Hayes pushing QLD to be smarter, stronger

Super W
by Sam Phillips

Meet the man charged with ending NSW's reign atop Australian women's rugby.

Michael Hayes has worn many hats as a rugby coach with 34 years experience but this is his first taste of women's rugby - a part of the game he now feels so passionately about, having taken the reins at Ballymore as Queensland's Super W coach.

A Queensland player in 1987 and a NSW player in the two years that followed, Hayes took up coaching as a 20-year-old.

From Kenmore U10s to Shute Shield stints with Manly and Gordon, the 54-year-old longevity as a coach speaks to his passion for the game.

Having moved to Brisbane to be closer to his son as he enters his final years of schooling at Nudgee College, Hayes got a push to apply for the job while coaching at Wests.Hayes casts his eye over training. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

Now the job is his to own, he has his sights set on ending NSW's - or more accurately, Sydney's - string of five straight titles.

"One of the coaches of the Tahs girls is a good friend of mine and I was having a conversation with him the other day," he explained.

"He said they already know what type of rugby and what type of player you guys are going to bring.

"And he was exactly right.

"We want to be dominant at the breakdown and overall, a very physical side that takes control of the game.

"If we can do that and we can train the girls to be smarter about their rugby, we can beat anyone."

Hayes is determined to make Queensland's inaugural Super W side the smartest on field team in the competition.Nareta Masters will be one of Queensland's stars. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan HertelHe is of the belief that fronting up mentally is just as important as fronting up physically and that is made crystal clear by making his squad of 30 sit a written exam on Sunday, testing their ability to make decisions under pressure in different parts of the field.

"I'm excited - particularly about turning them into good rugby players," Hayes said.

"These girls have to become more knowledgeable when it comes to looking at defensive patterns and exploiting those patters in an intelligent way.

"Little things like seeing that there are already two strong breakdown players over the ball.

"If that's the case, go get set in the defensive line, rather than over commit.Hayes will test his team's rugby smarts with a written exam. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel"The written exam will test the girls in three scenarios - in the 22, just outside the 22 and from a midfield scrum.

"We want to see how they approach each of those situations and figure out where we need to improve and we have to do it quick."

Queensland culled a squad of 50 to 30 on Sunday and as the first round in March draws closer, the excitement is palpable in Hayes' voice.

"We have some wonderfully skilful girls," he said.

"We also have some seriously talented athletes that we are moulding into seriously talented rugby players.

"If we can be smart and stay two to three steps ahead of the pack and keep the ball in hand, that's how we will get ahead and stay ahead in the game."