Stephen Larkham during Brumbies training this year. Photo: Melissa AdamsStephen Larkham was the playmaker that drove the ACT Brumbies’ golden era and his former captain Owen Finegan believes he will replace Jake White and bring running rugby back to Canberra.
Finegan said the indications he got last season were Larkham was being groomed to take over the top job. He thought coaches tended to want their teams to play the way they did, which would mean a return to Brumbies rugby from the early 2000s when Larkham was wearing the No.10 jersey.
Larkham was the flyhalf when the Brumbies won both their Super Rugby championships in 2001 and 2004.
He was also one of the great Wallabies playmakers and an essential cog in the 1999 World Cup victory. He has spent three years in charge of the Brumbies back line, the last two working under White, before the South African mentor asked for a release from the club.
From his own experience, Finegan felt the potential appointment of Larkham would lead to a more expansive game plan than the simpler one adopted by White in his two years in Canberra.
”If [Larkham] was to take it over that would be one thing you would see a fundamental shift in … and the rest of the side of their game, their defence, the lineout and the set piece … will remain the same,” Finegan said.
”I can see a more, I wouldn’t say flamboyant, but their structures were fairly simple and they’ve got a team that’s been there for two years so they’ve got the ability to be a bit more adventurous.
”The way that I played the game, the way the Brumbies played, is the way I like coaching at the moment – get them to have a go, run the ball, take risks, enjoy their footy – Stephen’s no different to that.”
Finegan felt Larkham had been groomed for the senior coaching role and was the likely successor to White. While White was meant to be with the Brumbies for four years, that would be brought forward a couple of years earlier.
”I just heard Jake talk that I’ll be here for four years and by that stage Steve will be more experienced, and that’s probably just fast-tracked the succession plan that they were looking at doing,” Finegan said.
Brumbies and Wallabies legend Jeremy Paul likened it to new Melbourne coach Paul Roos’ role – lay the foundations for the next coach to take over and be successful.
The former hooker felt Larkham was the right man for the job.
”[Roos] has gone into that spot looking to prepare someone for the next level. He’s openly come out and said I’ll come in here for three years build somebody up and whether or not we win a premiership, I’ve done my job,” Paul said. ”I like what Jake’s done [in rebuilding the Brumbies], obviously not particularly happy that he’s left, but also not particularly angry towards Jake because of what he’s done in two years for the organisation.”
Paul felt promoting from within would provide greater stability for a group that was relatively inexperienced – despite making this year’s Super Rugby grand final.
”I think the trust and the confidence in regards to the playing group would lie with [forwards coach] Laurie [Fisher] and [Larkham] so my preference would be with one of those two guys.”
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