Brumbies, Reds can provide blueprint for Waratahs: Cockbain

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They might be fierce rivals but Waratahs forwards coach Matt Cockbain says NSW can learn from Super Rugby competitors the Brumbies and Reds as they work to turn their fortunes around.

The Brumbies and Reds both recorded emphatic wins on the weekend,driven by players who have been a key part of their development in recent years.

NSW had their bye last week coming off a 0-3 start to the year and will face another tough match up on Friday night against the Lions at Parramatta.

Development has been the Waratahs’ mantra this year and in the preseason coach Rob Penney said they would commit to giving their young talent the chance to make mistakes and grow, even if it means some short-term pain.

Cockbain said they were still committed to that approach despite their results. 

“We'll continue down that path," he said.

"Teams like the Reds have done that recently and they're starting to see a few benefits in that, in and sticking with their young players and promoting them through.

"It's not as if we've got someone to bring in to replace those guys either, we'll look to nurture them along and just support them. 

“They're going to make mistakes, that's fine, but that's a learning process and as long as they are learning from that then we're happy with that.”

Cockbain said it was on the coaches to ensure that their youngsters were also owning their own development in a way.

“It's just being really clear with how we want them to play and also working with them in review to, say they didn't stick with a plan, it's just to sort of ask them, ‘What were you feeling here, what can we do to help you? Do you need more clarity around this process?,” he said.

"That's the art to coaching is to figure out what they need and you do that by asking the right questions.

“It could be anything that they need but you've got to ask the right questions to get the growth in the player I think.”

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said post-match he felt it was a bit of vindication after some heavy criticism of Australian teams in New Zealand, and the ACT mentor has spoken often of wanting to generate positive stories for the game.

Cockbain said he understood where McKellar was coming from when it came to a sense of negativity around the game.

“A lot of people are just negative about rugby for whatever reason,” he said.

“I don't know why people seem to jump on the bandwagon but I've always been one to look at it from a positive sense.

“It was great for them (the Brumbies) to get that win over there so I congratulate them.

“For us, it just shows you where they've been too - they've had a process of development as well.

“They've brought on some young players and they've had a changing of the guard over a few seasons there and they're starting to - they've got a group that's been together for a while and they're starting to see the results from that.”

Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon echoed Cockbain's views, saying he felt NSW was on a "journey" with bringing its young players though.

“We're obviously not really happy with how we've been going," he said.

"It was a good reflection that bye week, we sort of looked at a few things we could work on, quite a few things.

“We did a pretty heavy review on that Friday and Saturday and this is a bit of a journey.

“You've seen the Reds and Brumbies who have had the same spine for the last two years and they've really found form at the right time.

“Two wins on the weekend - for us at the moment, it's acknowledging the things that we aren't doing well and I guess moving forward."

Winning is the obvious tonic for changing the conversation and while Cockbain said their focus was on winning every game, consistency might take longer.

“We just focus on ourselves not what's going on on the outside, it's disappointing that you hear about the negative stuff," he said.

"You tend to hear about that more is losing but the only way you create really positive feedback is through winning so we've just got to take that on board and just start winning.

“Train hard, work on things that we need to on the training pitch and build our confidence and hopefully over time, and it's probably going to take some time, we'll be more consistent and start making those wins more regularly.”

The Waratahs take on the Lions on Friday February 28, kicking off at 7:15pm AEDT, LIVE on Foxtel, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. The Waratahs women take on the Brumbies earlier in the day, kicking off at 4:35pm AEDT, LIVE on Kayo Sports and RUGBY.com.au.

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