Chiefs men­tor goes back to school

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

The Pu­taruru Rugby Club has gained in­sight into the suc­cess of this year’s Su­per Rugby Waikato Chiefs rugby team, thanks to their spe­cial guest, as­sis­tant coach Wayne Smith.

The Pu­taruru- born for­mer All Black coach said he was rapt to be back at his home club, in his home town and home prov­ince for the club’s an­nual prize­giv­ing last Satur­day night.

Ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Tr­ish, mother Maureen, fam­ily and friends, he shared the mean­ing of blood, pain, sweat and heart dur­ing times of ad­ver­sity in the Su­per Rugby cam­paign.

“We had a real sim­ple phi­los­o­phy of se­lect­ing good bug­gers, good bug­gers who had char­ac­ter, worked hard, were good team peo­ple and would con­trib­ute to the sort of team we would be proud of.

“We de­cided we had four coaches who were pretty strong peo­ple and knew we would coach our hearts out but prob­a­bly more im­por­tant than coach­ing was go­ing to be the en­vi­ron­ment. In top class rugby what it means to you in sig­nifi- cance of who you are play­ing, the per­sonal mean­ing, is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant thing. If you play with spirit, if you train with spirit and you train to win, then you have a hell of a chance.

‘‘We de­cided to put a hel­luva lot of time into en­vi­ron­ment.”

Smith said they looked at what was unique in the Waikato re­gion, what was spe­cial for the ‘‘boys’’.

The set­tle­ment by Tainui, the Kin­gi­tanga ( Maori king move­ment), was what made the re­gion unique so the team was split into four mini- teams and com­peted in ‘‘pa wars” for a carved Kauri shield dur­ing prac­tice.

“Jeff the Maori”, the chief who fea­tures on the team jersey ( left side of the chest, over the heart) was given legs this sea­son af­ter No 8 Chiefs tal­ent Liam Mes­sam asked how they could win rugby games when ‘‘Jeff’’ had no legs.

Goals such as Chiefs Mana, Earn the Right to Play, Learn Re­spect, we are fam­ily were de­vel­oped to es­tab­lish a real Tainui War­rior mind­set, some­thing very per­sonal to the team.

“We all play rugby be­cause we love it. If you are do­ing what you love, and you are be­ing paid for it, that’s a win­ning for­mula. The fam­ily spirit within which you are play­ing is vi­tal.”

Smith de­scribed the du­bi­ous en­counter with the Can­ter­bury Cru­saders at Waikato (where the Chiefs’ up­till- then var­ied per­for­mance took a 34-16 hit), as a stum­bling block for the team but the key point in their sea­son.

Footage show­ing how the team made darn sure they were ready for the next Cru­saders en­counter was shared with the priv­i­leged 120-odd peo­ple at the club along with an in­spi­ra­tional com­pi­la­tion of Win­ston Churchill’s ‘‘vic­tory’’ speech, Spar­tans, Eminem and a beat­ing heart to spur the team on.

The gate at the home ground of the team has a strong mean­ing to the team, who touch it be­fore run­ning out on to the field.

The gate is carved with a Maori Bat­tal­ion say­ing ‘‘ Kawhawhai tonu matau ake tonu’’, mean­ing ‘‘ we will fight for ever and ever and never give in’’.

Smith also com­mended the new ‘‘ cool guy’’ Sonny Bill Wil­liams, a Mus­lim, non- drinker, hard trainer, and pro­fes­sional sports­man as a big influence on the team, as he was very pop­u­lar and the young guys fol­lowed his ex­am­ple.

He said if Wil­liams did come back to rugby union, it would be back with the Chiefs.

“I was hel­luva proud to come here tonight and talk about the Chiefs.

‘‘ It’s our area. We fi­nally got a group of guys pre­pared to get up and fight for each other. We haven’t got the big­gest team on pa­per in the com­pe­ti­tion but we’ve got the team with the big­gest char­ac­ter. We are hel­luva proud of them and wanted to share this tonight with you as Chiefs fans.”

Smith pre­sented club awards at the evening be­fore a deeply mov­ing haka trib­ute from some of the Pu­taruru Col­lege first XV play­ers.

WEL­COME HOME: Pu­taruru Col­lege rugby play­ers put on a fierce haka for their own home­town hero, Chiefs as­sis­tant coach Wayne Smith.

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