Finegan: You're only as strong as your weakest link

by Owen Finegan

I was involved at the Brumbies for over 13 years and they had a vision to be recognised as the pre-eminent provincial team and organisation in World rugby.

The homepage on the Brumbies website currently celebrates Pride, Passion and Excellence. The reality could not be further from the truth.

After spending the weekend at The Armidale School watching the future of Australian rugby battling it out during an Under 12's rugby carnival it reinforces what is important in this great game we play. It was well-administered, relied on volunteer support, ran smoothly, all the players and the spectators enjoyed the camaraderie and the spirit of rugby.

TAS, Armidale in NSW Central North has become an institution within the rugby community. Photo: The Armidale SchoolThe weakest link at the moment for the Brumbies is their off field administration. Dramas regarding their board and its ongoing relationship with the CEO, pending AFP investigation, relationship management of major stakeholders, player management including the relocation of their current captain to Queensland and disgruntled supporters are the tip of the iceberg.

Great organisations understand what must never change and what is open for change. This ensures both continuity and progress. The culture that the Brumbies have been able to build in a short history is stronger than individuals.

This culture plays a strong part in high performing sporting organisations. It requires strong leadership at board, CEO, coaching and playing ranks. History will show that there are very few teams that overcome external turmoil and adversity to keep performing at an exceptional, winning level.  Culture can have a long term impact through team recruitment, contract negotiations and retention.

The early 2000s Brumbies teams lived by the acronym Betterment, Respect, Unity, Mateship, Bravery, Intelligence, Enjoyment and Success.  This reinforced what was important to us as a team. In many instances we continued on in an insular cocoon away from influences outside the team.

It takes an experienced and great team to believe that off field distraction will not impact or have an adverse affect on the field. In 2004 I was part of the Brumbies squad that won the Super Rugby Final despite the decision mid season not to extend the current coach David Nucifora's contract past the end of the year.

2004 Brumbies Super Rugby winning coach, David Nucifora who's contract was not renewed in 2005. That decision was definitely a distraction. However, strong administration, complemented with a core of focused and experienced senior players allowed the team to keep their eye on the prize. 2004 ended with silverware.

The ongoing nature of the Brumbies current off field issues might be more of a long term, protracted and negative influence.  The current senior players and leadership team in the 2016 squad, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Fardy, David Pocock, Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano will need to keep the current Brumbies squad focused and on track.

There was a slight wobble on the field after the Brumbies last game. A convincing loss at the hands of the Chiefs at Canberra Stadium. This loss would have led to a lot of analysis and soul searching during the Brumbies bye week. Often as a player all you want to do is get on with the competition and respond to a poor performance straight away. The last thing you want is extra time to stew about on field and off field issues.

Whether the timing coincided with the teams return to Australia after a three week tour, the media storm in what can only be described as a debacle, or just an off week is yet to be seen. As the Brumbies prepare to take on the Waratahs this weekend motivation and passion are two words that often do not need to be discussed in the lead up to this local derby.

The Brumbies' administration issues will hopefully not impact their on-field performance. This is the Brumbies' weakest link and they are a long way from being the best in the world.

A former Captain of the ACT Brumbies, Owen Finegan played 90 matches for the Brumbies and 56 Tests for the Wallabies. He is currently the CEO of The Kids' Cancer Project Australia.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.

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