One of the things that has most impressed me, maybe even surprised me, at the Chiefs is the strength of the leadership group. Any team or club that has good people at the top is always going to have a chance of success.
What I particularly like at the Chiefs is the balance of responsibilities that the players have taken on. Liam Messam is a master of motivation who talks from the heart about what it means to wear the jersey. Craig Clarke does a huge amount of homework in preparing the team for the next challenge. As co-captains they complement each other.
Tanerau Latimer has really impressed me in the leadership role he has taken on. He will confront others if he feels standards are slipping. That is unusual in a New Zealand player. Mo Schwalger is another who puts everything in and will take on another player if he is not doing the same. Neither is prepared to accept a poor attitude from any of their teammates.
A lot of our game sense comes from Richard Kahui and Aaron Cruden. They will take ownership of situations. They put in a great deal of physical preparation in order to be in the right place to drive our game plan.
Sonny Bill Williams has also stepped up. He is now talking much more about the game and helping to develop understanding. A lot of the young guys look up to SBW and so it is a massive bonus that he is able to help them.
And if Sonny Bill is at one end of the fame scale, the squad benefits from having men like Alex Bradley around. Alex still works in his plumbing business and has to give up a lot to play the game. He just can’t see the point of mediocrity.
At whatever level you are at, standards matter and it is up to the player to set their own. There are not many in the world who have the mindset of the Franks boys. They know what they want to achieve. They have their own gym and their own food. It doesn’t matter if they are in a meeting – if it’s their time to eat then they open the Tupperware.
The Franks have great attention to detail. That’s why there has been such a huge upward graph in their careers. Dan Carter and Richie McCaw are similar. They are not just talented but driven. Richie has been able to change totally the way he plays. I see the some of the same with the current Wales team. Adam Jones could once be exploited as a defender. Not any more.
We all follow our heroes. If you can build a team with high leadership standards, then your chances of success go up very quickly.