Rugby Union

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Heavy loss will only galvanise Reds

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Well I wasn't expecting to be writing about a 60-point loss this week but it does give me an opportunity to put into words a completely new experience in my coaching or playing career.

I feel it is warranted to discuss the pitfalls and opportunities that come with such an unwanted moment.

At this point, it's best to defer to the experts and I have sought the advice of NFL coach Bill Walsh, who dictates the five ''don'ts'' in this situation.

Don't ask ''why me''; don't ask for sympathy; don't bellyache; don't keep accepting condolences; and don't blame others.

It all seems pretty logical but it's easy for coaches and players to fall into the above traps. In team sports, there are a bunch of people involved in the outcome and therefore reactions within the group will vary and so will the external influences.

We never expected such an outcome against the Bulls. We went there to win and even at half-time we still felt we were a chance.


Ironically, I remember beating the Bulls by 81 points during my time at the Brumbies but, in this instance, it's tough not to look to the sky and ask ''why?''. It's also easy to receive sympathy as people are generally kind-hearted and want to believe in the team and their potential.

The biggest challenge is to work out a new course of action without opening the door for finger-pointing.

After the loss, we went back to the team hotel and I did something I have never done before. I sat the team down and we reviewed the game as a group. This was within three hours of full-time.

We created a plan where everyone could sleep with a clear sense of purpose about where we wanted to be in the future.

When dealing with a large defeat, it's easy to get caught in the trap of dealing with the ''do not'' but it's just as important to deal with the ''do''.

Do expect defeat. Not many teams remain undefeated for a season. If you are not expecting defeat, you are a dreamer.

I find you learn more from your losses, so it's a great time for recalibration. Ideally you achieve this by winning, although nothing galvanises a team more than a bad loss.

Do stop yourself from looking backwards. ''Mental quicksand'', as Walsh described it, means you need to keep looking forward and the best thing is you get to play the following week. Atonement is available if you can focus forward, not backwards.

Do give yourself time to recover. Rugby is an emotional sport for the supporters but there is a lot of heart and soul in each performance from players and staff. You need time to recover physically and emotionally whether you win or lose. It's the same process as ''smelling the roses'' but it is not as fragrant. You need to make sure it's only for a small amount of time.

Do tell yourself ''I am going to stand and fight again''. This is very important. We were disappointed with our performance against the Bulls, but a week before we led the Sharks 17-0.

Sport has so many variables that it's a game of chaos. As much as you want to find organisation in the chaos, you will never control everything. I always say a week is a long time in rugby, so, armed with that, we will chase a quick turnaround.

We are coming up against different opposition at a different venue under different circumstances and with a different referee. Lots of things are different before we even look at selections or tactics. It's fair to say that regardless of these two, an improvement in attitude will always be a significant contributor.

Do begin planning for your next encounter. For us this started three hours after our last game and we all went to bed with a vision about where we are going and what needed to change. Being active here is critical as it provides solution and hope. The worst situation is to say I don't know what to do.

The final point, which is difficult, is to front up. It's always best to face the media and put your hand up. The brickbats will come, but you will earn some respect for admitting you got it wrong. It's not about excuses, it's about telling everyone you know where you are going and you know what needs to be done.

Leadership is important in the tough times and it helps if you know the do's and don'ts.