Bob Dwyer is a Rugby Union coach who is best known for leading Australia to victory at the 1991 Rugby World Cup. He’s the author of two autobiographies and a rugby coaching manual. Bob was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1991 and the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame in 2011.
What’s a fine rugby man doing on a netball website, you ask?
When Bob was coaching the Australian Rugby team in the 90s, he called on the High Performance Australian Netball Coach, Janet Rothwell to run some training sessions for his rugby team.
You organised for janet to come and support some coaching sessions for the Wallabies. What prompted the idea and what were the key aspect you both worked on?
I believe both Rugby and Netball have underlying similarities and I invited Janet to come along and help me with a couple of training sessions.
We did lots of practice on what to do when players are in possession of the ball including transfer of the ball and catch and pass drills.
The term ‘Soft hands’ is used in both codes. You want an instinctive, automatic and immediate reaction to your hands, wrists and elbows with the ball. What you don’t want is to feel like it’s hitting a brick wall. Janet was great in guiding us in this area and we included many of her suggestions in our daily training routines.
What was the best bit of advice Janet gave to you as a coach?
When I asked Janet what she would do to improve the Wallabies game she said that the most important thing was to never let a defender get between you and the ball carrier.
“You need to teach your players to reach for the ball.”
What was the reaction from the players?
Great! The team immediately realized the connection between netball and rugby and understood the benefit.
We played a game at practice that we called ‘touch grid iron’. We used a regular rugby ball and after the first pass which had to be backwards, we passed the ball forwards as in netball.
It was a great way for the guys to think about handling the ball differently.
You mentioned you see similarities between the codes. Can you chat more about that?
Both are fast games and there’s limited time for a conscious thought process, reactions have to be short, sharp and instinctive.
At the highest level of both games you need what we call ‘hot potato’ movement of the ball. The game slows down if there is conscious thought before a pass.
As a coach, our job is to develop that instinctive reaction.
Both games are structured and require excellent communication between the players.
You have written a coaching manual. How was that process for you?
I enjoyed writing it. I had to articulate my coaching process in writing which might otherwise might happen whilst I’m on the run at training.
The manual is comprehensive and a coach shouldn’t need anything else – unless you’re coaching elite level!
How do you feel about player’s journalling?
I think it’s important. Senior players in rugby are asked to make a daily record of how they felt, whether it be drained, lethargic, enthusiastic and so on. It’s a useful place for players to reflect how they went at training that day!
It’s a great tool for young players to use as well.
You are in charge of book club. What book would you choose?
The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.
Should Lisa Alexander give some training sessions to the current Wallaby team?
Yes. Absolutely! I’m going to suggest that to Michael Cheika now.
Bob Dwyer’s Book is available at https://issuu.com/treehousebooks/docs/bob_dwyer_rugby_coaching_manual