FOR the past eight weeks or so I have watched in awe as the All Blacks destroyed all challengers to lift the Webb Ellis trophy to complete back-to-back Rugby World Cups.
When you watch other sports you try and pick pieces, be it from a coaching point of view or indeed strategies, that could be applied to your own sport.
The mind wanders as to what you could achieve if you did apply the best of what other sports had to offer to our beautiful game.
Although we all hoped that the Irish team could make a charge and perhaps upset the odds, but deep down there was only one team a lot of us were watching closely and that was the All Blacks.
They have an aura about them that nearly has the opposition defeated before they even cross the white line. To create that perception in the mind of your opponent takes a lot of doing.
When comparing the All Blacks to a team from our sport I suppose the one team that springs to mind is the Crossmaglen machine. For years they have been feared and perhaps respected too much by their opponents and for me that gives them the edge they need to be the best.
In a recent book published by Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain, he included the core principals required to be an All Black.
1 No one is greater than the team.
2 Leave the jersey in a better place.
3 It’s not enough to be good, it’s about being great
4 Leave it all out on the field
5 Work harder than an ex All Black
6 It’s an honour not a job
7 Bleed for the jersey
8 Stand up or F*** Off
Simple, I hear you say, but extremely effective and the proof is in the pudding.
A story emerged during the World Cup that the two lynchpins of the All Blacks team – namely Dan Carter and captain Richie McCaw – stay behind after training and games to “clear the shed” as they call it.
These two global superstars, and two of the best rugby players the game has ever seen, stay behind and clean up the dressing room after their teammates. Now just imagine what kind of message that sends out to the rest of the team.
Put yourself in the shoes of an inter-county manager or indeed a club manager and envisage how simple or how difficult it would be to instil these core principals to your own team and how productive it would be if your players bought into them.
They are all simple requests, but speaking from experience it can prove so difficult for players to buy into the most simplest of ideas, leaving their egos and personal agendas to one side. Sticking to those simple core principals gives the likes of the All Blacks or Crossmaglen that mental edge over their competitors.
Managers and players complicate things too much these days. If you have all of your players willing to follow those simple rules then performance levels will naturally increase, and teams who put individualism before the team, or who are not willing to work as hard as those who held the jersey before them will find it difficult to compete with you when the battle reaches boiling point.
Looking at the Rugby World Cup it’s clear to see that we can take a lot from it in order to make our games better and more appealing. We shouldn’t be too proud or too stubborn to do so.
The obvious attribute that the GAA could benefit from is the TMO. I wouldn’t like to go down the road of every decision being questioned and looked at but in certain circumstances, like for instance Joe Sheridan’s touchdown goal in the Leinster final a few years back proves that it has a place and it would save a lot of uncertainty and heartache.
GAA players and indeed officials should take a leaf out of the rugby players book with regards to how they conduct themselves on the field of play.
You do not see any of those guys rolling about feigning injury or hurling abuse at the officials for a decision that went against them. It has been drummed into them from an early age and it comes as second nature to them to behave in a sporting and honourable manner and that must be applauded.
I feel we have a fantastic game and if there are things out there in other sports that would make our games better then we should embrace them. As the saying goes “there is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel”.
There is no sport that is perfect and we all have our flaws, but it’s obvious that there are certain practices, methods and Technological equipment out there out there being put to good practice by other sports.
So for me there is no shame in taking some of those ideas and making our game better as a result but the powers that be will probably have a different take on things.