How culture is driving QLD Premier Rugby in 2018

By Tim Mosey. Photo: Brendan Hertel

It seems a positive culture is the cornerstone of most successful sporting teams.

But where though does culture stem from? Is it something that can be created out of thin air, with a few standards whacked up on a white board in a dressing room?

Or does it come from somewhere deeper?

There are many aspects to a “positive culture”, though perhaps it can be pared back to one thing – people.

Grassroots rugby is the lifeblood of the Wallabies.

The transition from schoolboy rugby player to Wallaby used to be separated by a long club rugby apprenticeship. One would sink their teeth into colts, then grade, followed by Queensland and maybe Australia.

Although the rugby landscape and pathway is vastly different to what it was, culture at a grassroots level remains the same.

Most young men come from school into club rugby without a representative CV, and they are bringing with them a work ethic and attitude which is contributing deeply to club rugby, perhaps in a different way to that of their representative peers.

Players are still playing the game for it’s true essence – mateship, camaraderie, and the desire to achieve success with a group of likeminded people.

Not dollars. Nor fame. Nor fortune.

Players like Spencer Walmsley at Wests and Dan Liddy at Brothers embody this.

Both men have spent years toiling away in Brisbane club rugby and now sit within their clubs’ leadership groups.

“In 2016 Spencer was doing his best for us in second and third grade,” says Wests head coach Pat Byron.

“In 2017 he wanted to play for Wests, but didn’t want to feel like he was making up the numbers in the top grade. But we needed him and we expressed that to him. He played the whole year in first grade and this year he’s been our captain since (regular captain) Jerry (Lynch) has been out.

“He’s the type of player who turns up every session, trains hard and isn’t afraid to ask all the players at the club to do the same.

“He sets our club standards and culture and those around him respect him for that. He is a great bloke too.”

A club apprenticeship, through the ranks, grafting to first grade.

Across town at Crosby Park new Rugby Manager Ryan Schultz says players like club captain Dan Liddy personify what it means to play for Brothers.

Schultz speaks with a calculated passion reserved for those with true respect and unwavering affection for the game.

Liddy, who has been a member of the clubs leadership group for the last two years, has a significant cultural role within the club says Schultz.

“Dan has a major role in driving our off field standards.

“At Brothers we very much have an internal culture which is heavily player driven.

“Dan is a great person and he represents our standards within the club.

“Guys like Dan turn up every week, push their own standards and drive their expectations toward playing first grade each week.

“Brothers is a club where you need to earn your spot, regardless of who you are.

“You can’t just come down and be a part of it. You need to earn your place and earn respect from the wider playing group.

“And once you’re in you don’t go out.”

One has to earn their butchers stripes at Brothers.

Culture.

“Success always helps with club culture,” Schultz continued.

“Though it’s a lot of the off field stuff which helps too, whether it’s our senior players supporting and coaching our colts, guys regularly hanging back to support first grade or creating a social calendar for players to look forward to, we have a great group of people at Brothers.

“We hold ourselves accountable to our club driven standards.”

Culture. People. Standards.

It would seem Queensland rugby has inherited a coach of similar ilk. One who too demands his players earn their stripes, the respect of their teammates and that of their fan base.

From the outside Brad Thorn seems to be a coach who values “old school” mentality, a “tradesman” like approach to the game and one who will ruthlessly uphold standards.

Just like Spencer, like Dan and like the clubs which the Reds represent.

Tim Mosey spent 10 years playing Premier Rugby and played professionally around the world before returning to Brisbane to join the Rugby News team in 2018.