Blackadder destined for great things
Russell Barwick, ESPN Sportscenter Australia
March 23, 2009
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder arrives for a training session, Rugby Park, Christchurch, New Zealand, February 16, 2009
Former All Blacks star Todd Blackadder took charge of the Crusaders last year © Getty Images

"Hello everyone, I'm Todd."

Quite possibly the greatest ever start to a press conference I've ever been witness to.

The scene played out following the Crusaders' victory over the Waratahs in Sydney the other night and the man in question was Todd Blackadder, the Crusaders coach. He walked in and said exactly that. "Hi everyone I'm Todd, this is Kieran." We all looked stunned and then he said, "Never assume everyone knows your name."

Those simple words made me realise that this bloke will one day coach the All Blacks. And more importantly he will be very good at it.

Here was a man going into a press conference after winning just his second game as coach, his first outside New Zealand, introducing himself to the pack of wolves known worldwide as "the media". Most, if not all would have written, taken photos or interviewed Todd Blackadder numerous times before but he still had the humility to introduce himself to us. He even shook the hands of one journo who was putting his tape recorder on the table.

Normally coaches are in press conferences because they are told to, they never say 'g'day' and they expect that the media will ask dumb questions which invariably they do. It's a kind of mutual disrespect. They don't like being there because more often than not we are about to harpoon them with our pens or microphones. Let's face it, who would want to be there?

Blackadder was a breath of fresh air. He praised his players, he praised the opposition, he praised the venue, he praised the weather - sure he won but wasn't it nice to have a smiling happy winning coach than some others who it's hard to work out if they won or lost.

As I said earlier, Blackadder went onto say that you should never assume that everyone knows who you are - well my tip is that even if they didn't know who Todd Blackadder was, they will soon. Once the Kiwis get the idea that Graham Henry is past his used by date then Blackadder will be an admirable replacement.

As a former All Black he already has the respect of the players, the fans and the critics and he fits the bill of most kiwis requirements for an All Black coach - "Don't care who he is or what he's done as long as he's not from Auckland." - and he's not.

While I'm at it ...

The top four in the Super 14 is now the Bulls, Sharks, Waratahs and Chiefs with the Blues fifth on points difference. In a couple of weeks time I am predicting not one Australian team will be in the top six, perhaps not even the top eight, and by the end of the year the Aussie lot will be languishing in the bottom half of the Super 14. Three teams played on the weekend and all were beaten.

The Waratahs are in trouble and don't forget they have played four of their last five at home and the other was a two hour drive away. They have the impending horror of a trip to South African for their last 3 games. Prediction 8th

The Brumbies season is on the line in the next fortnight. If they can sneak some wins then they still might be a show but I highly doubt it. Prediction 9th

The Reds are fun to watch but most teams probably agree they are fun to play against also. Prediction 10th

The Force are in turmoil and I don't know how you could be a supporter because they would give you grief every week. Prediction 13th

So can someone tell me how and why the Australian Rugby Union thinks there is enough talent for a fifth Super 14 team?

And one more ...

Those fans lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in Hamilton on the weekend got to see two games of cricket. The first involving the Kiwis and India, which the tourists won by 10 wickets and the other tossed up by the Chiefs and Blues. Nearly 100 points scored in a rugby game is not good for footy. Neither is a 6-0 as was the case between the Highlanders and Crusaders a few weeks back but something got left on top of the Bombay Hills when the Blues bus drove to Hamilton - and that was their ticker.

They couldn't tackle to save their lives and no matter how good the Chiefs were and are they are not that good!

Russell Barwick is a presenter for ESPN Sportscenter in Australia

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