The biggest sporting saga in the ACT in the last few months has finally been resolved, with the Brumbies confirming their coaching structure for the next two seasons in the wake of former coach, Jake White’s departure back in September.
The Brumbies have promoted both of White’s assistants, with Laurie Fisher appointed to a Director of Rugby role, while Stephen Larkham becomes the club’s new Head Coach.
Using a structure common to European rugby clubs, both Fisher and Larkham take on new positions with the Brumbies for the next two seasons.
One of the Brumbies favourite sons, and with a grandstand already bearing his name at the renamed GIO Stadium Canberra, Larkham will continue his legacy at the club as Head Coach having spent the last three seasons as the Backs Coach (2012-2013) and Attack Coach (2011).
Larkham will have greater input and involvement with the overall organisation of the team and play a bigger part in recruitment and weekly selections, while also maintaining control of backline training and selections. Larkham will also take on greater authority of the team’s overall attacking philosophies.
Larkham plans to remain stationed on the sideline, coaching the side from ground level, while Fisher will carry on as the eyes in the sky, observing the side from the coaches’ box on match day.
Fisher will control the Brumbies day-to-day rugby operations with elements like staffing, elite and academy program development, talent pathways and training structures.
Widely regarded as one of Australia’s best minds on the breakdown and general forwards play, Fisher will also maintain control of the forwards training, selections, and recruitment. Fisher has held various positions with the Brumbies over the last 15 years including Head Coach, Forwards Coach, Academy Coach, Brumby Runners Coach, and Assistant Coach.
Brumbies and new Wallabies Captain, Ben Mowen, will retain oversight of the lineout set-piece, while Wallabies prop Ben Alexander will take charge of the scrum, with Dan Palmer now playing in France.
Describing their new relationship as being “just like a married couple”, Fisher says communication will be the key for the new partnership with Larkham.
“Whether it’s a marriage, or whether it’s a rugby program, if you’re not talking about it, you’re going to struggle,” Fisher said. “It’s like any system. No one person in any environment determines exactly how it’s done.”
Larkham agrees, and insists that methods implemented under White will hold them in good stead.
“Laurie and I have worked extremely well together over the last two years. This new structure allows us to continue to deliver our coaching on the field, whilst sharing responsibility of it.”
“Nothing is going to change in terms of how we run the team. Off the field, it’s going to be the same. Laurie spoke to the forwards, I spoke to the backs, and Jake oversaw that process,” Larkham said.
“There’s robust discussions, and you put in your arguments to one another. It’s whoever argues the best point really, comes away with it at the end. We’re fairly logical sort of men, so we come down and understand where the other person is coming from.”
While the Brumbies did look outside their inner sanctum for initial ideas on how to set up the two-pronged system – including seeking the thoughts from former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans – the club said it soon became apparent that the best men for the respective jobs already had desks at Brumbies HQ.
The fact that both Larkham and Fisher have long histories with the Brumbies, and long personal histories with Canberra and the Brumbies Rugby region was also seen as a plus.
Brumbies Chief Executive Andrew Fagan said the move will produce the best outcomes for the Brumbies moving forward, and described the appointments as “a win-win situation for us as a club”.
“Both Laurie and Stephen are passionate about rugby in the ACT and have proven track records of consistent success with teams they are involved with,” Fagan said.
Beaten Super Rugby Finalists in 2013, Brumbies members, supporters, and the wider ACT and surrounding regions will be hoping the new structure can continue the club on its upward trajectory.