Kennedy seeks famed orator to stir up his wilting Waratahs
By Scrum's Keiran Roberts
April 4, 2000
Beleaguered New South Wales coach Ian Kennedy, conceding it will be "very, very difficult" for his Waratahs to reach next month's Super 12 semi-finals, called in the heavy artillery on Tuesday.
Kennedy, at his wits' end over his perennially under-achieving team, summoned the motivating skills of former Wallaby coach and now high-profile broadcaster Alan Jones to stir up his players ahead of Sunday's match with the Chiefs in Hamilton.
The Waratahs have slumped out of semi-final contention with three successive defeats. Kennedy is running out of time to coax some results out of his hapless band. Jones, 56, who coached Australia to a historic grand slam tour of British Isles in 1984 and won 19 of the 28 internationals while he was in charge until 1987, addressed the players at training at Waratah Stadium.
Jones, a former speechwriter for the Prime Minister, urged the wilting Waratahs to look forward rather than back as they try to get their season back on track after early promise under new coach Kennedy. Kennedy always intended to seek Jones' help to address his players at some stage of the year.
"This was an opportune time before we went over to New Zealand," Kennedy said. "He just came along and talked to us about looking ahead and not looking back. You can't dwell on the past, it's the future you've got to look at so we have to be confident about the future and still chase our dreams."
The Waratahs are now seventh after being fourth a fortnight ago and now face the daunting task of having to win all five remaining games to have any realistic hope of making the semi-finals. NSW vice-captain John Welborn said Jones enforced a lot of simple points during his talk with the players.
"The biggest one for me was just to concentrate on your own game and to enjoy it and just some simple facets about playing the game," Welborn said. "Often it's the simple things that make a difference and then turn teams around.
"One of the things Alan spoke to us about today is you have got to remember a lot of people would like to be in our shoes. We have really got it very easy compared to some others around the world, so while we get a bit of a bagging in the press when we don't play well, we've got everything to enjoy and to play for in the next five games."
Jones, who is legendary for his eloquent quest for perfection, wasn't the only Wallaby coach present with current Australian mentor Rod Macqueen also speaking. While Kennedy said he spoke with Macqueen weekly, he stressed the World Cup-winning coach wasn't at training to specifically help him tackle the Waratahs' woes.
Macqueen confirmed he was there to speak to the players about the selection process for the Wallabies and their plans for the coming year. Apart from two home internationals against Argentina, a one-off home Test against the Springboks and the tri-Nations series against South Africa and New Zealand, the Wallabies have three internationals against France, England and Scotland in November.
NSW have named a 23-man squad for the Chiefs match with injury doubts over prop Cameron Blades (twisted ankle), flyhalf Manuel Edmonds (bruised calf) and backrower Daniel Manu (Achilles tendon). The team will be finalised on Thursday.
Kennedy said the mood of the players remained positive despite the Waratahs' form slump.
"The mood has been good all year, that's never been a problem. Morale has obviously been slipping a bit because of the fact that we have lost three in a row, but generally the camaraderie amongst the boys has been very high."
The NSW squad is: Cameron Blades, Rod Moore, Al Baxter, Jason Reilly, Brendan Cannon, Mark Crick, John Welborn, Tom Bowman, Daniel Manu, David Lyons, Phil Waugh, Stu Pinkerton, Tiaan Strauss, Sam Payne, Chris Whitaker, Christian Warner, Manual Edmonds, Nathan Grey, Jason Little, Marc Stcherbina, Scott Staniforth, Matt Dowling, Matthew Burke.