Brumbies have a ball
Siliva Siliva, Scott Sio and Ruan Smith train in their ACT club colours. Photo: Colleen Petch
Not since Tom Hanks and his volleyball Wilson in Cast Away have grown men been so infatuated with a ball.
He's renowned as a strict disciplinarian, but Brumbies coach Jake White has found a quirky method to instil the same trait in his troops.
In pre-season, the Brumbies have been issued a football which they must mind like it's their own child, or bear the consequences. On face value it seems a bit of light-hearted banter, but prop Ruaidhri Murphy says the exercise has helped fine-tune team values and accountability.
Ruahidri Murphy keeps a tight hold on his football because he faces a fine if he loses it. Photo: Colleen Petch
''You have to carry your footy around the main training sessions, and once it's there no one can tamper with it,'' he said. ''If I find someone else's ball unattended I can hide it and keep it, they have 48 hours to find it otherwise they get a strike.
''I think it's something Jake's used in the past, and the boys have bought into it really well.
''It's all about individual responsibility, and it's been a pretty worthwhile experience.''
If a player is sprung without his ball, he is penalised with a strike, and punishments have included addressing the squad at team meetings or working in the Brumbies kitchen.
''Leading a team meeting, explaining drills and running through the patterns on the board, some guys have been really put on the spot,'' Murphy said.
''It's a bit light-hearted and brings the group together.
''Also from a rugby side of things, if you're walking around with a footy all the time you're going to be inclined to throw 10 extra passes a day.
''Even if you're just flicking it around and kicking it up and down to yourself, you're developing some kind of skill set.''
Murphy has been charged with the task of being a liaison between the Brumbies and the John I Dent Cup next season.
This year, the entire Brumbies squad filtered back into Canberra's local competition for the first time.
''The way we went back through the clubs after Super Rugby was over was excellent, I think you could see even in the quality of the final between Wests and Vikings, feeding the Brumbies in has improved the competition,'' Murphy said.
He applauded the decision to allocated Wallabies skipper David Pocock and former Test winger Clyde Rathbone to struggling Easts next season. ''If Easts are looking to recruit some young guys, to have Clyde and 'Poey' as an attraction will speak volumes and be really good for the club,'' he said.