The mysterious AFL “guru” recruited by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones
Rath was the first man hired by Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn in 2004 as head of coaching services and kicking coach to young draftee Lance Franklin, who made his debut for the Hawks in 2005.
“He had such unique technique and in the early days of his career it was like, ‘Well, that’s not how you kick a football, we better fix you,'” Rath said.
“But I changed my approach pretty quickly once I started working with him; actually working with him instead of against him. If you watch Buddy, you can also learn about how to kick a soccer ball. It’s a beautiful kick.”
Rath was Clarkson’s right-hand man as they won competitions in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and finished runners-up in 2012. In 2018 Rath was hired by the AFL as Head of Coaching and Innovation before joining St Kilda in 2020 as Head of Football.
Earlier this year, through the coaching path, Rath learned that Jones was recruiting for a role he was perfectly suited for.
“I’ve always held Eddie in high esteem and the opportunity to join him was appealing,” Rath said. “I figured if I ever did it, now would be the right time.”
Rath said the “learning coordinator” role will evolve as the Wallabies come together.
“But in the beginning it was about being a go-to place for the coaches and bridging the gap between them and the analysts in terms of the information that’s presented to the players and making sure it’s landing in a coherent and effective way,” said Rath.
“So the coaches’ messages to the players are effectively promoted by doing their assessments, previews and walk-throughs. Pretty much any learning content that is delivered to players in a planned, effective, and strategic manner. That was the starting point and it will evolve from there as we start getting out on the track.”
Also on the agenda is helping to set up coaching programs with “tactical periodization”, which in layman’s terms means training players with game scenarios at their core, rather than doing physical, strategic and psychological training separately.
“The tactical periodization approach tries to pull everything together by using the game as the driver for all of that,” Rath said.
Rath said he will likely also work in the skills acquisition area, but details have yet to be worked out. Likewise, what input advice can give the Wallabies with regard to trend analyzes and innovations.
But it is precisely in this area that Rath’s value could shine most. Rath, who worked away from the limelight at Hawthorn, has been routinely described as the most influential coach you’ve never heard of and pundits say his work in shaping game trends has been hugely underestimated.
An example of this was when Hawthorn became the first team to transition from traditional one-on-one defense to a predominantly zone-based defense in 2007. It became known as “Clarko’s Cluster”.
“We’ve been involved in some pretty good stuff in terms of playing in that room at Hawthorn, and I suppose they’ve shaped the way the game is played,” Rath said.
“It’s definitely an advantage to take on early and at Hawthorn we were at the forefront of the defensive material and we had maybe an 18-month window advantage over the competition. And won a Premiership on the back of that in 2008.”
Could Rath help regenerate Australia’s competitive advantage as an innovator in global rugby? Could he assess the current game trends in test rugby and identify ways to innovate?
“I hope I can help in that area,” he said. “It’s a bit presumptuous because I don’t know much about the game yet and tactically I’m relatively cold.
“It’s a whole new realm and that can be useful in a way, because you’re not necessarily locked into previous ways of thinking about the game. It can help to have the freedom to explore different ideas and ways of thinking.”
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https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/the-other-code-hopper-the-mystery-afl-guru-recruited-by-eddie-jones-20230405-p5cybi.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport The mysterious AFL “guru” recruited by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones