AFL stars coach ABs and Wallabies on high ball

Their playing careers overlapped in the old Victorian Football League and now Paul Roos and Mick Byrne are adversaries again as the Bledisloe Cup goes on the line in Sydney tonight.

Byrne, the Hawthorn ruckman turned All Blacks kicking guru, has a long association with the New Zealand Rugby Union and now, in an attempt to ensure Aussie rules in this year’s three-test trans-Tasman series, Roos has been co-opted to perform a similar role for the Wallabies.Roos guided the Sydney Swans (formerly South Melbourne) to their first flag for 72 years in the 2005 AFL Grand Final and now the 49-year-old centre half back is helping the Wallabies end a shorter though just as frustrating period without a coveted trophy.

All Blacks kicking coach Mick Byrne.
All Blacks kicking coach Mick Byrne.

Robbie Deans has turned to Roos, who played 269 games for the old Fitzroy club in Melbourne, to help the Wallabies with a basic component of a code foreign to him as was growing up with a Sherrin in his hands – fielding the high ball in general play and restarts.

Although safe hands are a prerequisite for junior let alone international football, the world’s No 2-ranked team’s bumbling during last year’s World Cup semifinal contributed to the All Blacks’ advance to the decider.

Quade Cooper was the chief culprit and although he has been spared another inquisition by Dan Carter at ANZ Stadium high ball receipt and kick-catch skills have been a focus during the Wallabies preparations.

Recently appointed coaching co-ordinator Tony McGahan said defending the high ball under pressure needed to be addressed and the midfield kick also required more finesse as an attacking weapon.

“You’re looking at 60 or 70 kicks per game. It is a huge primary possession point. If we increase our awareness and accuracy in that part of the game, it will certainly lend itself to us getting more ball, and more attacking opportunities,” he said.

Roos has attended several Wallabies training sessions and was sighted again on Thursday’s final serious hit-out before the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener.

Adelaide Crows assistant coach Dean Bailey has also worked with Deans and lent his expertise before the second test against Wales at Melbourne in June.

“It’s progressing well,” Deans said.

“One or two possessions can be key in certain parts of the ground and the All Blacks thrive on putting you under pressure and turning ball over. It was an area that we suffered in our last encounter so Paul Roos has been helping us and we’ve done a bit of work with the Crows as well.”

© Chris Barclay, 18/08/2012, Fairfax NZ News – This article was originally featured here