ARU unveils plans for national coaching panel
RUGBY UNION: The Australian Rugby Union will establish a national coaching panel over the coming months which, it is hoped, will see the Wallabies return to being a powerhouse in world rugby.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika made the announcement on Thursday afternoon, just moments after some of the sharpest rugby minds in the country met at the ARU headquarters in Sydney to discuss the state of the game in Australia.
In attendance were Cheika, national skills coach Mick Byrne, high performance director Ben Whitaker, World Cup-winning Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer and former national coaching director Dick Marks, while former Wallaby turned Fox Sports pundit Rod Kafer acted as a facilitator of the meeting, which had previously been dubbed a "coaching summit".
"We're committing to a national coaching panel," Cheika said.
"That's a coaching panel that will help support the development of coaches throughout the whole game from elite level to the junior level."
Australian rugby is experiencing a period of high turbulence both on and off the field.
Disappointing results on the field, especially since the 2015 World Cup at both Super Rugby and Test level, have contributed to a decrease in interest in the code in a highly competitive Australian sports market.
And on the back of declining success on the field since expanding to four and then five Super Rugby franchises - as well as dwindling economic resources - the ARU announced last month that they were cutting one team (Force or Rebels) for the 2018 season.
But despite the recent run of poor results, Cheika said the decision to establish the panel wasn't a new idea and that the coaching panel would have both short and long-term benefits for rugby in Australia.
"We've been speaking and doing things about this for eight months or so since we did the nationwide survey where we got a list of all the clubs," Cheika said.
"Personally I've been very passionate about that area because I think that the success of our game is based in that, but not just now but for well down the track as well.
"Once people are learning new things in any field, the change is immediate.
"Once you want to learn and get better, change is immediate."
The ARU will spend the next 10 days drawing up a draft copy of the proposed changes, before sending it around to the various state unions and Super Rugby coaches to get feedback.
It's hoped that the program can get lift off within 100 days.
Cheika admitted they still had a long way to go to bring it all together but said the national coaching panel would focus on empowering coaches across the nation and help assist them with the fundamentals of the game.
"No matter how you want to play the game, whether you want to play 10-man rugby, running rugby or do whatever, there's some key fundamentals in how we've done things over the years and how we'd like to continue to do them," Cheika said.
"We'll decide what's in that structure of fundamentals because we certainly don't want to play one style of footy all around.
"We want the diversity of game going on.
"And just to support the whole coaching structure, so we're getting better coaches and coaches from the very junior level like commencing the under-6's level.
To have a clear guide on engagement and our fundamentals is a really important way of being a part of the common purpose.
"I want the guy who is coaching our under-6s to feel like he's part of an Australian coaching fraternity that has certain fundamentals about it that we're proud of and then they're allowed to express themselves as well with the way they play the game, and the same with our Super Rugby guys, our club coaches and our sub-district coaches.
"They're looking after the biggest asset we have, which is our players.
"Then we have our volunteers alongside that at the amateur level, who are inspired by what they see on the field and I bet that's why they do it.
"It's a small thing for us to do but once we get the right minds in place, who are thinking with that support mechanism thought process, it will rub off on all our coaches."
The Wallabies coach said that coaching workshops would be implemented.
"Let's say we did two or three of those workshops a year with our club coaches in Sydney, Brisbane, Victoria, Perth and all the states and the club coaches at Shute Shield, for example," Cheika said.
"That's only going to be of benefit to people.
"Throw out ideas, learn and most importantly the attitude to understand and teach the skill for a lot of younger coaches. They might know the knowledge, but they might need help to teach the skill.
"That's what will drive on a national basis."
Cheika said the announcement was a positive step forward for the game in Australia.
"There's not many things we do just for the game, unfortunately," Cheika said.
"This one's just for the game. There's no politics.
"Better coaching, guys and girls enjoying their coaching more, having their players more engaged is only going to give us a better outcome across the board.
"I think it's very positive."