Perfect storm delivers Larkham back home

Fri, 26/11/2021, 01:40 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
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Stephen Larhkam is excited about the opportunity to return home to the Brumbies, completing one of the most remarkable coaching cycles in Australian Rugby.

Larhkam initially left the club in 2017 to join the Wallabies under Michael Cheika.

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After Cheika's departure as Wallabies coach, he pursued his own head coaching dreams in Ireland, taking over Munster.

However, the difficulties of COVID and having a 'mature family' had the Larkhams yearning for a return home, even with a two-year extension on the table.

In the meantime, his successor Dan McKellar has followed a similar path led by the World Cup winner, linking up with Dave Rennie as forwards coach, initially on secondment in 2021 before confirming he would join full-time at the end of next season.

This left a vacancy heading into 2023, providing the perfect storm, to guide Larkham back to the nation's capital.

“We’ve had our challenges as a family coming over here as a more mature family,” he explained to reporters.

“We had been keeping in contact with the Brumbies since 2018. Dan’s (McKellar) a good mate of mine so we’d catch up, chatted to him this week. You watch all the games, when you leave the Brumbies you become a fan straight away so I’ve really enjoyed watching the team and I’ve kept in touch with a number of players.

“We were leaning towards coming back for schooling and family reasons and then the Brumbies job popped up. I wasn’t aware until it was announced so I then went through the process, which was a thorough one, an opportunity to think about all the stuff I’ve learnt over the past four years and I‘ve spent considerable time refining that and presenting, I felt a really good plan for the Brumbies heading forward.

“Munster had offered a two year extension, it’s a great environment over here…it’s an amazing experience over here so it was a hard decision to leave Munster. Had the Brumbies job not come up, there likely would have been a split into the family which would have been difficult, there would’ve been a lot of travel between Australia and Ireland so it’s timely (to return).”

 Photo: Getty Images

Larkham's record with the club both as a coach and player is remarkable, winning the comp twice as a player before leading the Brumbies to the finals in all four of his years at the helm.

Despite the success, the Brumbies legend refused to be complacent, heading to Harvard to work on his leadership.

“There’s been a lot of learning and development in the leadership area, understanding how and the philosophy around leadership,” Larkham believes.

“It hasn’t changed, it’s about getting the most out of players and making sure the players can control the game on the weekend. It’s finding different ways to motivate, connect with players and staff and that’s been the biggest learning.

“I had a Harvard course in 2019 over in Boston and then really focused on connecting with people, understanding what leadership is and understanding yourself, others and how to connect with people and that for me is the essence of what I’ve tried to work on the past four years.”

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RETURN: Larkham re-joins Brumbies as coach

Larkham is just the second coach in the Super Rugby era to return to an Australian club as head coach.

The first? Laurie Fisher, who took up the joint head coaching position with Larkham in 2014 and has stayed on as an assistant coach ever since.

It provides the Brumbies with an incredible level of cohesion as Larkham looks to build on their recent success in Super Rugby AU to rally support behind the club.

“The development of the team has been amazing,” he added. “There’s a really good mix of youth and experience and they are playing some exciting of Rugby and Dan’s done a fantastic job taking over with the platform we started in 2015 and expanding that to be a bit more attack focused.

“We want to maintain that and take that to a new level. Being realistic, we need to get people into the stadium, we need that support. Traditionally when we get that packed stadium, the boys play better and we get those results so it’s all hand in hand there because it’s so entertaining.

“We don’t want to lose anything they’ve worked on, just expand it. There’s some technical aspects that I’ve looked at and spoken to Dan about that I think can be improved on and but that’s from a team perspective, Dan’s done an amazing.”

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