Foley delivering a captain's knock for Waratahs
- September 16, 2019
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The Waratahs captaincy seems to be agreeing with Bernard Foley.
The flyhalf took the NSW reins after Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper injured his hamstring in June and he has taken the extra responsibility in his stride.
Foley receives few public accolades but he is leading in a host of statistical areas with just two weeks left in the Super Rugby season.
The playmaker is the competition’s points leader (217 points) and its most accurate goal kicker (87.4 per cent).
To put those numbers in perspective,the last time the ‘Ice Man’ topped the accuracy statistics was in the Waratahs’ championship 2014 season, with an 83.6 per cent return.
Since taking on the captaincy, Foley has had a perfect return off the boot in all but one match for the Waratahs, a timely return to his composed goal-kicking ways.
It’s not just scoring where the temporary skipper ranks high.
Foley is critical in the Waratahs attack, leading Super Rugby in linebreak assists (29) and second in try assists (nine), just one behind Lions 10 Elton Jantjies.
His defining game as a captain arguably came in leading the team to a come-from-behind quarter-final win over the Highlanders but Foley said the key for him was leaning on others as much as taking things on himself.
“It’s a learning process and I really enjoyed learning what to do, how to connect to different players but also in terms of how to encourage other players to take a lot of the load,” he said.
“I think there’s so many great players in our side and so many guys with great experience and a wealth of knowledge that it’s really about delegation and encouraging other guys to speak up because it’s not a one-man band, it’s definitely a host of players who really lift and the guys around me are the ones who make it happen.”
Foley has put his own mark on the captaincy in a short time, keeping the team relaxed pre-game with a joke that he first cracked when awarded the captaincy at a team breakfast BBQ.
“He likes to say a quote every so often and when he first got presented the captaincy he said something about bacon and eggs,” flanker Ned Hanigan recalled.
“It was about bacon and eggs and he said, ‘The chicken’s part of it, but the pig’s all in’.
“And then at the start of a game he’ll say ,’Are we the pig, boys?’ and then because obviously we remember the BBQ and stuff we had and blokes are like ‘Yeah, we’re the pigs!’ so it’s a bit of stuff like that.
“(It’s) nothing serious and it doesn’t mean too much but it’s something everyone’s familiar with and it puts you in a good mindset to just go out and do your thing.”
Attack coach Chris Malone echoed Hanigan’s views, praising Foley’s approach to the leadership.
“Every time he’s around us he’s always putting a smile on our face,” he said.
“I think that really suits him.
“In a really serious situation like a final, guys can be overawed by a situation but when you have a guy like Bernard come in cracking a joke just before we run out, or in the middle of a huddle out on the field, it takes the heat off and gets the guys out of the mindset of being under the pump.”
That mentality will be a critical one in the hostile Ellis Park environment and true to form, Foley wants his side to savour the challenge of beating the Lions in their fortress.
“Just embrace it,” he said.
“This is why you play footy for so many years, and when you get an opportunity like this, not to let it go to waste.
“You’ve trained for so many years, you’ve done all the hard work behind the bright lights so that when you get into these cauldrons, into these hostile environments, is to really embrace it and show the character that you are.”
The Waratahs take on the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday July 28, kicking off at 3:05pm local, 11:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.
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