McKellar taking transition in his stride

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar might be a fresh face as a Super Rugby head coach, but he’s been preparing for this for years.

With former Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham balancing Wallabies and Super Rugby duties, McKellar is no stranger to being caretaker coach.

Even before taking that step up, McKellar’s journey through the pathways has been as the coach, rather than assistant, and this next opportunity feels only natural.

“A lot of my coaching experience has been as a head coach, obviously with Souths in Brisbane and Tuggeranong here, NRC and looking after programs and then while Stephen's been with the Wallabies I've been in an acting head coach for 5-6 months of the year here at the Brumbies,” he said.

“As a head coach, it's more about managing people, making sure that your staff are across what you want from them, making sure you're giving them feedback and obviously the same for the players, making sure you're having regular communication with your players and they feel comfortable and just providing an environment where people want to be in.”

Comfort doesn’t mean keeping things the same for McKellar.

Already, he has tested the team out in a brutal preseason camp and has set about establishing a new vision for the side.

“I think it's just understanding what's important to the Brumbies, what are the Brumbies are known for, but specifically what this group really values and not just being words on a wall, it's got to be something we all resonate with and that is important to us.

“There's a number of things there - family, for example, has always been really important to the Brumbies and certainly important to this group.

“The reality is a lot of our players are from out of town, their partners are from out of town both staff and players.

“I think we've got a culture where we look after each other and there's a real Brumbies family.

“So, I know that's going to be something that we’ll constantly refer to.”

While McKellar has been preparing for his succession into the top job, the Brumbies as a whole have also been in somewhat of a changeover, losing a number of senior players in the past two seasons, though Christian Lealiifano and David Pocock will be back in the fold in 2018.

“Twelve months ago or 18 months ago, when we lost Poey, (Matt) Toomua, Joe Tomane, Christian was diagnosed, we did lose quite a lot of senior players there and there was probably a little bit of a gap in our leadership," he said.

“Someone like Sam Carter for example, over the last 12 months has developed into a quality leader and Sam he leads through his actions and I think how he's worked over the last couple of months, despite his disappointments in and around Wallabies selections and that sort of thing - he's just knuckled down and he's probably in the best condition he's ever been in.

"Carts is someone I think's in for a really big 2018."

The Brumbies open their Super Rugby season on Saturday February 24 against the Sunwolves, kicking off at 3:15pm local, 5:15pm AEDT.