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 Handling the Occasion

When it comes finals times we tend to forget about what got us there in the first place. Instead of going through the processes we used to get us there we invariably let ourselves down by letting our emotions take over. You need to keep your preparation as close to normal as possible. Sometimes this is hard as you might train or play on a different day. You may also have to travel to a ground you haven’t played at all year. The key though is to remember the process and what has worked for you previously. Do you normally yahoo in the warm up, do you normally start thinking about the game 4 days before and do you normally take supplements or eat high carbohydrate meals. If the answer is ‘no’ then now is not the time to start.

Teams can tend to have played the game over and over in their mind in during the week. As a coach be conscious of this, this can cause your team to be mentally fatigued leading into the game. Teams also tend to waste valuable energy by not relaxing prior to the game or burning up to much nervous energy by having your warm up to intense just because it’s a semi final or grand final. If your players or yourself as a coach need to motivate each other by wasting energy through yelling and screaming or over pumping yourself up, you shouldn’t be there. It’s that time of year, use the nervous energy wisely, there shouldn’t be an excuse for your team being flat. Players and coaches should be up for it due to the occasion, it’s how we handle the occasion that results in the controlled start of getting yourself in the game.

Believe in what you have done all year and most of all believe in the blokes that take the field for you.  Andrew Dunemann

NRL Assistant Coach
Newcastle Knights

Handling Semi Final Pressure as a Coach

It’s that time of year again, semi final football. How we handle this time as coaches can affect how our team performs. You hear people say, “It’s just another game”. We all know that, that is not true, but how we handle it is the key:
First Tip: Don’t over coach!!!
First of all, ease up on the fitness components. If they’re not fit now, then what have you been doing….. Preparation is the key, we’ve all heard the saying; ‘Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail’ well semi final footy is mainly won with not necessarily physical preparation but mental preparation. In most cases teams are coming to the end of a long campaign, you need your team mentally fresh as well as physically fresh.
Be mindful of ‘over coaching’. Coaches make the mistake of filling their teams and individuals full of information at this time of year. The key is to not re-invent the wheel. What you have been doing up until now has got you into the position you are in, why change now….. By all means tinker with what you have been doing i.e.: game plans against specific teams etc, but the key is to concentrate on what you do well.
Second Tip: Be a reflection of your team!!!
What I mean by this is semi final football creates pressure. If as a coach you don’t get nervous or anxious before a semi final, then to me you are either kidding yourself or you don’t care enough. I’ve always said as a coach, the day I stop being nervous before a game is the day I look for a new challenge because I’ve stopped caring. It’s ok to be nervous, but the important key is to always be confident and in CONTROL. As a coach you want your team to be confident and in control, so be that reflection.
When a coach loses control, starts yelling abuse towards other players, supporters and referees very soon you’ll have your players doing the same. Remove yourself from the atmosphere of the crowd, the intensity of the match etc limiting your emotions with your focus solely concentrating on your role as the coach and what guidance or tips your team requires next.
If you lose control or focus, your team will too and your semi final series will be short lived. Your team looks to you for guidance so despite how your feeling on the inside your reflection towards your team needs to be that of someone completely in control and still confident regardless of the situation you find yourself in.
Above all remember one thing; Rugby League is the greatest “GAME” of all.
Garth Brennan
NYC Coach
Newcastle Knights

The Week off…….

A lot of coaches have asked me over the years what is the best possible preparation if you have a week off in the semi finals through being minor premiers or a winner of the major semi final.
I’ve always found in senior football this to be an advantage but I’m not quite sure about junior football. In seniors going through to the next week without the higher risk of injury must be an advantage but with the lower risk of injury in junior games and the lack of mental strength and experience this is questionable.

The 64 dollar question is what do you do with your team during that week off? The first trap most young coaches fall into would be that they think the team needs more work to make up for the game they will miss. I’ve had some success with a formula that I’ve used over the years and I will give you a little insight to what the week would look like.

During the week don’t change too much take the opportunity to rest any players with niggling injuries. Then put a session together on the weekend that resembles a game. The session plan would look something like this.

Warm up: Passing, play the ball, catch under pressure through pads, tackle technique 10 mins

Body: Conditioning games mixed in with full contact mixed with ball work.

Small sided game 5 mins, tackle pads line speed 5 mins, ball work 5 mins then drinks.
Small sided game 5 mins, rolling ruck full contact 5 mins, ball work 5 mins then drinks
Small sided game 5 mins, edge defence 5 mins, ball work 5mins then drinks

Warm down: 5 mins

Total: 60 mins

Remember less is best at this time of year. Demand quality and intensity and keep your sessions short. Don’t change too much concentrate on what your team does well and give them every opportunity to repeat that under pressure.
Hope this is of some help all the best in the final series.


Rick Stone
NRL Head Coach 
Newcastle Knights 


Keys to Semi Final Defence

Below is a 10 point plan your team should be focusing on to hold your defensive line in good stead leading into the semi finals:
1. Tackle Technique - Feet position, shoulder contact, head position, arm wrap, no space between the tackler and attacker at contact and the control to the ground
2. Markers - Communication, understand the system in place, don't be lazy, tie in with A defenders, don't over chase
3. Ruck Control - Dominate tackles (slowing the play the ball down), peel, communication
4. Defensive Line Structure - Compressed and slide, up and in, defending space/square
5. Speed of the Defensive Line - Be aggressive with line speed, work hard on the retreat don't be lazy
6. Communication - The key to a successful defensive line, nomination of ball runner and support runners,
7. Tackle Selection - In between scrum lines 3 man tackles to slow down the play the ball, 2 man tackles working together, 1 on 1 technique
8. Working on the Inside - Make sure your players defend inside the football, when the ball goes past them you don't want them to be lazy and not defend the inside pass, have a call e.g. 'shut the gate' to encourage players to keep moving once the ball goes past them
9. Kick Chase - The foundations of a good defensive set is the kick chase, work in teams e.g. left edge, right edge, middle 3rd you want all available players on the chase, encourage your kicker to be one of the first down there after he kicks the football (this creates enthusiasm amongst your team)
10. Know Your Role - Defenders need to know there positional defensive role e.g. edge defenders controlling the slide, wingers and centres knowing what to do when defending short sides, fullbacks responsibility in defence e.g. goal line defence covering kicks and positional placement behind the lineLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec iaculis est sed lectus gravida eget tempor neque fermentum. Integer dolor nisi, tristique non ultricies pretium, suscipit vel enim. Suspendisse ac urna diam. Integer id magna a nunc lacinia iaculis. Morbi convallis tincidunt diam, interdum luctus elit semper ut. Nunc et quam odio, in luctus risus. Nulla facilisi. Quisque eu tortor ac dolor feugiat mattis sit amet at odio. Duis egestas consequat dignissim. Pellentesque malesuada varius commodo.