"Winning doesn't happen by accident": Wessels reveals secrets of Rebels success

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

As a coach of a Super Rugby team, life is all about routine.

Fans often roll their eyes when players or coaches say there are "taking it one week at a time" but there is a large chunk of truth to those words.

Video review on Monday, heavy training session Tuesday, day off on Wednesday, light session on Thursday, captain's run on Friday, play Saturday, recover Sunday, rinse and repeat.

Win, lose or draw, these are the processes players and coaches alike follow each and every week - it's the comfort zone.

As Dave Wessels arrived at his new headquarters at AAMI Park for the very first time, he was determined to strip the comfort zone away.

It was the only way to tackle a task so far removed from the routine of being a professional rugby coach that he will almost certainly never face one of its kind again.

If Wessels couldn't amalgamate the players leftover from the 2017 Rebels and those who had followed him east from the remains of the Force, he stood little chance of returning to that routine come finals time.

 Wessels has forged bonds between the two sets of players. Photo: Getty ImagesSo, in his first week as Rebels coach, he brought all players together in a room, closed the door and asked for all anxieties to be laid bare.

"We just wanted the players to be honest, to be themselves," Wessels told RUGBY.com.au.

"The players aren't stupid - so we asked them to put it all on the table and to talk about it.

"When you see and understand what other people are feeling, you have a better understanding of who they are and why they are feeling that way.

"If you came and had lunch with us now you couldn't tell who was here last year and who was here in Perth and that's a credit to the boys."

There were similarities between the Force and Rebels storylines this time last year and the emotions they provoked.

Frustration, sadness, anxiety, bitterness and even exasperation come to mind.

The five to four saga was an emotional drain on rugby fans, players, coaches and administrators across the nation and Wessels was well aware of the toll it had taken in forging a bond between the two groups.

The five to four saga hurt rugby in the west. Photo: Getty Images"The biggest thing that we spoke about and still speak about is that emotions are contagious," he said.

"They rub off on other people and we want to make sure this is is a fun place and to do that everybody is responsible.

"Guys enjoy being here now and that's a credit to everyone involved with this team."

There have been lessons for Wessels along the way but he has successfully led this list to verge of very new ground.

A win against the Reds on Friday night would be their eighth of the season - a new franchise record - and go a long way to securing a maiden finals berth.

It's a target Wessels set for his side and spoke publicly about from the moment he pulled on a Rebels polo.

"The goal was to come in and show some confidence," he said.

"If we didn't think that we could play finals, we wouldn't have committed to it.

"Winning doesn't happen by accident - we needed to be honest, look at the environment and attack things from there."

While planting the flag as the first coach to lead Melbourne to a finals campaign would be quite the achievement for Wessels, he takes similar in pride in bringing the two groups together.

"One thing I've learnt is that you are never quite as good as you think you are and you're never quite as bad as you think you are," he said.

"What we have done is bring this team together.

"We look like a team, we play like a team and we are getting better every week.

"There was a patch there where we weren't doing that but these last three or four games we have really played how we want to play and I feel like we are moving in the right direction."

Leading the team in the right direction, as Wessels puts it, is exactly what he envisioned having turned down a chance to coach Irish giants Munster before heading east.Wessels has led the Rebels to the verge of a first ever finals campaign. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHe has a talented list at his disposal, a chance to play finals football and countless opportunities beyond this post in the near future.

With the unique challenge of bringing the two groups together now behind him - he's back to living in the routine.

"I stayed for two reasons," he said.

"The first being Australian rugby - it has been so generous to me and has given me opportunities I may have never had elsewhere.

"The second thing was that if I was to leave, I would have been leaving at Australian rugby's lowest point.

"We have all had a tough couple of years but even now, six to eight months on, we have a lot of green shoots coming through.

"We have Super Rugby clubs playing really well - the Waratahs have been playing some great rugby, the Brumbies just beat the Highlanders and we had our first ever win at Eden Park.

"I thought the Wallabies were outstanding in the series against Ireland and I feel like we are all moving in the right direction.

"I'm excited about what the future holds not only in Melbourne but for all of Australian rugby."

The Rebels face the Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au radio.