first and one of the World's first Commercial Rugby Academies in University of Queensland Rugby Academy & over 15 years experience in coordinating Academy Programs covering all Six Pillars. Currently Global General Manager of Six Degrees Sports - a sports development consultancy in partnership with former World Cup winners - Rod Kafer and Mick Byrne.

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Chester, It’s been a while and good to hear from you. Probably the easiest way to explain this is using another couple of former colleagues of ours as an example – Ben Serpell & Peter Ryan. I highlighted in the previous article that Serpell was able to achieve arguably World’s Best Performance & Injury Resilience outcomes at the Brumbies over a sustained period:

“Serpell’s influence during this period can’t be underestimated. While head of athletic performance from 2016 until the end of 2019, the Brumbies were able to achieve two seasons where player availability for training and games was above 95 per cent. Additionally, during the season, individual players improved across all physiological markers. Arguably the world’s best metrics across any sport, let alone a heavy collision sport. This is a key measure (outside of traditional win-loss) of ‘programming’ effectiveness. The other is injuries. During this period, the Brumbies were the best prepared and least injured.”

Yet he was part of the Waratahs Coaching Group this year – the Waratahs had a horrific injury rate and didn’t improve athletically. He resigned mid-way through the season citing that he was accountable for areas of the program that he had no control over. He was then picked up by the Wallabies within 48 hours.

The other is Peter Ryan. In Peter’s first year as part of the Brumbies (2015), the Brumbies had the least number of tries scored against them in the history of Super Rugby. Second year they dropped off – but less than 40% of training was allocated to defence. Now this is where the argument from a number of coaches regarding the type of training comes into play – a point I’ll come back to. The following year defence and attack were split equally across training and the Brumbies were back up to No. 1 or 2 in the competition (across a variety of measures). The following year 2018 – they defensively dropped off again. Pete’s argument during that year again was that defence time had dropped off again to below 40% – and this was from the start of pre-season. I actually spoke with Dan about this and his reply was – we do defence every session.

But Pete wanted more time doing individual or small group work – every year he had this – the defence was up there with the best in competition. Dan’s included 15v15 as ‘Pete’s’ defence time. So when well over 85% of time is spent in 15 v 15 – there is argument that plenty of time is spent on defence. But they don’t tackle in 15 v 15 – it’s 2 handed touch or with pads.

Despite Pete’s success he had limited influence over training times in 2018 so resigned. Was picked up by the Reds – but was let go after COVID hit. Now Rennie actually stated in a recent interview that none of the Australian teams defended particularly well – which I agree wholeheartedly with. Even when the Brumbies didn’t allocate the training time that Pete wanted – they still never gave up the amount of points per game that they have since he left.

In line with that and back to Mick. The All Blacks generally did 100 minute sessions. 70 mins was team based skills while 30 was Habit Change Progressions – Mick. When Mick first started with the Wallabies he campaigned for similar time – but rarely got it. He also initially was given latitude to develop an attacking kicking game to open up space for ball in hand attack – which started to bear fruit in 2017 & they got superb skill development – despite limited time on it during that season – leading up to defeating the All Blacks in the last game of the Rugby Championship. But then on the European Tour – got thrown out the window.

In the All Black environment the Assistant Coaches had defined roles. The Head Coach provided the overarching vision, facilitated debate and provided the final decisions on everything etc. – Ian Foster delivered the Attacking Structure, Philosophy and Tactics and Mick delivered the skills to enable it. Wayne Smith delivered the defensive philosophy tactics and analysis & again Mick delivered the skills and techniques to enable it. Mike Cron delivered the scrum technique and tactics and Mick & Mike paired up for the line outs.

Within the Wallabies environment – the Assistant Coaches didn’t want to have anybody else delivering their skills component so there was conflict there already. But that’s not an issue – I’ve pointed out that you need that conflict – the issue was that Cheika conversely to Henry and Hansen – never really rated the importance of the skills and never came in over the top with – this is how we’re going to do it. Now with that occurring at International level – it filtered down also to the Super Provinces and again – they didn’t want the Wallabies Coaches coming in doing any work with their players. It’s a territorial thing in Australian Rugby and it has been there since the inception of professional rugby. Famously John Connolly used to hunt (then Wallaby Assistant Coach) Jeff Miller away from any trainings that he would turn up to.

It’s also happening now in Strength and Conditioning/Athletic Performance. There are traditionalists whose training comes from Weight/Power Lifting backgrounds and there’s ‘Movement Based Strength’ or ‘Strength and Coordination’ proponents like your Serpell’s, Benton’s and Pryor’s and even now Damian Marsh – despite the research and practical outcomes from the MBS and Strength & Coordination far outweighing that of the traditionalists. If you’re on one side of the equation – it’s almost like religious fundamentalism – you’re at war with the other side.

I’ve mentioned in previous articles that Environment (Strategy, Leadership & Culture) trump everything. It enables World Class expertise or limits it. I highlighted in a comment above that Cheika has always only been good for 1 – 2 (at the most 3 year stints). He’s an exceptional change manner – but there’s no long term strategy or view. The Wallabies changed the way that they played defensively and attackingly every year. 2017 they wanted an attacking kicking game – 2018 they didn’t and in 2019 was ridiculous – they never kicked. In the video that I provided of Mick Coaching the Crusaders players – in Super Rugby season with Toddy Blackadder and the other Crusaders Coaches assisting – he talks clearly about the All Blacks missing 6 tries in 4 games because they couldn’t get the final pass away – which required more work on a different passing action – that allowed for players to be a genuine triple threat.

When the Wallabies played Ireland in Australia one of the final plays of the 3rd test showed the Wallabies in a 5 v 3 situation which required execution of the passing techniques – that Mick highlighted to the All Blacks way back in 2015 – yet they tried a block play and the ball went over the side line. This was evidence of the lack of alignment in the Coaching Box – structure vs. Skills. Later that year they were getting pumped by Argentina in Beunos Aries for what looked like an insurmountable total to come back from at half time.

I have this directly from one of the players – ‘we threw away the structure and just went out and played – looked for space and used their skills’. They came back and won the game – using the skills that Mick had been trying to drum into them. Sean Fitzpatrick wrote a book a number of years ago stating that in the second half of a test match against Australia in 1994 – they worked out how to play – which led them into the 1995 World Cup. That match was made famous by George Gregan’s tackle on Jeff Wilson in the dying minutes.

The Wallabies second half performance against Argentina should have been the same – but on the European tour – back to 3 phase structure, incessant block plays and 3-4 losses. At the end of that tour the Board fainted on getting rid of Cheika – the payout would have been too much. So really they had to get rid of either Mick or Bernie and they needed a change in Athletic Performance. Bernie was the lucky one – he got the get out of jail free card.

But again less than 12 months out from a World Cup and changing their attack structure again – never selecting the same halves combination for subsequent tests – changing their centres for the last game – was always going to end in tears.

Now in terms of Australian Player skills – Mick did his best in a severely constrained environment – but I’d argue particularly given our international results last year – the basic skills have significantly dropped off. And with Australian team giving up over 30 points a game in defence – only yielding 2 wins against Kiwi teams – I can see why the Wallabies Coaching staff are smashing the Wallabies players at the moment – they are having to make up for significant deficits due poor skills focus during super rugby. Rennie has come out being quite critical – one area is of Australian Forwards inability to utilise footwork. This is no different to things Mick was trying to put into the Wallabies over 4 years. But and I can quote this verbatim – in providing feedback to one Wallabies player in one of the few times he was allowed into the Super environments – a provincial assistant coach was sitting in on the meeting. The feedback was – ‘We need you to work on your pre-contact footwork’. The provincial Coach said ‘Stop right there – I don’t want you Wallaby f…..s coming in here and talking your footwork rubbish to ‘my’ players. I want my players to hit the hole and hit the hole as hard and as fast as possible!’ ‘What if there’s no hole there mate!’ ‘I don’t care’ was the response.

That is why Mick wasn’t as effective in the Australian Environment as the NZ environment. And it’s not isolated to Mick – the Current Wallaby Staff would privately be stating the same – hence (and I stated in the previous article that it was deserved) having one of the Head Coaches as part of the Wallaby environment can at least circumvent this – if he takes what he has learned back next year.

Coleman's challenge: He can win the room, but are the right people in it?

Tooley, Apologies but I have to pick you up on a few of the comments. Firstly I’m not sure who your information regarding Mick Byrne’s role with the All Blacks is from, but they may want to go back & check a few things:

1. Mick Byrne was skills coach for Scotland for 2 years leading in to the 2003 World Cup. After that he spent 2 years with Saracens. He was brought in as a ‘Full-Time’ Assistant Coach with the All Blacks just prior to the 2005 Lions Series – and that was as Skills Coach. The first part of the role was ‘yes’ to integrate an attacking kicking game into the All Blacks – but it was based on a presentationRare that a kicking coach is ‘full-time’. So he didn’t come from straight from the VFL
2. As you can see in the video at the following link – he is clearly coaching skills to the All Blacks Players & some of the best players in the World are both responding and contributing. These were key skills as was the explanation to beat linespeed defence in particular.

Andy Friend – In all the articles I have highlighted the environment as the the overarching factor that can make or break a coach. In previous articles I highlighted that Bill Bellicheck was slated to ‘never be a Head Coach again after being Sacked by the Cleveland Browns’ and that Graham Henry’s reputation was ruined after moving on from Wales in early 2002. Henry was a controversial selection for the Lions over Clive Woodward and if subsequent biographies are anything to go by – wasn’t accepted or rated by the English members of the squad. Particularly when a number of them weren’t selected – they became toxic in that environment.

Both Coaches went on in different environments to prove just how good they were. Back to Andy Friend – there’s a reason why Jake White jettisoned over 800 Super rugby and 270 test caps of experience. While some of those players may have been slated wrongly – a lot of them were toxic in any coaching environment. I’ve included an interview I conducted with Stephen Larkham to market some coaching courses that we were running overseas in 2014 and talks about that difficulty in coaching that playing group. Link below:

Andy is a good coach but his influence was undermined by the then Brumbies playing group in 2010 leading to his sacking in 2011. You’ve got to remember that Andy in his first year 2009 managed the playing group superbly through the tragic death of Shaun Mackay almost making the Super Rugby finals. Since the Brumbies, Andy reinvigorated the Australian Men’s 7’s team only to be dumped as he was just starting to get them to hit their straps – they’ve been forgettable since. Connaught were also a basket case when he took them over after Kieren Keane was let go – and they have been on the steady improvement since making finals I think in every year he has been coach. He has also just signed a 2 year extension.

I agree with you regarding RugbyAU decision making. They’ve been poor for 20 years, but not choosing Jake White as Head Coach of the Wallabies wasn’t one of them. While Jake did a fantastic job at the Brumbies – I don’t believe he would have been any more successful than Ewen McKenzie or Michael Cheika with the Wallabies in terms of the 2015 result – runner up in the World Cup. Cheika is very good in 1 – 2 year stints – but has no plan past that. Jake is similar – very good for 1 – 2 years but again no plan past that. The catalyst for the Springboks winning the 2007 World Cup was bringing Eddie Jones in which reinvigorated the program and acted as a buffer between Jake and the players – he also had a very good Captain in John Smit. Friction, particularly between himself and the Bulls players, largely because of Jealousy around Heneke Meyer was beginning to grate away in the last few years of his Springbok tenure:

https://www.news24.com/sport/rugby/springboks/victor-matfield-on-scuffle-with-jake-white-20111113

Because he had a clean slate at the Brumbies and a very good Staff – it worked. But cracks were appearing at the end of 2013 as Clyde Rathbone who was his Springbok U21 World Cup winning Captain – reported on Jake’s issues (on this platform) straight after he resigned from the Brumbies.

RATHBONE: My take on Jake’s resignation

Those issues played out the following year when he was sacked by former good friend John Smit as Director of Rugby with the Sharks, and were well reported in Tendai Mtawarira’s autobiography. These have followed Jake since, including a falling out with Eddie Jones. A massive falling out with senior players at Montpelier. Was replaced at Toyota by Steven Hansen. Has just taken the Bulls in one year to win South Africa’s version of Super Rugby. But I believe that will probably play out again.

Jake is a change manager and a very good one. If he is allowed to make the changes that he wants – can fundamentally achieve incredible success quickly. But and Andrew Fagan (former Brumbies CEO) would attest to this, he’s someone that you would sign just on that basis, then move him on with a clear succession plan at the conclusion of year 2. Like Cheika who again can do miracles in 2 year cycles – they are essentially change managers. Had Jake been around when Ewen McKenzie resigned from the Wallabies – then like Cheika would have done a wonderful job 12 months out from the World Cup. But, and a sin bin to the All Blacks in the Final was the only thing that stopped that being a 40 – 50 point smashing – the runner up medal would still have been the same result.

Coleman's challenge: He can win the room, but are the right people in it?

Tooley, Apologies but I have to pick you up on a few of the comments. Firstly I’m not sure who your information regarding Mick Byrne’s role with the All Blacks is from, but they may want to go back & check a few things:

1. Mick Byrne was skills coach for Scotland for 2 years leading in to the 2003 World Cup. After that he spent 2 years with Saracens. He was brought in as a ‘Full-Time’ Assistant Coach with the All Blacks just prior to the 2005 Lions Series – and that was as Skills Coach. The first part of the role was ‘yes’ to integrate an attacking kicking game into the All Blacks – but it was based on a presentationRare that a kicking coach is ‘full-time’. So he didn’t come from straight from the VFL

2. As you can see in the video at the following link – he is clearly coaching skills to the All Blacks Players & some of the best players in the World are both responding and contributing. These were key skills as was the explanation to beat linespeed defence in particular.

Andy Friend: In all the articles I have highlighted the environment as the the overarching factor that can make or break a coach. In a previous article https://www.theroar.com.au/2021/05/29/a-tale-of-two-coaches-and-super-rugby-part-1/ I highlighted that Bill Bellicheck was slated to ‘never be a Head Coach again after being Sacked by the Cleveland Browns’ and that Graham Henry’s reputation was ruined after moving on from Wales in early 2002. Henry was a controversial selection for the Lions over Clive Woodward and if subsequent biographies are anything to go by – wasn’t accepted or rated by the English members of the squad. Particularly when a number of them weren’t selected – they became toxic in that environment.

Both Coaches went on in different environments to prove just how good they were. Back to Andy Friend – there’s a reason why Jake White jettisoned over 800 Super rugby and 270 test caps of experience. While some of those players may have been slated wrongly – a lot of them were toxic in any coaching environment. I’ve included an interview I conducted with Stephen Larkham to market some coaching courses that we were running overseas in 2014 and talks about that difficulty in coaching that playing group.

Andy is a good coach but his influence was undermined by the then Brumbies playing group in 2010 leading to his sacking in 2011. You’ve got to remember that Andy in his first year 2009 managed the playing group superbly through the tragic death of Shaun Mackay almost making the Super Rugby finals. Since the Brumbies, Andy reinvigorated the Australian Men’s 7’s team only to be dumped as he was just starting to get them to hit their straps – they’ve been forgettable since. Connaught were also a basket case when he took them over after Kieren Keane was let go – and they have been on the steady improvement since making finals I think in every year he has been coach. He has also just signed a 2 year extension.

I agree with you regarding RugbyAU decision making. They’ve been poor for over 20 years, but not choosing Jake White as Head Coach of the Wallabies wasn’t one of them.

While Jake did a fantastic job at the Brumbies – I don’t believe he would have been any more successful than Ewen McKenzie or Michael Cheika with the Wallabies in terms of the 2015 result – runner up in the World Cup. Cheika is very good in 1 – 2 year stints – but has no plan past that. Jake is similar – very good for 1 – 2 years but again no plan past that. The catalyst for the Springboks winning the 2007 World Cup was bringing Eddie Jones in which reinvigorated the program and acted as a buffer between Jake and the players – he also had a very good Captain in John Smit. Friction, particularly between himself and the Bulls players, largely because of Jealousy around Heneke Meyer was beginning to grate away in the last 2 years of his tenure https://www.news24.com/sport/rugby/springboks/victor-matfield-on-scuffle-with-jake-white-20111113

Because he had a clean slate at the Brumbies and a very good Staff – it worked. But cracks were appearing at the end of 2013 as Clyde Rathbone who was his Springbok U21 World Cup winning Captain – reported on Jake’s issues (on this platform) straight after he resigned from the Brumbies. https://www.theroar.com.au/2013/09/27/rathbone-my-take-on-jakes-resignation/

Those issues played out the following year when he was sacked by former good friend John Smit as Director of Rugby with the Sharks, and were well reported in Tendai Mtawarira’s autobiography. These have followed Jake since, including a falling out with Eddie Jones. A massive falling out with senior players at Montpelier. Was replaced at Toyota by Steven Hansen. Has just taken the Bulls in one year to win South Africa’s version of Super Rugby. But I believe that will probably play out again.

Jake is a change manager and a very good one. If he is allowed to make the changes that he wants – can fundamentally achieve incredible success quickly. But, and Andrew Fagan (former Brumbies CEO) would attest to this, he’s someone that you would sign just on that basis, then move him on with a clear succession plan at the conclusion of year 2. Like Cheika who again can do miracles in 2 year cycles – they are essentially change managers. Had Jake been around when Ewen McKenzie resigned from the Wallabies – then like Cheika would have done a wonderful job 12 months out from the World Cup. But, and a sin bin to the All Blacks in the Final was the only thing that stopped that being a 40 – 50 point smashing – the runner up medal would still have been the same result.

Coleman's challenge: He can win the room, but are the right people in it?

Yep it’s a good point. One thing that characterised the game back then though was 8 forwards from both teams in the ruck/maul and backline vs backline. Forwards in particular back then didn’t have the full range of skills – in terms of playing like a first receiver, being able to change direction – defending/defence that we saw from the All Blacks playing in 2015 World Cup and since. Further in the 70’s because it was generally back line vs back line for attack and no formal detail in defensive systems – there was more space on the field. Backlines generally aligned and played deep to give themselves more space and time to move and execute their skills. I’m not denying that they were a skilful team, more to say that the way the game was played back then didn’t require the skillsets across the board that are required from each player in the game today.

Comparatively, the 2015 All Blacks had players that could carry, change direction, execute a wide variety of passes and were able to do that close to a fast moving defensive line and do it without telegraphing the option. Most teams these days play similar attack system – but with a key distinction – if a forward is going to carry. They move, catch and run like they’re going to carry. If their going to pass – they move/moreover don’t move and pass, particularly if the pass is to go behind 1 player to another runner. More often in this case the passing player catches statically and turns their whole body in the motion of the pass. That’s poor skill – because it telegraphs to the opposition and there is no option to do anything else. Not that defences are reading it that well at the moment. However, the All Blacks in particular in that World Cup were taught to catch and move in a way that they could execute all of those options – without telegraphing and so all options were available to the last moment. Now they didn’t always get it right – but that was the focus. Now that was just the forwards. When we get to the backs – Carter, Nonu, both Smiths could play close to the defensive line with 3 options available to them – pass, run or kick, and were trained to get to the required option within 1 step. Of the players in the world that can do that at the moment – only Mounga. Nonu was the most interesting out of that bunch – because when he started his professional career – was just a runner. By the time he finished – was a general triple threat – which comes back to the coaching.

Now do I think that players in 1971 could adjust if they were playing in the same era – yes absolutely. There’s also argument that the 1984 Wallabies Grand Slam team was up there as well & they were led by the mercurial Mark Ella who again could easily have adapted to todays game.

The Wallabies between 1999 & 2001 were reasonably skilled as well. But… and if I compare Stephen Larkham to Dan Carter – Stephen took 3 steps to execute a pass and there were clear differences in the way he moved if he was going to execute all 3 options. But the way the game was played back then – he could get away with that. Although later in his career – couldn’t.

So I agree very difficult to compare each team. But if we take a snapshot of the skills then and the skills required from each player now. Then due to the differences in the game – now wins. But if they were in the same era’s – could they have adapted – yes and may have adapted quicker than the current players – because of the wide variety of sports backgrounds of of previous generations – Yes as well.

Coleman's challenge: He can win the room, but are the right people in it?

Awesome Mate. Interesting the points about their strength. A guy that is having some influence in rugby circles (Wales 2010 – 2019, Brumbies 2012 – 13 & 16 – 19). Japan (2013 – 2015) & England (2016 – 2020), is a former National High Jumps Coach from the Netherlands by the name of – Frans Bosch. He stated recently that despite the massive body composition differences, your average high jumper is able to generate more power than an international rugby player. He said that he made the mistake when starting with Wales of upping the weight too much in his agility based exercises. In the end to get transfer – the weights used were significantly less than those for high jumpers.

His whole model of athletic performance is a “movement based strength”/Strength & Coordination one. Despite, I would argue overwhelming evidence for it’s efficacy – it’s been fought tooth and nail by the traditional S&C Community and Coaches in general, because… well it’s different. But all of the methodology comes from Athletics. Hence why I was keen for you to further extrapolate.

A lot of the exercises are around implicitly developing the mechanics of running, then small changes in the trunk for example transfer quickly into skill. Probably the most famous example was George North – who plenty would argue has one of the best sidesteps in Rugby – particularly for a big man at 193cm and 105kg. Early in his career because of his size – he just used to try and run over the top of players. However, he’d undertaken this type of training for around 18months early in his career in conjunction with normal rugby training. Then when the Welsh Coaching staff identified that he needed to develop evasive skills – Bosch took him from a player who never sidestepped to one of the best in the World in 30 minutes. His adaptive movement patterns and trunk control developed to a point where they were implicitly adaptive – so to integrate the change of direction was through adding an upper body movement.

Another example is Dean Benton – who for one player that came to him from Rugby League at 104kg – struggled. Dean got him to 98kg – at 98kg was able to get around the field quicker and for longer than the opposition. He was clocked at 9.9m/s through GPS on field in games. If his weight went to 99kg he dropped 1m/s. In a game where beating a defender or getting into position to make a tackle can be defined by 10cm – pro rata’d an absolute speed drop of 1m/s is significant. He went from reserve grade Rugby League to International Rugby.

The other point was – that at 104kg incredibly injury prone. At 98kg accept for 1 syndesmosis (High ankle Sprain) over a 3 year period was resilient.

Another example which was presented at the recent RugbyAU Academy Conference. Both Benton – who is a proponent and John Pryor – the Wallabies Athletic Performance Coordinator (Who used it with Eddie Jones at Japan & with Fiji) – Stated the Kurtley Beale went into professional rugby fast and with superb agility only to after 12 months of traditional athletic performance training – to chronic hamstring issues, got slower and lost a lot of his agility.

So it’s interesting & the point you made also about the contrast training – and again I concur. The body adapts and learns from differences within execution. There isn’t enough of this type of training for mine in Rugby. A strength session is a traditional strength session. A skills session is a skills session. A speed session is a speed session. A scrum session is a scrum session. The last point is interesting – because the static exertion needed for a scrum effort produces significant lactic acid, and it speaks to a point you made in the second comment. The ideal time to do specific lactate tolerance training for the forwards is in transition from a scrum to another action (defence/attack). But I haven’t seen that done. A scrum session is an hour session of scrummaging.

I was part of a study on this alone at University 20 years ago – where we measured lactates post scrum, post scrum and 2 minutes of game play. Normal game play without scrum. The lactate accumulation had a massive affect on movement ability and speed in the first 30s post scrum. Data was never written up as it was an undergraduate experiment.

But again – that was 20 years ago. So mate that’s awesome and enlightening. I hope your son goes well in Tokyo. Also Frosty – great kid. I’d already finished my last stint at the Brumbies when he started – but was still (at the time) based in their offices. I knew his Dad well years ago. He wrote the Try Rugby curriculum way back in 2001. I think we actually ran the first program at Gungahlin in 2002 – so I got to know his Dad quite well during that period. Comes from a really good family and he’s an athlete – but nowhere near his athletic potential yet. If they can manage him well and he keeps working hard – could easily be a 100 test Wallaby.

Interesting also that Steve’s (his Dad) ‘Try-Rugby’ Curriculum has been rebadged about 10 times since that period. I think they call it now ‘Get into Rugby’. But it’s the same program/curriculum that Steve wrote and delivered 20 years ago 🙂

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

Hey James, Interesting regarding your kids. Do you mind me asking what disciplines they compete in? The reason being is that we are and have been for some time coming to a tipping point in rugby in terms of Athletic Performance. Focus on improving ‘movement efficiency’ and running mechanics have shown to accelerate a whole range of skills in an agility based sports like rugby.
Also by moving more efficiently, players lose less energy in terms of speed, power and can run faster for longer.
While fatigue is always going to be an issue in Rugby due to the multivariate nature of the game. The more efficient players are through their movement patterns – the more options they have available to them, less risk of getting injured and they can do it for longer. So as mentioned – interested to hear what discipline your kids do and also more of your thoughts on this. Cheers

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

I don’t disagree with any of that. Parling and McKellar have had similar raw line out statistics across Super Rugby since Parling started as the Rebels line out Coach. I also agree that line out systems in the Northern Hemisphere are significantly more sophisticated.

At the end of the day, Dan was Rennie’s first choice as Forwards Coach last year – with Parling brought in at the last minute after McKellar pulled out when Peter Hewat unexpectedly quit the Brumbies. While I agree, I think he did a reasonable job, unfortunately he was only keeping the seat warm so to speak. In terms of the Wallabies return rate of 89% – unpacking that (and I haven’t had a look at it – I’m genuinely asking) – is that just raw line out wins or is there a qualitative measure applied to that.

Knowing Dan, he would have presented that he could improve on that – but would have more than likely added a qualitative measure to it as well as a way of measuring technique. E.g. If off the top delivery was the ball delivered to the 10/first receiver on the front foot – not that the Brumbies did much off the top delivery. But even then – was the Maul able to be set up without disruption/ if they pulled back and delivered to a 1st receiver – did they receive the ball on the front foot/in space (depending on the option etc.). So given your relationship with Parling – would be interested to know if there was also a qualitative measure to it as well.

In terms of – will he actually improve on last year’s retention rate – don’t know. As you say – last year’s raw rate was decent and I’d be interested to know how many of the 11% misses were due to throwing as that is an elephant in the room across all Australian provinces. They’re going to come up against a different beast this year in the Springboks – who will be battle hardened after the Lions series. If their selection is similar to that of the World Cup final – 5 players at 198cm or bigger (4 over 200) – that’s an inconsistent Thrower’ worst nightmare!

As you say the selection and development of a 3rd Jumper (potentially also a 4th) is going to be crucial – as will all the technical elements leading to speed and accuracy across the Throw – Jump – Lift.

Alan Alaalatoa & Taniela Tupou – I agree they’re not World Class yet? Dan won’t be directly coaching the scrum at the Wallabies and he hasn’t directly coached the scrum at the Brumbies since 2014. I don’t know the guy at the Wallabies – Dan will definitely be directing him in terms of fitting in with the overall Forwards ethos – but won’t be hands on with the Scrum.

I can say that Alan’s scrummaging along with the Brumbies scrummaging in general dropped off over 2019 & 2020. They had a young scrum coach – that frankly needed to spend more time working on his coaching at a lower level. Dan Palmer came back for this year – but in the 2 years he wasn’t involved – the whole 8 got away with developing bad habits that while could (at times) get away with – particularly in the AU competition. Couldn’t against the Reds or any of the NZ teams and certainly won’t in the next level up. Also combine the fact that he (Alan) had a disrupted season – suspension – the Brumbies don’t have a great scrummaging hooker. Once Slipper was injured – very little support from that side of the scrum. Scotty Sio has been poor all year – again just being allowed to get away with bad habits. Frankly I’m surprised he is in the Wallabies Squad. In the second game against the Reds, Sio aligned on an angle in – which just played into Tupou’s hands. Young Lonergan is a great young player – but he’s under 100kg. A small hooker hurts the scrum. Faingaa has also fallen away massively over the past 2 years.

Questions also over the back 5 scrummaging all (along with Alan’s scrummaging stagnating over 19’ & 20’) contribute to Alan’s issues this year in particular. Tupou – the reason that the previous Wallaby hierarchy rarely selected him to start is referee perception. If he starts and the referee already has it in his head that he is starting on the angle – the scrum is gone for the rest of the game. So I think that they will start with Alan with Taniela coming off the bench. The question will be – can they get the shifts in Alan’s technique, combined with better scrummaging loose head (Slipper) and Hooker (potentially Paenga-Amosa – but that hurts the line out) and actually getting the back 5 to scrummage better – will that be enough. Honestly don’t know.

But that’s why they’re on the big bucks!

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

Good points. Dan (Palmer) spent 2 years out of the program 2019 & 2020 while he was finishing his PhD and this really hurt the Brumbies scrum. The guy they appointed was a young coach with little experience accept for the fact that he was a professional player. He needed to cut his teeth longer in Club Rugby in my opinion – but wanted to be fast tracked.
The Brumbies scrum and individual players within dropped standards and developed some bad habits during this period. Palmer came back this year – but there’s a reason that most Props in particular don’t hit their straps until their late 20’s early 30’s. Development takes a long time – there’s a lot of changing forces that have to managed.
With Palm’s only just coming back this year – any real benefits from the renewed focus won’t really be seen until next year. But if what I’m hearing is correct – he’s been offered a Post Graduate position at Cambridge. If he takes that up – Brumbies scrum will be in a World of hurt.
They will need to find someone of equal ilk and who has the attention to detail around body position and combined forces. They can’t afford to go an inexperienced coach in this area again. But that’s my view.

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

JC – Laurie’s been overseas a couple of times. As Head Coach of Munster under Tony McGahan (Director of Rugby) between 2008 & 2011 and Head Coach of Gloucester 2014 – 2017. When Laurie left the Brumbies in 2014 it was because he wanted to coach ‘for another 10 years’. Wanted another overseas opportunity and felt that by taking that role was his best opportunity to do that.

He’s now into his 60’s and if there wasn’t an opportunity with the Wallabies post the next World Cup would think he would contemplate retiring. I don’t have any intel on that and haven’t spoken to Laurie in over 12 months – more just going off the comment he made in late 2014.

When he was at Munster it was with his wife and family. However, when he took up the Gloucester role – his oldest daughter had just started University and I think his other two kids were still in high school. So his wife stayed in Australia. I do know that he found doing it without the family was difficult and part of the reason why he resigned from Gloucester in 2017 was because it was just too long away from family.

He was actually offered the Forwards role with the Wallabies when Cheika took over in late 2014. But because he had already accepted and started in the Gloucester role – remained loyal.

Laurie has pretty much gone from role to role since he first finished as the Brumbies Head Coach in 2008 without too much time off. The most time he had off from recollection was between Munster and the Brumbies under Jake White in 2011. That time allowed for some reflection, but also due to the people that Jake recruited/was advised to recruit (by Eddie Jones) between the time he got back and the start of the Brumbies pre-season in November there was a lot of time bouncing ideas off – Jake, Stephen (Larkham), Dean Benton, Aled Walters (who was South Africa’s Head of Performance in the World Cup). Dean Benton also got guys in like Vern Gambetta (one of the World’s best Athletic Performance Coaches) to facilitate with the Coaching group.

After this period – Laurie coached as well as he ever has. This is essentially the point that I was alluding to in the article. Since 2011 he has again gone back to back for 10 years. If the Brumbies provide opportunity for the less experienced coaches to take on more responsibility, allowing Laurie to look from the outside in – and similar to 2011. I reckon (and again just my opinion) that will be enough to refresh him. Combine that with Dan coming back and the whole environment amenable to new opinions. That I think would set him up for a grand finale, and give him some new vigour – similar to that of 2011.

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

Yep agree whole heartedly mate. I actually refer to your comment in a comment above.

…@GoldenEye points out in the comments below – which I agree with – is that the Brumbies did peak before covid and the title last year, plus the fact that COVID essentially hid them from the Kiwis (and South Africans for that matter) – bandaided some issues (some of which go back to 2019) with their game.

Dan got big shifts early in his tenure which largely required himself and Laurie Fisher (who are two peas in the same pod) to drive that and be the loudest voices in the room.

But for the Brumbies to move forward and for Dan to make the shifts he needs to place himself in the best position to be the next Wallaby Head coach – there has to be more debate and input from the expertise of the other coaches.

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

James, Yep you make fair point. It wasn’t clear in the article you refer to and I go pretty close to the word limit every article & usually have to cut a fair bit out from the initial draft.

The key word in the following sentence was ‘applicants’’.

…I don’t believe applicants from within current Super Rugby teams have the relevant experience

I didn’t see the currently contracted Head Coaches – Thorn, McKellar and Sampson as applicants.

But I also recognise that it’s obviously not clear.

I think it was actually yourself that raised it in the comments of the previous article as well – that I left out a number of coaches. I’ve included the comment below

Also note who is not in that coaching list – Thorn, McKellar, Fisher, Gilmore, Whitaker, Wessels, Sampson, Foote…

It was my error in that article in not clarifying first, that the list of coaches I included was from ‘who would be available, and who may apply’. As mentioned, I didn’t include the three current (in contract) Head Coaches as they obviously already in positions.

When I saw your comment, realised my mistake & offered the following under the initial comment

Just to clarify the Head Coach recommendations for both the Waratahs and Rebels were based on who would potentially apply and who was available. Thorn & Timmy Sampson are obviously already in positions, and Laurie has no interest in being a Head Coach again.
To further clarify I rate Dan MacKellar and Timmy Sampson and I worked with Laurie over a 3 stints for a number of years and I’ve also worked with Dan…

Interesting also that Timmy Sampson filled in for Stephen one off-season during the period that I mentioned in the article above and had come under the National Radar after winning the John I Dent Cup with Tuggeranong Vikings and also being Head Coach of the Canberra Vikings who came runner up to Thorn’s Qld Country in the 2017 NRC. He was actually appointed (at the recommendation of Mick Byrne – who also had opportunity to watch him coach) Assistant Coach of the National U20’s for 2018. He completed the first camp, but relinquished that role when Twiggy head hunted him for the Force.

So just to clarify – I do rate Dan and was one of his biggest supporters (not that it would have made a difference) in initially getting the Brumbies Head Coaching position.

In relation to the last question above – of the Super Rugby Head Coaches I think he is best placed to be the Wallaby Head Coach when Rennie’s contract finishes. And please let me know if I’ve read it incorrectly and don’t answer it properly.

Do I think he’s a good Super Rugby Head Coach – yes absolutely!

He drove some big shifts in the way that the Brumbies play when he took over. By way of example prior to taking over statistically the Brumbies were No. 1 or 2 in Super Rugby in the following:
– Set Piece (Scrum/Lineout/Restarts) – Dan McKellar & Dan Palmer (Scrum)
– Defence (Peter Ryan)
– The best Athletically prepared in Aus Rugby – it was this year that they had 95% of players available for training and games (Ben Serpell)

But they were 16th from memory in Attack and Gainline. The shifts they needed to make were in Attack. Which Dan to his credit drove. Laurie and Peter Hewat also deserve credit for this. However, Hewy didn’t start until close to the pre-season and the Attack Shape/structure was driven by both Dan and Laurie. As mentioned – their attack improved over the 3 years.

Do I think he should be Wallabies Forwards Coach – yes again! Prior to becoming Head Coach of the Brumbies the Brumbies Forwards statistically were consistently rated in the top 1 or 2 in Super Rugby. Further it’s arguable that he is the best maul coach in World Rugby. There are and have been plenty of International Coaches that enquire about how the Brumbies Maul is structured. When ever he has seceded responsibility for the Lineout and Maul at the Brumbies to others – both have always dropped off. When he retakes them over – they get better.

Do I think he would make a good Wallabies Head Coach right now – if say something happened to Dave Rennie. No I don’t! Do I think with 3 years of further experience as an Assistant at Wallabies and Head Coach at Brumbies – if he is able to take those learnings back and apply them that he would be a quality Wallaby Head Coach – Yes I do!

@GoldenEye points out in the comments below – which I agree with – is that the Brumbies did peak before covid and the title last year, plus the fact that COVID essentially hid them from the Kiwis (and South Africans for that matter) – bandaided some issues (some of which go back to 2019) with their game.

Dan got big shifts early in his tenure which largely required himself and Laurie Fisher (who are two peas in the same pod) to drive that and be the loudest voices in the room.

But for the Brumbies to move forward and for Dan to make the shifts he needs to place himself in the best position to be the next Wallaby Head coach – there has to be more debate and input from the expertise of the other coaches.

Key examples – the Brumbies defence has been poor. It’s not a system issue – because generally they have players in the right spots (not all the time – but more than the Waratahs) – how is that going to improve? Their attack is limited to one structure/shape and it’s the same shape as was coached by Peter Hewat. They have no counterattack to speak of – it’s either high ball or play to a certain spot on the field so that they can get back into their structure/shape.

Rod Seib is a good coach – but I just wonder how much say he has in how the team attacks. They have in their Academy one of the best Skills Coaches in the Country – Dan Hooper. How much is he being utilised? Their Head of Athletic Performance I believe has won 2 Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs – how much say does he have? Plenty of people have alluded to the fact that they have fallen away in every second half performance. He would obviously be wearing this – but again – how much voice does he have?

So long story – and I am comparing him to the All Black environment. But if the Wallaby environment is like that of the All Black environment and he is able to reflect and recognise this. Then take that back to the Brumbies. I.e. make the shifts in terms of getting to the best strategy via utilising all the expertise at his disposal – then yes (a) it will benefit the Brumbies & (b) he will place himself in the best position to be the next Wallaby Head Coach.

If this doesn’t happen – then I think the next Wallaby Head Coach will come from somewhere else.

Brumbies: Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

There’s 3 levels of CLA. You manipulate Task, Organism and Environment. Most people only manipulate task. Which if I can quote Frans Bosch who is one of the leaders in this space and has been a big part of Wales’ success over the past Decade and was also a key consultant with Eddie Jones in Japan “…Task can only be varied a limited number of times before the practice material becomes forced and meaningless. Varying the environment then offers a solution, by greatly increasing the number of meaningful versions. Changing the organism is still hardly used as a deliberate strategy”

‘Task’ and ‘Environment’ outside of the body are used, but what’s generally missing is organisation in the body. If there isn’t a clear ‘End Point’ i.e. outcome in terms of the way that the body moves – when players play games or decision-making activities, they aren’t forced to make the necessary adjustments in the body from where effective technique will emerge. Key’s to all of this are ‘Start’ and ‘End’ point.

So if we go back to the point regarding “…My understanding of CLA (please correct me if I am wrong) that skill execution is a dynamic system and individuals will perform these skills differently due many factors such as Physic, Experience etc. That skill execution will evolve from playing games, not from instruction.”

It’s not wrong, but the skill acquisition experts in this space aren’t clear with it – which may also be part of the reason why it has been a hard sell. Multi-Variant skill sports like rugby – there’s often no clear ‘End-Point’ or ‘Outcome’ that is meaningful with Skill Execution. As a result if you go to just ‘Games-Based’ Coaching – ‘Task’ & partly ‘Environment’ – because there’s so much going on – the body never learns to adjust it’s state to be more effective. I.e. adaptable body positions that can react and respond to any situation. Again if I can quote Bosch (and the reason I am quoting him is that he is the only Skill Acq. expert that I have come across that has been able to explain the full continuum).

“…The better the body technique, the greater the demands on sensory information (Reading). That is why it is a good idea to keep working on body technique even at top-flight level….Body posture & resulting possibilities act as a filter for what can be observed: you can’t see what you can’t execute”.

Further the differences that they talk about need to be within a bandwidth for implicit body learning to occur – if the bandwidth is too big – connections won’t be made.

Mick states the same thing – “If you don’t have the skill – you won’t see the option!”.

To go back to the Punch Pass. There’s ‘Task’, ‘Environment’ & ‘Organism’ and it’s CLA because in the standing version for instance – with the ball on the outside hip (Start Position) the player can’t counter-move the arms to generate lower body generated pass action. Clear ‘end point’ (Finish Thumbs together hands pointing at target). Now the implicit differences come within the way the body organises to get the execution – because it’s got to work out how to get from a point where it can’t get power the way it normally does and straight to that finish point & this is where the implicit CLA organism learning specifically occurs. So while the instructions about Start & End point were are generally very explicit it was to generate implicit learning in the body getting the ball from the hip to end point. Now, where the mistake is often made & I have seen this at elite level – is that players just do the standing version of the pass over and over again – then wonder why when they go to a 15 v 15 situation – there’s no transfer. Again the difference is too big. So for example if I did just 2 executions of the standing – then moved to 2 executions walking just before my inside or outside foot hits the ground – then jogging, then at full speed timed with time added for passes not hitting the mark or dropped passes etc. Then place it into 3v1 situation where the defender is defending differently every time – before then moving to a game again with the focus on the player being able to pass when they needed to rather than when their inside foot is on the ground (99.9% of passers in world rugby – kiwi’s are the only ones that can do it – because the practice it). Then we fast track transfer because each time I change the start point – when to execute while moving – the body has to work out how to organise itself to do it. What generally emerges from this is Co-contractions – which are both protective but also allow the body to react instictively when environment changes.

So if I just refer back to Mick’s Habit Change (it’s largely ‘organism’ CLA – still has environment and task and these can also be manipulated by changing the weight of the ball etc.). But probably one thing that needed greater explanation in the demonstrations was that you’ve got to keep challenging it by increasing specificity and by changing the organism so that it’s not done from the same ‘state’ over and over again.

The other ways are by using contextual interference i.e. do the standing punch pass – then go to punch wrap (again only few repetitions) then back to walking punch pass etc. etc. Now the key with this is that by going and doing a completely different activity the body’s physiology changes – the punch wrap may have pre-fatigued the forearm muscles – so the body’s state has changed – so that when you come back to the walking punch pass – the body has to ‘self-organise’ again to get to the end point – and this is where the learning can occur. You can also go from punch pass to game that emphasises the importance of the punch pass & this is the key.

Unfortunately it’s a sciencey area so can be difficult to understand and better education particularly for Coaches is needed in this space. But accept for guys like the guys I mentioned above – Peter Ryan (Defence Coach) is another one who is excellent and has conducted some studies with Tim Gabbett on Tackle technique. It’s not well understood. But very refreshing to hear guys like yourself and the guys who mentioned it above that are and have moved down this path.

Mick when he explains it uses a Cognitive Skill Acquisition Theory – which isn’t wrong it’s just a different way of explaining it – but probably doesn’t go into the intricacies of what is implicitly being developed and doesn’t link it to Dynamic Systems. While the Dynamic Systems Skill Acquisition experts – very few have done their research in a Rugby Space which is contextually different to a lot sports that don’t have the skill and movement variety that Rugby has. There is who has Coached Ric Shuttleworth – but I find that he confuses the hell out of me and I have a background in this space and I find the Ric doesn’t emphasise the ‘organism’ enough which I think actually contributed to England’s performance in the World Cup Final. For example Ben Young’s passing action changed completely in the final. Particularly in the instance when he through the ball over the sideline. Which suggests the Choking phenomenon where under huge stress physiology changed and without the body having embedded implicit technique ineffective movement actions where over emphasised.

But that’s me just joining the dots.

The final point is the ‘Why’ of developing the punch pass. With linespeed defence being so dominant and because most people (do to the running action) will only pass when their inside foot is on the ground. Therefore – they can only pass a certain direction every second step. As a result a player will either pass early or carry. The other reason is if we develop the punch motion – a player can carry the ball in the centre of the body and have all options available – Pass either way – Carry – or kick. The aim then is to get the ball into each of those positions based on the reads/calls within one step. This then provides players with a genuine triple threat and takes away the advantages of linespeed defence.

Hopefully that provides some explanation. Cheers Mate NL

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Yep absolutely – Gilbert Enoka (mental skills coach) was a big part of – initially the Crusaders – then the All Blacks. Culture was huge and has since been copied by many – i.e sweeping the sheds after the game etc. Probably the best part of their culture I think was the ability to debate without being insecure and taking it personally. But when they came to a solution – even if there was still disagreement – it was disagree and commit. The other part which is the umbrella vision – better people make better All Blacks!

The Coaching group of Henry, Smith, Hansen and Byrne were all very different in personality and views. But they wanted that as they knew the diversity would give them a better outcome. But in order to operate in that environment you everyone has to have high emotional intelligence. This continued after Henry retired and Hansen took over as Head Coach.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Dick didn’t retire – O’Neil sacked him apparently at the request of then QRU powerbroker Leo Williams. It was a terrible decision that O’Neil tried to back track on in his biography. But the damage was done. Not sure why Williams wanted Dick out or if it is in fact true as the only record appears to be in O’Neils biography and we’ll never know because he’s since passed on (Williams). Warren Robilliard continued it at least still with an Australian flavour – but he was forced out around 2010. The degradation probably started around 2005 I reckon – but that’s just my opinion – don’t have any data to back that up. We lost a lot of IP in this space that wasn’t unfortunately bottled – Dick, Boxhead O’Shea, Bob Hitchcock, Alec Evans. Plenty of others that I can’t think of specifically at the moment. Then from 2010 it has since just been following World Rugby accreditations to the letter. Unfortunate and sad.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Yep absolutely – it’s a little known fact also that Aled was the Strength Coach at the Brumbies from late 2011 to mid 2012 and the players said they had never felt stronger. Quality guy and a quality operator.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Fair points mate.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Hoy, Agree whole heartedly. Rod Kafer tried to re-establish the National Coaching Strategy and even got Dick Marks, Bob Dwyer involved. McQueen and Alan Jones declined to be involved – he presented the strategy to the board and thought it was ratified only to find out that the Head of Community Rugby – who I might add has never played or coached a game of rugby wanted it under his banner of responsibility and campaigned for it to stay under Community Rugby. Rod recognising that he was on a hiding to nothing quickly moved on and out of Rugby. That was in 2018. What has been done since to move coaching forward – nothing – the same World Rugby based accreditation courses that haven’t worked for almost 15 years.

At least when Warren Robilliard drove Coach Development after Marks – the Strategy was still Australian and still driven by Australian expertise – of which we had a fair bit – particularly at the AIS etc. But since Warren was forced out of the role – we’ve had nothing but ad hoc strategy and just simply adopted World Rugby Courses.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Skip, I’d like you to expand more – because the ‘constraints led approach’ is exactly what’s missing and a few people in the comments above have already alluded to it – they just hadn’t named it – but what they refer to in their own coaching is exactly that. It’s actually refreshing to see in the comments here because generally in Australian Rugby it’s a misunderstood concept. Mick Byrne who drove this type of Coaching in New Zealand for 11 years – tried to do the same in Australia. But was undermined because few people understand it and it looks like you’re not coaching. It was also a bridge too far for many coaches and this is part of the point I make about coaches abrogating responsibility. One of the issues with Australian Coaches is that if you’re not walking up and down the field yelling and remonstrating and driving ‘intensity’ ‘intensity’ ‘intensity’… You’re not rated as a coach.

Yes you need intensity – but you also need opportunities to drive skill context and learning.

It was also highlighted at the recent Academy conference by the Australian Coaching Staff and the Academy and Athletic Performance Staff were challenged to change one bad habit that exists across all Elite Players in Australian Rugby through the method. Australia has some of the best proponents of this method. John Pryor – who was Eddie’s Athletic Performance Coach when Japan beat the Springboks. Both stated that this type of Coaching was what drove that performance. JP is now with the Wallabies. Dean Benton who first integrated it into the Brumbies in late 2011 when Jake White came in. His influence was the largest over that group – which is statistically the quickest improvement of a novice group in Super Rugby history going from 13th to 2nd in 18 months with 10 debutants in the first game in 2012 – again flies in the face of current ‘cohesion’ methodology. As I said – the aim is to beat it. But the interesting thing is that Dean’s interaction with Laurie Fisher during this period actually fast tracked individual development because the Athletic Performance and Skills were integrated. Another outcome from this was – the Brumbies had no soft tissue injuries during this period and they were the fastest group that at the time he had ever worked with. Hence my point about Laurie going back to what made him one of the best coaches in the World. The other Coaches that are World Class at this is Ben Serpell who just resigned from the Waratahs – Head of Performance. Damon Emtage formerly of the Reds was superb at it. Dan Hooper who was mentored by Mick Byrne at the Brumbies is also very good at it. Ironic also that the Brumbies Academy since 2017 has been a large part of the Club’s performance. Hooper along with Ben Norcott who has just accepted a position training Australia’s best Airforce pilots were large driving forces behind the development of: Lolesio, both Lonergan Brothers, Scott, Ikitau, Fines, Hooper, Lloyd, Reimer, Ross, Fred Kahiea (who is still Academy but made his Super Debut this year) & Former Academy members that are currently at other Clubs (Isaac Henry, Angus Wagner). All of these guys were developed using the Constraints Led approach.

I mentioned Damon Emtage above – he was also a big factor in the development of Tim Sampson as a player and since as a Coach. His work with the Reds between 2007 & 2009 – while didn’t yield results during that time – from a Individual Player development perspective actually set them up for 2010 and 2011. Ewen was the Head Coach they needed and came it right at the right time – but fair to say that Emtage and Mooney had actually facilitated a lot of the individual development prior to that.

So mate as I said – I’d like you to expand more – because I agree in Australia except for the above mentioned examples it is near impossible to get buy in. To illustrate the point. In Jan 2019 a mate of mine rang me who was at the USA National Development Summit said that Gary Gold just got up and saw Mick Byrne in the audience. Gary was Assistant Coach of the Springboks, Stormers, bath, etc. etc. And Gary who at the time and still is USA National Coach said “See that bloke up the back there, I have spoken to every All Black Coach over the last 15 years and they have all said that one of the keys to their success was the skills program that that bloke put into New Zealand Rugby over 11 years”. Gary has since said the same to me. Yet despite that and despite two World Cup Gold Medals – Mick aside from a few pockets – had zero success in integrating it into Australian Rugby.

So I agree with you whole heartedly mate and want to hear more and also from the guys that have intimated it above. It’s not done in Super Rugby because it’s a different way of coaching and you don’t always get an immediate result so they shelve it. It’s too much about tactics and grunt and week to week mindset. To illustrate a key point. in 2015 Mick spent 1 day per week with all of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises working with the extended All Black Squad members during Super Rugby. That 2015 All Black team is the most dominant team I have ever seen. RugbyAU asked the same of the Australian Franchises in 2019 and it was met with disdain – “Not in a game week!” from every franchise was the response.

Som mate keep it coming.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Peter, 1000% to every point you make.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

1000% to every point

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Absolutely and this is definitely in line with my point. Certainly in a Super Rugby context Coaching and Management staff no longer ensure ‘Equipment & weapons are checked, arms test fired etc. and with a small population – these things used to be what the coaches focussed on. Always had to be better prepared in all aspects than the opposition. At the moment we’re abrogating for just 1 or 2 things.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Just to clarify the Head Coach recommendations for both the Waratahs and Rebels were based on who would potentially apply and who was available. Thorn & Timmy Sampson are obviously already in positions, and Laurie has no interest in being a Head Coach again.
To further clarify I rate Dan MacKellar and Timmy Sampson and I worked with Laurie over a 3 stints for a number of years and I’ve also worked with Dan. Laurie has been one of the best coaches in the World for many years. But I feel and I can say this because I was at the Brumbies during all 3 of his stints. Since coming back from Gloucester – He’s moved away from the things that turned him into being one of the best coaches in the World – which was making each individual better – to just tactics and mindset for the weekend. Hence my issues with the quote. I just want the ‘old’ Laurie Fisher back and frankly I believe that Australian Rugby needs the old Laurie Fisher back.
The issues about competitions – The NRC won’t be coming back because it’s unaffordable and it does create too many divisions. Further despite what was propagated above – the Brumbies had no control over the Canberra Vikings – they were wholly and solely run by Tuggeranong. So my point was without a third tier what are the coaches going to do to make their teams better. No point saying we need this – when it’s not there and won’t be. Hence my issue with Thorn’s quote.
But again if it’s not clear in the article – the Coaches I recommended were those that would be available and had relevant experience for the two Head Coaching positions on offer.

How Australian rugby can improve coaching

Link to the part of the Ewen McKenzie Interview referenced in the article can be found here:
https://vimeo.com/556140390
If link doesn’t work copy it and place it into the browser. Part II to follow next week

A tale of two coaches and Super Rugby: Part 1

Hey Mate, Apologies for the fact this is just one paragraph. Can’t work out how to get the paragraph breaks in. Restricted in the article in terms of words. So I’ll provide more detail here: 2 – 4 -2 I actually said it was a derivative of the Canterbury 2 – 4 – 2, not the ‘actual 2 – 4 – 2’. Most Southern Hemisphere systems are derivative’s of the old 2 – 4 – 2 as it was the first time in this region a system like that had been used.
This system based coaching actually started in the Northern Hemisphere by Gloucester – they called it the Gloucester Pod System. The Coach at the time – John Mitchell – he was the one that actually bought it back to the All Blacks and Robbie Deans as his Assistant Coach integrated and evolved it in to the 2 – 4 – 2 with the Crusaders.
But I digress – the issue with the old 2 – 4 – 2 philosophy and the same philosophy that Penney won 3 NPC titles with, was that inside backs get into bad habits of just standing and delivering. It was a massive issue for the All Black Coaching Staff from 2004 on as when the Crusaders players came into the All Black Coaching environment – they almost had to be retrained to always be a ‘triple threat’.
Exactly the same thing was evident with the Waratahs play with Will Harrison at 10 always playing deep and generally just standing and delivering without being a threat. That was my point. I don’t have an opinion either way on Whitaker. I do have issues with the fact that the Coach they sacrificed to bring him back to the Waratahs was Chris Malone, who had significantly changed their skillsets along with Steve Tandy and Simon Cron in 2018. The Waratahs were a shadow of that in 2019 and Cron and Tandy couldn’t get out quick enough!
But, the reality is that the attack has improved since Penney left – the have greater options – actually attack off 9 and 10 and Donaldson plays flatter and in particular is a genuine threat as a runner as well as a passer. That alone is a massive change. The depth and track of the 10 was system based and looked exactly the same as the old 2 – 4 – 2. As even when they achieved both advantage line and quick ball – which is when you want the 10 to flatten up – in the Penney era – the 10 still sat back deep and delivered based on the system. While under Whitaker – Donaldson & I’d be interested to see whether there is change in Harrison as well, bases his lines, alignment and track on the speed and position of the breakdown. This is what good 10’s should do and like it or not Whitaker is the Attack Coach. So I was just offering credit where it was due.
In terms of Penney – I’ve met him, spent some time with him in Christchurch around 12 years ago and he was very knowledgeable, particularly around culture and a pretty good guy. However, there’s a reason he was never considered for Head Coaching positions in New Zealand and their Coach Development is significantly better than ours. So, particularly when we (Australia) have some very good Coaches that have created success Internationally and Provincially in Europe and Japan – where he couldn’t – was struck that he was given the Waratahs Coaching position in the first place.
Defence – again it’s and inconvenient truth particularly for Gilmore – but he is the defence coach!
I didn’t see Press Conference where Whitaker said that the Waratahs were known as an attacking team, but I did see the rhetoric in a number of articles during the week where Gilmore was also promoting it. Interesting that it also came from the Captain after the Blues loss – so it’s clearly now an embedded team message – which again lacks accountability. It’s the last thing a young list needs and we are generally hearing from young coaches – when things don’t go their way – it’s always someone else’s fault. Hence the article.
Ironic also, and this was pointed out to me by a professional coach of note only yesterday. That at 1/2 time during the Waratahs Hurricanes game – Jake Gordon pointed out – we are way too narrow around the ruck – I also think he said – It’s killing us. When Gilmore was interviewed – nothing about their spacing. The Captain knew what the issue was then – but the Coach either didn’t or more likely wouldn’t admit it – as it’s his system. Now we also have the Captain preaching the rhetoric.
I know the defensive system he uses – It hasn’t been used in Professional Rugby for over 10 years because of the issues around getting set with spacing early. Everyone in Australian Rugby knows the system he uses – because as the U20’s coach he tried to get all of the Academies to train their players based on the system. Most politely declined. But at no point has there been an admission that the system was flawed. Moreover – it’s deflected to the players and a mythical culture. Further I’m told that during a High Performance Coaching Conference this week – a photo of the Waratahs defensive line was presented with a question – why are sides only defending 2/3’s of the field and expecting to win games?
So, I’m not the only one questioning it. In terms of the point that he stiffened up the defence when he came in last year. Again unfortunately I disagree – the Force having just been reintroduced at last minute into Super Rugby AU were underdone and a shadow of where they got to this year. Further in the game that they beat the Reds last year – they played 14 in the defensive line and only 1 player back. The Reds weren’t prepared for that as the Waratahs hadn’t shown it before. A week later against the Brumbies – they were pumped as the Brumbies scored tries off kicking to space. This was again a bandaid fix. You take those games out of it they still average giving up over 30 points a game. When he was the Reds defensive coach – arguable he cost Nick Stiles his job – again their defence averaged over 30 points per game. Stiles was punted and Thorn didn’t want Gilmore involved – so he was moved to cushy ARU position.
The other point which is pertinent – and which we are finding out pretty bluntly with the Trans Tasman competition – playing just Australian teams doesn’t test your defence as much as the old Super Rugby Competition. While in Super Rugby AU the the Waratahs have leaked over 30 points per game. In the Trans Tasman Competition the Waratahs are averaging over 50 points per game.
Unbeknownst to many, the Waratahs are actually doing some really good things in behind the scenes. Particularly with the guys in the ‘Positive Rugby Foundation’. They’re rebuilding relationships with grassroots, the schools and providing resource. In a short term transactional world – these are brave long term fixes that will yield benefits in 3 – 5 years. The Waratahs need to make a good choice with their next Head Coach as if they don’t we’ll be back having the same conversation in 2- 3 years time and all the good work being done in behind the scenes gets undermined and drowned out. The Waratahs have a good young list and they’re good kids – they’re kids with value sets that people will want to follow. But they need a good accountable mentor and they and the organisation will fly. As mentioned there are plenty of really good Australian Coaches that are doing and have done some fantastic work overseas. Many of them also started in Club Rugby in Australia – were successful in club rugby – which I think is important. Many also have Super Rugby experience.
They’re also accountable – you don’t survive as a foreign coach if you’re not – particularly over long periods.

Rugby coaching is nothing without accountability

Hey Mate, Appreciate the comments and – Fair Point. My name is Nick Leah. My nickname and the name I’m known in rugby circles is Leahry. Our Company which has recently been rebranded is also Six Degree Sports – which is the Logo that I use. All the guys that I’ve mentioned in the article know who I am and call me by the nickname. I also put the articles up on my LinkedIn and Facebook account as well.

So I take the point – I used the nickname more so because for most in rugby that is the name that I’m known as and it seemed that most people on the roar site had a moniker of some sort.

Cheers
NL

Rugby coaching is nothing without accountability

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