Brumbies sack coach
Rugby legend Larkham looms as long- term replacement for Friend
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
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.’’