Andrew Mulligan: Chiefs provide blueprint

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Warriors should follow their lead.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Picture / Christine Cornege
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie. Picture / Christine Cornege

Much has been written about the mana of the Chiefs, so let's nod our heads and agree it's awesome. What isn't is the mana of playing for the Warriors.

A cleanout is under way and managing director Jim Doyle has struck the first name off his list with the release of Konrad Hurrell. How would a player like Hurrell go in an environment like the Chiefs? Hurrell will probably end up a better player for the Titans than he was for the Warriors. A change of circumstance and environment will do that.

That's what Doyle, coach Andrew McFadden and the leaders of the Warriors need to do. It's the intangibles that need changing, helping players with potential identify with their team and how that team uses what it means to be a warrior the way the Chiefs do.

The head coach of the two-time Super Rugby champions, Dave Rennie, knows a number of his players aren't from the Tainui region but has built a culture that reflects the values of a strong iwi and understands the region they are representing. Cultivating the whanau that are the Chiefs has led to undoubted success.

When the Warriors were thumped by one of the biggest forward packs in the game in New Plymouth last weekend, the response was swift and expected from fans and the coach. McFadden has had enough of his team's inconsistent efforts. Fair enough. It's been painful to watch.

But it was what happened after the game that really struck a cord. Issac Luke, promoted pre-match as the proud Hawera boy returning home, was honoured by hundreds of friends and whanau with a haka. It brought him to tears. And what it should have done to some of the teammates standing behind him was switch on a light bulb in their heads.

They were smashed on the field but here, right in front of them, were people who had travelled from all over Taranaki and probably further, honouring one of their own. If you could bottle that respect, you would, and the Chiefs have done as much.

It used to be the Crusaders system that every rugby player wanted to be part of. Now it's also the Chiefs and Highlanders.

One difference between rugby and league is the development of young players at top level. Very few in rugby are thrown in the deep end underprepared. The NRL is a brutal place for the young.

To truly be warriors on the field, respect their logo and be a force in the NRL, the Warriors need to put Luke at the heart of what we saw post-game at Yarrow Stadium. The club's leaders on and off the pitch, with the help of Graham Henry's influence, need to build the intangibles the Chiefs have 120km down the road in Ruakura. The Chiefs lead and the Warriors should follow.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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