Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Coach hammers home legacy

Hammett has left Hurricanes poised for greater things

Mark Hammett has turned things round in the capital. Picture / Getty Images
Mark Hammett has turned things round in the capital. Picture / Getty Images

Mark Hammett's legacy at the Hurricanes will centre around what he achieved away from the bright lights of Westpac Stadium.

There were some nights when the Hurricanes turned it on at the Cake Tin but ultimately they failed on the paddock under Hammett's four seasons in charge from 2011-2014.

His team's finishes were not good enough in a Super Rugby environment that demands success and sadly for Hammett, who is leaving for Welsh club Cardiff, that's what the Hurricanes public will remember of a guy who made radical changes to the team's culture.

During his tenure he became a popular figure with the players and skipper Conrad Smith said they never wanted him to go.

"It's not often a head coach leaves and none of the players actually want him to leave," Smith said. "We all love him and loved what he's done for the club and he'll be sorely missed."

What Hammett did, as part of a player clear-out in 2011, was raise the standards of professionalism at a franchise that was lacking in leadership and had a reputation of a toxic team environment where young players weren't made to feel welcome.

"Guys love playing for the Hurricanes and I've always been like that but I couldn't always say that about other guys in the team," Smith said. "I'm glad to say now we are and it's good."

With the feel-good factor sweeping through the Hurricanes it seems like Hammett is leaving with the job half done.

He has got rid of the deadwood, built a team which has grown during the past three seasons and has dynamic players in key positions.

They were also only a bonus point away from the playoffs this year.

"I always planned to be here four years," Hammett said. "I thought it would take four years, I probably didn't realise the enormity of the first year, which was hard work." Hammett has always been his own man and during his time coaching the Hurricanes that was made clear.

He never wilted despite the public calling for his head on numerous occasions, while he was vilified for clearing out the bad eggs in 2011.

The former Crusaders assistant coach made some head-scratching selections, such as playing Tusi Pisi at first-five last year and shifting Beauden Barrett to fullback, but he would never admit on the record that he got it wrong.

You had to admire his bloody-mindedness because without it he wouldn't have been able to turn things around in the capital and he has laid the groundwork for incoming coaches Chris Boyd and John Plumtree to take the team to the next level.


Finish

9th
2011
8th
2012
11th
2013
7th
2014

- NZ Herald

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