Hadden can follow in my footsteps, says Dwyer

THE CRY of "show us your medals" is a jibe that can occasionally be hurled at managers and coaches in sport as evidence that perhaps they should not be asking players to aspire to a level they personally know nothing about.

But, increasingly it seems, national teams and even clubs are turning now for inspiration to individuals who might have missed out on caps or even modest honours as players - but who have learned to harness any yearnings in another way; namely to help others reach for the stars.

The latest example in Scotland, undoubtedly, is newly installed Scotland coach, Frank Hadden. Currently interim coach at Murrayfield, Hadden has emerged through the ranks despite - or should it be because of? - a playing pedigree that would have to go down as modest.

True, he was on the playing staff at Headingley while the Leeds-based club boasted stalwarts of the pedigree of double British Lion, Ian McGeechan.

But it is an irony that Hadden perhaps came closer to making the grade in football where he had trials with, amongst others, Queen’s Park and Forfar Athletic while Raith Rovers offered a contract.

Not that it has stopped Hadden enjoying some notable successes in rugby coaching culminating in his latest role.

Hadden’s cv includes significant achievements such as piloting Edinburgh Rugby to a win over double European champions Toulouse and a place in the Celtic Cup Final.

And in the unlikely event he were to feel insecure about calling the shots for players who have turned out for their country up to 67 times more than he has then a glance across to the other dug-out when the Barbarians provide inaugural opposition in Aberdeen on May 24 should provide all the reassurance necessary.

There will lurk Bob Dwyer, Australian mentor of the 1991 World Cup winning team, another whose modest record as a player proved no hindrance to success as a coach.

Not that there is anything truly unusual about a non-cap coaching World Cup winners in rugby.

All told three have done it - Dwyer, Kitch Christie (South Africa) and Rod McQueen (Australia). An illustrious roll-call of names which challenges the assertion of ex-Scotland captain Gary Armstrong in these columns a few weeks ago that it is essential for a Test coach to have international playing experience.

But differing viewpoints are the lifeblood of sport and speaking from his Sydney home Bob Dwyer told the Evening News that the kind of experience essential to international coaching meant exposure to world class standards so as to be able to recognise excellence when it presented itself.

That ... and an ability to undertake lots and lots of detailed research as well.

Dwyer said: "I can think of others such as Rod McQueen who also won a World Cup as a coach who didn’t play internationally while Alan Jones was a successful Wallaby coach without even playing at high club level.

"What is important is that you have to have experience that can help you establish a level to which your team of international players should aspire.

"That is an absolute value and probably stems from mixing with quality players extensively so that their attitudes and standards begin to be absorbed naturally.

"Somehow or other you need to form an opinion about whether a performance is world class - or not.

"In my case I was extremely lucky that at club level where I played there were a number of players who were world class.

"Then, when I finished playing, I was able to assist players who went on to become world class so I saw the standards they were aspiring to.

"Without knowing as an international coach what the benchmark is then you can’t hand out praise in appropriate measure. This can be extremely damaging.

"To tell a player something has been ‘well done’ when it hasn’t been satisfactorily executed can set you back three training sessions, at least.

"So, you don’t have to have played at international level to be able to coach there - but somehow or other you have to be able to recognise it."

Provided that basic tenet is in place, Dwyer is of the opinion that a coach is a coach, regardless of what he has achieved as a player.

He added: "If you haven’t got self-belief it will come through but here you have to be very careful.

"If you haven’t done your homework - and this especially applies to people who haven’t played international rugby and those with 100 caps - then you could come a real cropper.

"Players can spot lack of preparation leading to individuals trying to cut corners while leadership qualities are tied in with self belief; and also the ability to express yourself well.

"Expression is an imprecise science because why do some people talk and others listen ... while some others might speak more sense but find nobody listening?

"It can come down to the tone of voice used and the air of self belief in the remarks and above all you can’t be wishy-washy."

What happens, though, in this celebrity-mad era if players regarded as legends or icons challenge the manager/coach’s views? Wouldn’t it be natural for the dressing room to side with individual enjoying something approaching a cult following?

According to Dwyer a bit of creative tension is always welcome - with every coach having to be willing to stand his ground before giving way to a bit of introspection.

"In reaching international standard I always tried to be open minded and invite players to disagree.

"However, in doing that I always let them know that my beliefs have not been arrived at flippantly.

"I tell them ‘you are welcome to disagree - but always remember you must be prepared for your views to stand up to my cross-examination; playing devil’s advocate can be a good way to work.

"It is important also to be what Aussies call ‘fair dinkum’.

"By that I mean operating for the right reasons which is to help the players and one of my assistants once questioned a few things I was doing.

"When it occurred to me that he was urging caution so as to try to protect our positions he had to have pointed out to him that it was about helping make the players better player and not to make things look good (superficially)," he said.

So the stage is set for only Scotland’s fourth non-internationalist rugby coach to make his mark with the sky the limit as has already been proved.

Indeed it is maybe no coincidence that rugby has embraced a trend that has seen Andy Moles aspire to the Scottish cricket coach’s job without international experience.

"I have probably thought more about the mechanics of the game than some in wanting to do the best (coaching) I can," says Moles - and, of course, Walter Smith become the 16th manager of Scotland’s football side without international playing experience.

If you want to get ahead call in someone who retains a drive and ambition to make it on the international scene could be the motto of all three governing bodies.

Now, which one will be first to channel those energies to deliver a major title - or will insufficient experience about what really takes place on the other side of the touchline ultimately count against them?

Last word to Hadden who says: "What I do know is that I’ll be giving the same advice regardless of whether I had been here or there as a player.

"In terms of instant acceptance playing internationally might count in some quarters but my job is always to bring the best performance out of a team."

If he does that and wins follow then supporters will be in no doubt: the cap will fit for coach Hadden of Scotland - via Glasgow University football club.

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