Brumbies CEO Michael Thomson speaks about Dan McKellars appointment as head coach for 2018.Brumbies captains run (02/06/17) Photo by Karleen MinneyDan McKellar’s coaching ambitions started as a teenager and says the time is right to take a leap into a Super Rugby job after being unveiled as the ACT Brumbies’ new coach.
The Brumbies announced McKellar’s appointment on Friday and he will have two years to guide the club to a championship when he replaces Stephen Larkham next season.
The Brumbies will play the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night in what could be Larkham’s last match in the capital if they fail to make the play-offs.
There will be a changing of the guard next year in the coaching ranks and the Brumbies are searching for a back-line mentor to replace Larkham, but it is expected defence guru Peter Ryan will stay on the support team
The bulk of the playing squad is also on the verge of signing new deals to give McKellar a chance to have continuity in his rookie campaign.
The players were told of McKellar’s two-year deal on Thursday morning and captain Sam Carter declared it would not be a distraction from a bid to seal a finals berth when they play the Rebels.
McKellar has been playing a support role to Larkham since the end of 2013 as the Brumbies forwards coach, but has been promoted after a wide-ranging search for Larkham’s replacement.
The former Queensland Reds prop and Tuggeranong Vikings coach has built his post-playing career over the past 14 years and says he’s ready to fill Larkham’s shoes.
“I’ve always aspired to be a head coach. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do when the time was right and when I was ready,” McKellar said.
“I’ve come through the pathway programs and I feel as a coach I’m ready to take this opportunity. What is important is that I surround myself with the right people.
“It’s an exciting day for myself, but I full understand what is most important is beating a strong Rebels team on Saturday night and trying to achieve something with this team over the next couple of months.”
Larkham will be based in Canberra when he becomes a full-time Wallabies assistant coach at the end of the year.
Larkham will leave a massive hole at the Brumbies given he’s revered for what he did in a glittering Super Rugby and Wallabies career as well as a successful start to his coaching.
McKellar’s journey into the top job has been via the road-less travelled having played 150 premier grade games for Souths in Brisbane and being part of the Reds squad from 2005-06.
He has had playing and coaching stints in Scotland, Ireland and Japan before landing in Canberra to join the Brumbies.
“I was an OK player, but I certainly didn’t kick field goals to win World Cup semi-finals [like Larkham],” McKellar joked.
“I suppose I retired pretty early as a player as a 30-year-old, and coaching has always been something I’ve wanted to do from a young age.
“I’ve had 14 years of experience and I consider myself a coach, not a former player who has turned to coaching. I’m confident in the work I’ve done and the pathway I’ve come through.
“My long-term vision is all about sustainable success for the organisation. I want to make sure that the day someone takes over from me as head coach, that the club is in a much better place.
“We want to provide a realistic pathway for young players in the ACT to play Super Rugby.”
The Brumbies were inundated with applications from around the world, including former Test mentors, after Larkham announced he was leaving the post.
“There were a couple of things that stood out very clearly in Dan’s application,” said Brumbies boss Michael Thomson.
“First of all his vision for the club and where he wants to take it. That lines up with where we want to take it. You only need to look at the reaction of the player group to know we’re very thrilled to have Dan on board.”
The Brumbies hope to announce a long list of player re-signings in the coming weeks to follow McKellar’s appointment after the ARU lifted a ban on the contract process.
McKellar has taken the reins of the Brumbies’ forward pack in the past four seasons, but assured fans he was keen to play an attacking brand of rugby to build on Larkham’s work.
The Brumbies can all but clinch a finals spot if they beat the Rebels and the NSW Waratahs lose against the Waikato Chiefs on Saturday.
“Although I’m obviously a forwards coach and that’s my specialty, I certainly have strong ideas of how I like teams to attack,” McKellar said.
“Short term I think it’s about the brand of football we’re aspiring to play. What we’re trying to evolve is an attacking style. That will continue.”
SUPER RUGBY ROUND 15
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
Brumbies team: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Kyle Godwin, 11. Aidan Toua, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Jordan Smiler, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Josh Mann-Rea, 1. Nic Mayhew. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Faalelei Sione, 18. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Tom Staniforth, 20. Jarrad Butler, 21. De Wet Roos, 22. Andrew Muirhead, 23. Nigel Ah Wong.
Rebels team: 15. Reece Hodge, 14. Sefa Naivalu, 13. Tom English, 12. Mitch Inman, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Nic Sirzaker, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 7. Colby Faingaa, 6. Hugh Sinclair, 5. Lopeti Timani, 4. Steve Cummins, 3. Tyrel Lomax. 2. James Hanson, 1. Toby Smith. Reserves: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Cruze Ah Nau, 18. Laurie Weeks, 19. Culum Retallick, 20. Will Miller, 21. Ben Meehan, 22. Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23. Jonah Placid.