Australia’s Super Rugby teams are sharing GPS data and a landmark two-day conference aims at putting them on the same page ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
The forum, bringing together coaches, analysts and strength and conditioning departments of the Wallabies, Sevens and Super Rugby sides, the first gathering of its kind in Australia.
With one of Australia’s worst Super Rugby years on record, the need for improvement has been acknowledged across the country and Whitaker hopes the meetings provide a catalyst for that, with input from University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Business School.
In a sign of a more united approach, flagged under a ‘one plan’ proposal announced in August, all five Super Rugby clubs have had access to de-identified GPS data of their rivals this season.
Where data sharing has been met with resistance in areas of other football codes, Whitaker said the five Australian teams had been open to identified and de-identified data sharing, with Wallabies’ success the end goal.
“There is a learning, developing coaching group across Super Rugby, Wallabies and Sevens that I think will really commit to that sharing,” he said.
“We had a great example earlier this year where we basically shared training load and playing load data for all of our Super Rugby players, to all of our Super clubs.
“They agreed to that with us.
“So it was a really good sign that they were open and that only makes everybody better.
“We start to learn, and probably the simplest form of analysis is to compare amongst ourselves and we have that moving already.”
Reticent to use the word ‘centralisation’, Whitaker said there was a ‘collegiality’ among the state unions that would hopefully mirror the system seen in New Zealand, which has bred success though Super Rugby and in Tests.
“We've looked at it pretty closely and I think at the end of the day, they've got a level of coordination through structure that supports them,” he said.
“You can't just hope for collaboration or talk about it. You've got to have a system that enables it.
"I think that's what they've got.
“Talking to some of the coaches here who have experienced it, that's what they're suggesting they do have but it doesn't come without challenges.”<
Whitaker said advice wouldn’t just be one-way traffic when the national and franchise staff met, either.
“I think one of the systems we want to build is one where there is challenge in and around, whether it be international level, Super level, whatever, it's not just a hierarchy of decision making that starts at the top and blends down,” he said.
“People have used the word centralisation before and those sort of things, I think it's bigger than that.
“It's truly bigger than that and it's getting everyone to commit to that one system locally delivered that achieves winning and everyone can be proud of it.”
Whitaker was confident change, and success, would be able to be seen relatively quickly, as the states work together with national staff.
“One of the metaphors we've used is maybe we're sort of a little bit low in the pool at the moment but we've got a great opportunity to push off the bottom and shoot through to the surface,” he said.
“Again, that's easy to say, we've got to action that now.
“That's why I think everybody here, there's still a lot of belief, there's not this sense of hoping or wondering and that sort of thing and again we're going to make sure that's part of what we do here as a group, is make sure that we truly believe and we will believe that we can break through for winning pretty quickly.”