Hull KR coach Poching visits the Rams
The Rams welcomed a special guest to our Leeds Corinthians training ground on Wednesday – Hull Kingston Rovers assistant coach Willie Poching.
Willie, who played international rugby league for both New Zealand and Samoa as well as several years in Super League with Leeds and Wakefield, contacted Rams head coach David Pawson about the possibility of joining a training session – an offer which was gladly accepted as the Rams prepare for Sunday’s play-off quarter-final against the Bury Saints.
“As a coach, I look to learn from other sports, other organisations and other coaches,” Willie said afterwards.
“I’ve been an American football fan since I was 13, we lived in San Francisco for a little bit – Niner nation all the way! – so I’ve always been interested in coming to an American football team to see how all the coaches work together, but also the numbers in the squad and how they manage it.
“I’d been thinking about coming to the Rams for a little while. I just happened to send an e-mail last night (Tuesday), they responded straight away so I thought I’d jump at the chance to come tonight, and it’s been fantastic.
“I had no idea that the play-offs were this Sunday, but it’s an opportune time to come down. I’ve really picked up a lot so it’s been beneficial to me, hopefully I’ll be back down again.”
So what did he take from the session?
“There’s some crossovers in terms of what we look at technically and the points of contact,” he said. “What you do in your footwork in this sport is very similar to what we’re after as tacklers.
“We’ve got to play both ends of the ball whereas your defensive players don’t really have to do a lot of the attacking or carry the ball, but there are some crossover areas that I’m really interested in. There’s a lot that we can learn from the sport and a lot I can try and take back to our players.
“They’re different athletes, our players are out there for 80 minutes and there’s one snap at a time in this sport so it’s a different type of conditioning, but the big athletes still need to be fit in this sport too.”
As a 49ers fan, Willie of course took a keen interest in the fortunes of rugby league convert Jarryd Hayne in the last NFL season.
The Australian impressed in red and gold during pre-season and made eight regular-season appearances, including a start against the Detroit Lions in December. He then tried in vain to make Fiji’s Olympics squad in rugby sevens before, early on Wednesday morning UK time, returning to the NRL to sign for the Gold Coast Titans.
“It’s fantastic that somebody had to guts to try, to sacrifice an opportunity in the NRL to go and live a dream,” said Willie.
“I obviously watched him closely, because of his rugby league background but also because he was playing with the best team in the league! It was always going to be tough, he outdid anybody’s thoughts by making the 53, to get through the pre-season and come out and start a game as the running back, it’s fantastic for him.
“Looking back, I probably wish that I’d done something like that and had a crack. I don’t know what position I would have played but being a big fan of the sport, I would have loved to have tried it at some stage.
“I did a little bit when we were there but it was just flag football, it wasn’t full contact stuff so I’ve never put the pads and helmet on. Would love to have tried, looking back at it, probably a bit of envy looking at Jarryd and what he’s done.”
There’s a simple answer to that, Willie – come and join us at the Rams next season! There’s a spot for a new Daunté Wint-Angus at running back…
Before then, though, Rovers have their own post-season pressures to attend to as they face Batley on Sunday in the first match of the Super 8 Qualifiers – the middle band of Super League’s play-off system, with their top-flight place on the line.
“There’s no quarter-final for us as such,” said Willie. “We just want to qualify and win as many games as we can before the end of the season and finish strongly, like you guys are.
“The challenge for us is to try and cement our status as a Super League team. We want to be playing in Super League next year and holding our spot.”
Good luck to Rovers in the Qualifiers – let’s hope it’s a double celebration this Sunday.