Chiefs mentor goes back to school
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.