Coaching fiasco no distraction: Waratahs - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Coaching fiasco no distraction: Waratahs

By Darren Walton 23/05/2008 05:58:05 PM Comments (0)

The steely-eyed NSW Waratahs are adamant they will not use the coaching fiasco as an excuse if they bomb out in the Super 14 rugby semi-finals on Saturday.

In further embarrassment to the already red-faced NSW board, Ewen McKenzie was on Thursday night named Australian Super 14 coach of the year for the third time in his soon-to-end five-season reign.

The gong comes just seven weeks after the board, in all their wisdom, decided the meticulous McKenzie was not the man to take the Waratahs forward and announced his contract would not be extended beyond the 2008 campaign.

The April Fool's Day announcement has become a bigger joke by the day - and with every NSW win since.

But no-one will be laughing if ongoing speculation about who will succeed McKenzie derails the Waratahs as they chase an historic first Super rugby championship.

Even ARU chief John O'Neill this week felt compelled to condemn the board's shabby treatment of McKenzie, saying the whole sorry saga was undermining the Waratahs' title chances.

But McKenzie, captain Phil Waugh and flanker Rocky Elsom all maintain the coaching drama has not been a distraction to the NSW players ahead of their do-or-die semi-final with the Sharks.

"We don't focus on that. Obviously, there's a lot of talk but we're very focused on what we've got to do and the routine of the week," McKenzie said.

"So we haven't spent any time on that at all and we haven't all year. It's not something we as a team get involved in."

Waugh said coaching pressures were part and parcel of being in charge of one of the highest-profile sporting teams in Australia.

"I guess it's part of the game here at NSW," he said.

"It (speculation) has been there all year so we're not too fussed about it. The guys have been focused on playing rugby throughout that time, which helps."

Elsom said having the spotlight on the coach and his would-be successors might even be advantageous for the Waratahs players.

"It is in a way good for us," he said.

"(It means) let's just get on with what we do because, as much as we see players making comments in articles, it's not really a focus of theirs.

"So it just lets us focus on the training, and that's been going really well."

Waratahs and Wallabies legend Mark Ella believed the NSW players were too professional to let the coaching situation affect their on-field performances.

"It's been going on for so long now, I think they've forgotten all about it," Ella said.

"They're just firmly focused on getting the results."

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