Fresh mental approach helping Holloway and Waratahs after horror 2017 season

The NSW Waratahs have employed a ‘mind coach’ to help them bounce back after a disastrous 2017 Super Rugby season.

The 2014 champions finished 16th and won just four of 15 matches in 2017 but according to No.8 Jed Holloway, the non-Wallaby squad members are working hard both on and off the field to move on.

“Individually and as a team, we weren’t good enough this year and there is no point shying away from that but I think we’ve learnt a lot about ourselves and our group as a result,” Holloway said.

“With respect to our fans, we can’t afford to have another year like that in 2018 and we’ve addressed that already. The coaches have added some fresh faces to the squad and the coaching staff and that’s already had a really positive impact.”

Holloway was one of the Waratahs best in 2016 but had a tough run of injuries over a 12 month period and struggled to rediscover his best form this season.

The 24-year old has been working closely with the Waratahs mind coach since the end of the Super Rugby season and said he’s already seeing the benefits on the field.

“He’s worked a lot with us on our mental preparation for games and for me, that’s been something I think I’ve struggled with,” he said.

“For instance, I tend to overthink things a lot and when I was coming back from my hamstring injury earlier this year, at times subconsciously I was probably thinking more about my leg than what was going on on the field and if you’re doing that in Super Rugby, you’re going to go missing for periods of the game, which isn’t good enough.”

Sports psychologists now have a hands on role at most modern sporting franchises. Earlier this year, former Wallabies hooker Brendan Cannon told Rugby News how he secretly sought help back in 2001 to overcome anxiety that threatened to ruin his rugby career. 

After a difficult few months for everyone at Moore Park, Holloway admitted the mind training was crucial heading into 2018.

“It makes you realise how much power the mind has over the body and if you can get on top of that, you’ve won half the battle. If your mind is telling you to do something, you’re body typically follows and I think that really helped me in those first few NRC games this year,” Holloway added.

“You’ve probably heard it elsewhere, but I really can’t wait for 2018. We’ve been working with the mind coach, then all the non-Wallabies have been training together in what we’re calling the transformation group and competing at everything we do, every day.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling at the Waratahs at the moment to be honest.”

While his immediate focus is on the Greater Sydney Rams final three regular season matches and a run towards the finals, Holloway said he hasn’t lost hope of earning a spot in Michael Cheika’s Wallabies squad to tour Japan and the UK later this year.

“I just need to stay fit and play some good footy. I think when I’m playing at my best, I come into those calculations but at the moment I just need to get fit and play well consistently,” he said.

“I had a brief chat with Cheik when I was getting treatment at the Waratahs and he just told me to get fit, rip in and see what happens from there. You can tell from the Wallabies performances lately that they’re fit and starting to play a lot more consistently so it’s not going to be easy to crack the squad.

“But if it doesn’t happen this year, my mindset won’t change. I’ll just go back to the Waratahs and work hard over summer and try and make 2018 my best season yet.”

Holloway is one on a number of fresh faces in the Rams side named to play third placed QLD Country at TG Millner.

Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps will make his Rams debut, while young flyhalf Mack Mason also returns to the starting side ahead of the must win match.

With three rounds remaining, the Rams will likely need to win all three remaining matches to be any shot of playing finals footy this year, but Holloway is confident his side can cause an upset.

“They’re a really talented, young side but I think we can exploit them in a few areas if we go after certain players. We’ve really gone back to basics this week and we get a few back from injury so I think we’ll give it a good crack,” he said.

“Fanga (Nick Phipps) added so much energy to training during the week and you could see a lot of the younger guys lift, so we’ll take plenty of confidence into Saturday.”

The Rams face QLD Country at 1pm at TG Millner.