Brumbies coach Dan McKellar believes a new power-first approach has worked wonders for the club as they build for Super Rugby Pacific.
McKellar returns to the club for his final year in charge after his secondment as Wallabies forwards coach, set to take the role up full time at the end of the year.
Watching on from Zoom during the Spring Tour, McKellar and the coaching staff have taken a different approach to 2022, putting a higher focus on building their dynamic skills to order to compete with the New Zealand teams.
The stark improvements have been something almost instantly noted by any Brumby put up for media during the pre-season, with McKellar no different as he returned to HQ.
“It’s been very good. We’ve been keeping in close contact with Laurie (Fisher), Rob Seib and Brad Mayo who have been leading the program whilst I’ve been gone before Christmas. Plenty of Zoom calls and meetings watching the training but I’ve been impressed with what’s going on,” McKellar told reporters.
“I’ve been a little more hands-on this week but I’ve been impressed with the skill level and the commitment from the boys.
“Pre-season is always pretty tough here and it's no different here, probably more focus on speed, agility, power, quality over quantity.
"Last year was really conditioning focused (and) I’m not going to say if that was right or wrong but we have had a shift this year and the players have certainly appreciated that and we feel as a team we need to be more powerful, especially against the best teams in the competition.”
This has created a fresh 'buzz' around the camp according to McKellar as the growing depth across the squad creates constant battles for positions.
“I think a number of the young or new players that have come from other programs or are getting the first opportunity have been really impressive,” he notes.
“We were just talking about it the other day as a coaching group and there’s genuine competition for spots across the board which is what we need.
“...There is a different approach over high intensity and a skill-based program. I think there’s always a buzz around this time of year. We’ve got a majority of the group back together and everyone enjoys being at the Brumbies and being with each other so I think the change in how we train has been really well received.”
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It comes at a perfect time for the Brumbies, who are well aware of the challenges on and off the field, most notably with the rise of COVID cases across the country.
The playing and coaching squad will remain out of a designated bubble, however, are ensuring they limit their movements and remain vigilant for symptoms.
McKellar believes they are taking the necessary steps to live with it and capitalise on the potential opportunity it could create as they face inevitable disruptions.
“Yeah, possible,” McKellar answered when asked if this could be the toughest season yet.
“It’s a tough one, isn’t it? We’re trying to learn to live with it. How quickly do we get to the next level? At some stage, we have to envisage that we have to crack on with life and take responsibility for our own health and actions.
“…We know we’re going to face challenges and adapt and I really believe the teams who handle the challenges best because disruption will come and get on with what’s important with benefit from it early on.”