Relevance? I recall my final year at the Brumbies. We lost every pre-season match we played, going into the season with hardly a point on the board. We lost our last game leading into the Super XII by 50 points to Waikato. Our coach was anxious but we had a saying at the time, which was “the Melbourne Cup is not won in February”. In that year we won the Super XII title.
Noted that this was a time when everyone but the showiest of players wore black boots, and a time when you could take your own jersey off after the game, but two rounds into the 2013 Super XV and I believe that the principle remains sound in the current day. Perhaps it remains more relevant due to the amount of rugby that players and teams are expected to play in the current calendar.
Process Remains Key
A few days back I found myself chatting with a couple of the ACT Brumbies leading players. With two wins under their belt at the start of the season I asked them what that meant in the scheme of things. I was pleased with the emphatic reply that it means absolutely nothing.
It was a passing conversation but it says a lot about the psychology of good elite rugby teams.
It showed me that the Brumbies are focused on their process, how they play, and how they can be better. Only by doing this do results follow, and really, no-one remembers who came 2nd in the Melbourne Cup at the end of day.
The fact that the players have not considered the back-end of the season means they are in the moment in relation to simply ‘being better’ next week. It is a good approach to take.
Three years ago the Brumbies had a squad that was called the Real Madrid of Australian rugby. Packed full of Wallabies, there was a lot of expectation, and public discussion quickly turned to how we would go when the finals came. We did not make the finals that year. The lessons are not easy ones to learn.
What I also noted in my meeting is the physical size and presence of the current crop of players. The training regime has extended beyond the general rugby environment as we once knew it, to include things that were once the domain of the individual (e.g. all daytime meals taken at the clubhouse; sleeping rooms for the time between training sessions being two elements relating to recovery and performance).
It was slightly different in my time. In the clip below I managed to score a try right in the corner and almost took out the flag post, only to have a couple of the current players commentating on the clip say ‘he would have gone into touch if he had done weights when he played’. Have a look:
My next piece will be on the lack of respect young players show to the older generation!
Yours in rugby,