Brumbies sack coach

Rugby le­gend Larkham looms as long- term re­place­ment for Friend

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport -

BRUMBIES favourite son Stephen Larkham looms as a long-term coach­ing so­lu­tion for the Su­per Rugby club af­ter the shock ax­ing of Andy Friend.

Friend was shown the door just two matches into the 2011 sea­son and was re­placed by se­nior as­sis­tant coach Tony Rea, fol­low­ing a board meet­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing.

His dis­missal fol­lowed the side’s dis­ap­point­ing one­point loss to new­com­ers Mel­bourne Rebels last Fri­day af­ter a scratchy open­ingr o u n d w i n a g a i n s t t h e Chiefs.

While Rea, a for­mer rugby league hooker with ex­ten­sive English coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the 13-man game, will take over as care­taker coach, t h e r e i s a l r e a d y s t r o n g spec­u­la­tion Larkham is be­ing groomed for the role.

The 36-year-old joined the Brumbies as an at­tack coach start­ing this sea­son fol­low­ing an il­lus­tri­ous 127-game ca­reer with the Can­berrabased fran­chise and 102 caps with the Wal­la­bies.

The for­mer full­back who was turned into one of the game’s great­est fly-halves, is de­scribed by the Brumbies web­site as ‘‘ one of the club’s finest rugby prod­ucts’’.

He also wielded enor­mous in­flu­ence at the club as a player, and was part of the se­nior group that re­port­edly swayed man­age­ment to axe 2004 coach David Nu­ci­fora.

With Nu­ci­fora aware of his fate but con­tin­u­ing to coach

Stephen Larkham u n t i l s e a s o n ’ s e n d , t h e Brumbies went on to win the 2004 Su­per ti­tle.

While re­cent me­dia re­ports have men­tioned dis­con­tent within the team in 2011, Brumbies chief ex­ec­u­tive Andrew Fa­gan dis­missed sug­ges­tions the sack­ing of Friend was again re­lated to player power.

‘ ‘ I t was my d e c i s i o n, ’ ’ Fa­gan said yes­ter­day.

‘‘ I took the de­ci­sion hav­ing re­viewed the sit­u­a­tion over a good pe­riod of time, hav­ing spo­ken to a wide range of peo­ple, in­clud­ing play­ers ob­vi­ously . . . the se­nior play­ers don’t make the de­ci­sions, I made the de­ci­sion.’’

Friend was in the fi­nal year of a three-year con­tract, af­ter the team fin­ished sev­enth in 2009 and sixth in 2010.

On Mon­day, Friend said the team was asked if there were any is­sues worth dis­cussing

‘‘ The

an­swer

was

a

re- sound­ing si­lence,’’ Friend said. ‘‘ So I can only go on that to say that, ’ well, there are none and let’s go out and play footy’.’’

Fa­gan said the Brumbies’ man­age­ment had changed the coach­ing struc­ture be­fore the start of the sea­son to al­low the as­sis­tants to have a more hands-on ap­proach.

‘‘ It be­came very clear to me that a change was re­quired and it was re­quired im­me­di­ately,’’ he said.

‘‘ We did put in re­me­dial steps a cou­ple of weeks ago in try­ing to ad­dress some of the is­sues we were fac­ing but I felt these steps did not pro­duce the re­sults we de­sire and the de­ci­sion was taken overnight to make an im­me­di­ate change.’’

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