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Earlier this month Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, searching for answers as his team tried in vain to win on the road, hit on the idea of talking to someone who regularly tasted success away from home.
Herbert got in touch with Crusaders rugby coach Todd Blackadder and asked could Phoenix captain Andrew Durante and himself spend some time in Christchurch to talk about the problem.
Blackadder was happy to talk and invited Herbert and Durante to the Crusaders base last Tuesday.
In between, of course, the Phoenix broke their duck by beating Gold Coast United, and five days later created a club record by winning consecutive away games for the first time with a 1-0 success over Newcastle Jets.
“Not for one moment did I consider cancelling the visit,” Herbert said.
“Okay, we won two games on the road but now we have to continue getting results away from home.
“When we were struggling to get a result away from Westpac I was determined to leave no stone unturned as I looked for a solution.
“Who better to seek advice from than the Crusaders? They have regularly won away from home and last year, because of the terrible earthquakes Canterbury has been suffering, they were playing away from Christchurch all the time – successfully.”
Unfortunately Blackadder wasn’t able to be at the meeting as he was attending a funeral, but assistant coach Daryl Gibson and captain Richie McCaw hosted the Phoenix pair along with other Crusaders.
“It was really productive for us,” Herbert said.
Durante agreed. He said seeing how other teams, and other codes, did things was always going to be helpful.
“Actually when we got down to talking we weren’t too far away from what they do, especially on last week’s trip where we were away for eight days,” Durante said.
“So far as away games went Richie (McCaw) said a lot of it came down to attitude. The feeling in their group was that there should be no excuses or feeling sorry for themselves.
“That was the attitude we adopted after losing at home to Perth. We weren’t used to dropping points at home and we said there could be no excuses at Gold Coast or Newcastle. We just had to pick up points.
“On away trips Richie said he would talk to the players and relay their thoughts back to Todd Blackadder.
“I did the same thing when we were in Sydney.
“On the Tuesday we went for a long walk along the coast from Coogee Beach. It was hot and we had a dip in the ocean.
“Training was scheduled for the afternoon but after we talked he cancelled training, though the boys could do some light work if they wished.
“Some of the boys felt we should have done a bit more, but I believe Ricki got it just right and we felt good going into the Newcastle game.
“When the Crusaders travel they make sure the players remain active and don’t lie on their bed all day.
“They have things like a coffee club to get them out of the room and, as we did, go for good walks.
“Meeting the Crusaders staff and players was a good experience and we were invited to sit in on a team meeting before training.”
Durante said he and Herbert also saw the kind of environment it takes to be successful,
“They would have had at least 12 staff, including three people filming their training session.
“We have been getting along with a coach, a fitness trainer, a physiotherapist and a kit man.
“The Crusaders is a really professional set up and I’m sure that is what the Phoenix will have next year.
“Everyone was really helpful and they said we, or the players, would be welcome to visit again.”