Chiefs Super Rugby leadership change is Brodie Retallick benefit

Chiefs Super Rugby leadership change is Brodie Retallick benefit
SUVA, NEW SOUTH WALES - MAY 19: Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs looks dejected after defeat during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium on May 19, 2017 in Suva, Fiji. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Not that he would ever think so, but after the shift north of former Chiefs captain Charlie Ngatai, and the devastating injury to current skipper Sam Cane, the Chiefs Super Rugby leadership change is a Brodie Retallick benefit.

The self effacing team player is not likely to raise his hand for the task, but like the solid player he is, Retallick has not shirked the responsibility when he has been asked to become a co-captain in 2019. Asked because of his years of Chiefs loyalty, but because he is the player that others will look up to.

Literally – he is an imposing lock, obviously – but figuratively too. Brodie Retallick has the qualities of senior leadership. He is respected, commanding in his position, not afraid to speak his mind. Although less familiar with the conversation needed with referees, most will be confident that he and key playmaker Damian McKenzie will make the best decisions on the field, while Sam Cane makes his steady return to competitive footy.

Chiefs Super Rugby leadership change is Brodie Retallick benefit

Co-captaincy is becoming somewhat of a norm in rugby. Many teams are supporting not only dual-leadership figures, but often a senior group on the field. Men and women who can make decisions, have confidence in those around them and if needed, stand-up in their absence.

The key statement is ‘in their absence’. While fans know of Sam Cane’s broken neck, and his recovery process, the timeline has only just been declared. Head coach Colin Cooper spoke with RadioSport on Tuesday, and made it clear that Cane was only just regaining fitness – he was still to be given any type of clearance from Chiefs Super Rugby team doctors or specialists.

It will mean that Retallick is by rights leading the side, until the time that Cane is fit and able to begin physical contact, and eventually full contact training and [then] match play.

Family and Friends come first at Chiefs Super Rugby franchise

What is a big part of the ‘Chiefs mana’ is family. The group of players and management are part of a whanau [Maori word for extended family, or group]. Part of something bigger, and often a part who do not take themselves too seriously. So when the call to name Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick co-captains was announced, there was both a nod of respect, but also a wink and a smile.

Jokes aside, the team is now deep into their preparations. Gone is preseason fitness and conditioning, the players are now refining plays and settling into patterns that Colin Cooper and Tabai Matson have designed. On the field, the work put in will soon the practised on, when they travel to Kaikohe, to play the Blues in a trial game on Saturday February 2.

Trial games will give the wider squad good time to run through their systems, set-move calls, and in combinations within the team. Missing senior names (as will the Blues) it will be a trial in many ways. And fundamentally, they will be missing Brodie Retallick – his All Blacks protocol is to return for the opening clash against the Highlanders.

Brodie Retallick to slowly begin his Chiefs Super Rugby season

The call by the All Blacks management is that starting XV players like Retallick, will play at least 40 minutes in Week One, 60 minutes the next week. That is a programmed build-up, before completing an 80 minute game, in Week Three of the 2019 competition.

So while Retallick opens the season, he will require two ‘stand down weeks’. Managing that period, alongside the injury recovery of Cane, may see other senior players called on to direct the squad. Nepo Laulala, Michael Allardice, Kane Hames (once he passes his final concussion protocol) or Anton Lienert-Brown, Brad Webber or Marty McKenzie. All those names will be a cohesive group, a strong whanau who will cover the bases through the 2019 Chiefs Super Rugby season.

Named co-captains, returning from injury or in aiming to win the difficult New Zealand conference derby games, most observers will see that a number of challengers lie ahead for this franchise. They have faced most of them previously, and the two-time Super Rugby Champions will again aim hard to secure their third title in 2019.

A Brodie Retallick benefit, Yes. It will boost his credibility, and it will shore-up his position as a natural choice for senior leadership in the All Blacks.

Brodie Retallick might be the on-field leader, he might appear more on camera than others, but in totality, the Chiefs Super Rugby team is still much more concerned with one factor than anything other; working together as a cohesive Whanau.

RugbyUnited!

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Chiefs v Highlanders – opening match of Super Rugby, Friday February 15.

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