CARL Manu nearly gets as big a kick at learning his players are showing up to work on time as he does from a Waratahs win.
It’s a part of a changing culture at Waratah Oval.
When Manu took on the role as player-coach it was under one condition: “I said if I was going to coach, I wanted to do it my way.”
Manu, a skillful, explosive match-breaking centre, had been a part of talent-laden Tahs teams.
Without a junior feeder club, the Tahs have led a transient existence in recent seasons. Players have come and gone, many of them super talented. They won a premiership in 2013 and have remained competitive.
But with the club unable to field a third grade team and facing omission from premier rugby, the committee and Manu knew things had to change.
The club has worked over-time to revive the juniors and have an under-7s team and a combined team with Hamilton in under-11s. .
Manu’s focus has been on culture.
“I just want blokes who want to play and want to train,” he said. “If they don’t turn up to training they don’t play. I don’t care if they are a superstar, they have to turn up to training. It’s about getting a bit more respect for the jersey. No-one owns the jersey. They have to earn it and that starts at training. It is about building a culture and mentality.”
After going down to premiers Hamilton (52-15) and fellow powerhouse Merewether (18-16) in the opening two rounds, they have beaten big-improvers Lake Macquarie (50-20) and the highly-rated Maitland (39-33).
“There are some guys who never used to turn up to training and now they are the first ones there,” Manu said. “Guys are calling up when they have work and saying they can’t make training. We never used to have that, they just didn’t show up. It is more a life-skills thing. They are turning up to work on time. Even just having a bit of fitness … it is not even about rugby. It is about themselves.”
With imports Alain Mirikalis (Northern Suburbs), Cameron Davies (Wales), Tian Lutz (Wales) and Alistair Ledingham (Belgium) departed, the Tahs have relied largely on home-grown products.
Against Maitland they fielded three points of a maximum 18 under the player points system.
Manu, who turned down an invite from Newcastle coach Stu Pinkerton to be a key part of the Country championship campaign, Dane Sharratt, Dylan Heins and Chase Hicks have led the way.
“I really wanted to commit to Waratah,” Manu said. “There are a few guys in the team who are quite young and I wanted to be here for them. They need a bit of direction. Just things like them turning up to work on time and getting their lives organised. The rep stuff would have been a distraction.”
Fijian pair, lock Inoke Rokotulu and winger Sevuloni Bailey have returned from a short stint playing rugby league with Maitland.
“The Fijian boys said they had been watching and missing it,” Manu said. “I told them the door is always open.”
Manu hinted at the arrival of a couple more fresh faces at the club soon but insists “they are no different to anyone else”.