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Brumbies are a well-oiled machine: Larkham

Date

Chris Dutton

Stephen Larkham didn't know it, but with just four words yesterday he summed up exactly why the ACT Brumbies have been so successful this season.

With the rugby world abuzz with talk of a possible Larkham comeback, he called to put the rumour to bed and said ''it would be selfish''.

The Brumbies have built their resurgence on being selfless.

It would be easy for Larkham to get caught up in the hype and excitement and test himself in Super Rugby again.

But when Jake White recruited his coaches, he got the best in the business.

There's a former head coach in Laurie Fisher, one of the greatest Wallabies flyhalves in Larkham and an athletic performance director rated the best in the business in Dean Benton.

Fisher epitomises what White wants from his club.

He is a former Brumbies head coach who was sacked after failing to lift the club back into the finals.

He was replaced by Andy Friend at the start of the 2009 season.

In what most would describe as a step backwards, he returned in June last year to be White's forwards coach.

There was no animosity or bitterness - Fisher was here to do his job and has been a major driving force in the young Brumbies rising to the top.

Fisher sacrificed personal status for his love of the job.

His impact is obvious when speaking to past players and coaches - including Wallabies coaches John Connolly and Eddie Jones and Brumbies Rod Kafer and Brett Robinson - over the past two weeks.

They all praise White, but then unprompted they talk about the support staff.

''Laurie Fisher is one of the best technical coaches in the world, I've always said it and he's showing it now,'' Connolly said.

''Jake has recruited a great staff, one of the best set-piece coaches in Australia in Laurie Fisher and Stevie Larkham who is on the rise with Dean Benton as an excellent strength and conditioning guy,'' Jones said. Benton has developed the Brumbies as one of the fittest teams in the competition.

Fisher and Larkham then have their say in the style of play and White pulls it all together.

They are one of the most well-drilled sides because no one in the trio will accept anything lower than the lofty standards they set early on.

White has signed a four-year deal, but the other three have two-year contracts and clubs will be rushing to sign them up.

They will face a dilemma of whether to continue in their roles or accept enticing offers which will no doubt come their way.

Fisher isn't the first head coach to move back into a specialised role.

Newcastle Knights coach Rick Stone has stepped back to allow guru Wayne Bennett take the top job at the NRL club.

Rodney Eade is an assistant at Collingwood and Mark Harvey is working with the Brisbane Lions after both held head coaching jobs last year.

It's not a choice coaches get, but the way they handle the move speaks volumes. White has cleverly assembled his support team. He trusts them to carry out their jobs with minimal distraction.

If you watch a training session, Larkham takes the backs down one end of the field while Fisher leads the forwards to the opposite end.

White watches both and chimes in when needed, but he makes a point to only interject when necessary.

Believe in fairytales?

Some people dismissed a Stephen Larkham comeback as a ridiculous idea when Jake White revealed he was keen to lure one of Australia's greatest playmakers out of retirement.

But White seriously wanted Larkham in his squad, calling him numerous times to see if his back-line coach had changed his mind about playing again. It's not a completely crazy thought.

While Larkham is 37, he only finished his playing career 18 months ago.

If he had a solid block of training under his belt, there's little doubt he could still be capable of matching it in the tough competition.

And take a moment to picture Canberra Stadium. Imagine the Brumbies continuing their strong form and Larkham running out in front of a sold-out crowd - it has fairytale written all over it.

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