With the Brumbies on the lookout for a new head coach for 2012, it’s time to run the eye over the possible candidates for the so-called ‘poisoned chalice’ of rugby coaching positions.
The decision to appoint the next head coach will need to made shortly as player retention and recruitment needs to be finalised. One good example: where Adam Ashley-Cooper ends up in 2012 is partially dependent on the coaching appointment.
There has been much said in the local and national press about the quality of candidates to take on this high-pressure role. Whoever gets the nod for the top job will need to be a strong leader to get the Brumbies back on top of the heap.
One thing is certain, though: the Brumbies want someone to get results quickly. Six seasons of mediocrity is not satisfactory for the fans who are close to rioting after previous incidents involving head coaches at Brumbyland. For this reason I strongly believe the Brumbies need to appoint someone with experience, and not have an apprentice learning on the job at the expense of the club. Canberra is a place where the masses will follow a winning team, and in a city where there are only two teams to follow in winter and one team isn’t doing so well, it makes for an easy decision on whom to support.
So let’s have a look at the possible contestants….COME ON DOWN!
Jake White — There are reports that Brumbies CEO Andrew Fagan has traveled to South Africa to meet with White this week. White’s record as a World Cup-winning coach speaks volumes and can’t be ignored. This would have him as one of the front runners for the position, and his association with former Brumbies coach Eddie Jones would give him a good insight into the wheelings and dealings of the Brumbies organisation. He won’t come cheap, but a man with his record and stature within the game could be exactly what the Brumbies need to get them back to the glory days of the early 2000s.
Michael Cheika — A well-credentialed coach currently plying his trade in France with Stade Français. He has previously coached and played for the Randwick club in Sydney, which could get him over the line due to the connection to the Randwick players within the Brumbies squad. A rumoured fall-out with Waratahs management on past dealings may see him keen to get one up on those he feels dudded him. He might also be keen to link up with Rocky Elsom after their successful European Cup campaign of 2008/09 that saw Irish side Leinster claim the title.
Todd Louden — Another journeyman who has been on the coaching merry-go-round with stops in Sydney, Pretoria, Tokyo… and is now back in Sydney coaching Sydney University. His work with the Bulls saw them take out their maiden Super 14 title in 2007 and wherever he has coached he has improved the team overall. His specialty is as a backs/attack coach and it will be interesting to see if he gets the job as Stephen Larkham, the rumoured heir apparent, currently fills that role.
Michael Foley — Has extensive knowledge of the murky waters that are scrums and forwards play. Acquired this knowledge on the fields of the UK, followed by a stint as Wallabies set piece coach, and is currently with the Waratahs as forwards coach. Hasn’t really shown any desire to take on a head coaching role and seems comfortable as an assistant, but it’s believed he is being groomed as Chris Hickey’s successor.
Nick Scrivener — Is currently in the same boat as Tony Rea, having taken over Scottish Magners League side Edinburgh after the head coach recently stepped down, and he juggles this role with the head coaching job for the Scotland A squad. A former Brumbies assistant coach under Laurie Fisher, his inside knowledge of the organisation and a chance to move back home could work in his favour.
Stephen Larkham — The man who could ghost through any defensive line is currently the attack coach for the Brumbies. Many believe he will eventually take over as head coach of the Brumbies one day, some even think as early as 2012, but inexperience could count against him at this stage. The big question is: can a great player become a great coach?
Tony Rea — The current Brumbies head coach who is probably wondering what he’s got himself in for after a belting at the hand of the Crusaders last week. Has limited rugby union coaching experience after previously being the head coach of Harlequins Rugby League in the UK. Is currently assessing his options about whether to put his hat in the ring for 2012 and beyond.
Tim Lane — A coach who certainly has been to the extremes of the coaching landscape. Was assistant to Rod Macqueen in the 1999 World Cup success, then coached in France, and then in almost all points between there and Sydney. Had a stint with the Springboks and the Cats in South Africa, spent time in Italy and was most recently the head coach of Georgia and secured their place in the World Cup. Has finally put the passport away and is coaching Manly in the Shute Shield.
Rod Kafer — Another local product who is considered one of the best thinkers of the game and is currently a pundit for Fox Sports. He is believed to be one of the brains behind the Brumbies’ successes in the early years. Has dipped his toe into coaching in Europe at Saracens (with limited success) in the past — but has gone on record to rule himself out of the running.
Brumby Jack — One who would bleed for the Brumbies (the Reds game is an excellent example), but would need to get himself out a hole before trying to do the same with the Brumbies. Communication skills would need to improve to be considered part of the Brumbies stable. Upon being asked if he was a candidate, replied with ‘neigh’.
Others — Don’t be surprised if names like Joe Roff, Marco Caputo and Justin Harrison are thrown about, but for the reasons stated earlier, no matter how much of a ‘Golden Child’ any of them might be, inexperience will be their biggest hurdle in getting the top job.