Sunday, June 15, 2008

Simple Secret of Super Rugby Coach Robbie Deans

He was a great All Black and an outstanding coach of championship Rugby teams ‘down under’. Now Robbie Deans has commenced as the coach of the Australian Wallabies rugby team and his charges have been looking to discover his secret?

Wayne Smith picks up the story in The Australian:

“Turns out there was no secret at all. Everything Deans was telling them had been enunciated one-and-a-half centuries ago by American philosopher Henry David Thoreau. OK, not the bit about non-violent resistance, because Deans is the first to acknowledge that rugby is a violent sport and that turning the other cheek simply leads to matching sets of tag marks on your bum. The other bit - "our life is frittered away by detail ... simplify, simplify".

Smith says that in recent years the Wallabies have been coached to play in “tangled spaghetti strands of interconnected nodes. Running lines, packing angles, kicking zones. It was Thoreau turned on his head. Complicate, complicate?

And suddenly here was Deans telling his players that if there was space in front of them, run to it. If a roadblock was in their way but a team-mate was free, pass him the ball. It might all have been borrowed from another great American philosopher, the late and legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who, when asked by one of his receivers what lines he should run to get free of the defence, replied: "Run to the daylight."

Think back to that Sydney night in 2003 when the Deans-coached All Blacks backline cut the Wallabies to shreds to rattle up an astonishing half-century. Afterwards [Australian Rugby Manager John] O'Neill sought out the New Zealand skipper Reuben Thorne, Deans' Crusaders captain at the time, to congratulate him on the most dazzling display of attacking rugby he had ever seen.

"Rugby's a simple game, John," Thorne responded, no doubt directly quoting his long-time coach.

Source: Wayne Smith, ‘Secret of the super coach: run towards the daylight’, The Australian, 14 June 2008.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Robbie Deans