5 Oct

Why Mitchell is the man for the job.
by Rick Boyd
5 Oct 2001

It’s simple.

Mitchell is a man who can make 15 players into a team. He has the quality, like Grizz Wylie or Buck Shelford, to inspire a group of individuals to move like a unit.

I’ve always liked Mitchell, when he was with Waikato, when he was captain of the dirt-trackers, even when he went to help the poms out. He’s not a technical wizard, he’s not a corporate spin doctor, he’s a man who can get players to believe in themselves so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

And this is exactly what the All Blacks need. They have most of the personnel they need, and most of them have bags of talent. They are professionals, they have all the time, money and infrastructure in the world. They don’t need any more computer programs or statistical analyses. They need to believe that they are the All Blacks and everyone else is further down the food chain, end of story.

It’s not like they have to beat the 1974 Lions or the 1936 Springboks. The Wallabies are only just hanging in there, the Springboks are totally devoid of attacking options (no, I retract that, there’s Paulse, if they play him). The All Blacks only need to lower their mistake rate, get some of the basics right, rediscover some consistency and start being All Blacks in their hearts as well as in their wardrobes; and the world is their oyster.

If they should truly develop a winning attitude and open up the world’s premium attacking back three — watch out!

I didn’t think Mitchell had a snowball’s chance in hell, to be honest. I’m amazed the NZRFU has done something so blindingly sensible. I’m overjoyed they have given him the job for the 2003 world cup. Now we’re in with a chance. Let’s hope they give him a proper backs coach and not let a plodder like Gilbert mess things up.

Obviously Oliver is not a captain’s arse and he can’t throw straight either. I have no idea who to pick for captain. Cooksley will probably get a better look in at lock. Let’s give Randell a chance back at blindside where he was once so good, but Flavell has to be a shot there as well. Cribb’s days are numbered. Who to have for number eight and openside? Beats me. I still have high hopes for Alatini, but God what we wouldn’t do for a real centre. Will Jonah go overseas for big bucks? To be honest, that is right down the bottom of my list of concerns. He’s a cruise missile with the ball in hand, but on defence he’s 18 stone of scenery. I’d be just as happy with a player who wasn’t quite such a big asset but a whole lot less of a liability.

Former Australian double-gold medal-winning hockey coach and Federal MP Rick Charlesworth was on the telly last night promoting his new book, and he said he lived by the creed that you always attack a lead. This is exactly what the All Blacks need to do.

He also said his job as coach was to comfort the troubled, and trouble the comfortable, which is all very corny but Mitchell could do worse than adding that to his aims.

Next season is looking better already.

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