Rod Kafer: Australian rugby’s best & worst golfers
By Matt Findlay.
That’s probably not a question you’ve asked yourself all that often, but either way at next month’s Kafe’s Celebrity Classic there’s a fair chance you’ll find out.
Led by Rod Kafer, a bucketload of Australian legends will turn out at Sydney’s Cromer Golf Club for the classic, which the former star back has helped put together to raise much-needed funds and awareness for the Fight Duchenne Foundation – a charity aimed at providing essential support and services for people and families suffering from the impact of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Kafer is pumped up tighter than a beach ball for the classic on April 17 and said he’ll be looking to likes of John Eales, Matt Burke and Pek Cowan – among others – to lead the way for the rugby stars.
“I’m really looking forward to the day. I got chatting to (Fight Duchenne CEO) Julian Thompson at a lunch about what he was doing with the foundation and after a few beers I suggested that we put on a golf day,” Kafer explained.
“We’ll have a number of former Wallabies playing, we’ve also got a few pros that are keen to come out and play and a stack of sponsors are on board so it should be a good day.
“We’ll hopefully put a former Wallaby or a pro golfer in each group and they’ll be happy to share some stories or tips throughout the day.
“I’ve heard Pek Cowan is a very good golfer, I’ve never played with him but I think he was an apprenctice pro at one stage so he’s obviously got a lot of talent.
“I’ve played with Julian Huxley, he’s a very good golfer, I think he plays off about three. George Gregan plays off about five or six but in true George fashion he could probably play off a lot less if he applied himself. As soon as it gets competitive I reckon he does drop a few shots.
“John Eales and Matt Burke both play off singles figures as well, so there’s quite a few good golfers and most of them are only really playing occasionally.”
The veteran of 12 Test appearances and a World Cup win did talk his own chances down though, having only really taken the game up seriously in recent years.
“I’m playing off about 14 and just trying to chip away at that and get better. I’d describe myself as a longish hitter but absolutely, breathtakingly innaccurate, I think that would be a fair description,” Kafer said of his own golfing chops.
“I was never a golfer growing up and although I played a bit during my rugby days I really only started to take it seriously a year or two ago.
“We tried to get out (on tours) but it always sounds easier than it is. When you’re on tour you’re always travelling and then on your rest days you’re really supposed to stay off your legs so walking 18 holes probably isn’t the best.
“In the early days at the (ACT) Brumbies we actually used to play on a Sunday for what we tried to call active recovery. We were only ever allowed to walk nine holes but of course we always ended up playing 18 and things used to get fairly competitive.”
The golf day is one of a number of events Fight Duchenne will combine with the rugby community to host this year, including lunches in each city prior to the Wallabies’ Tests against Ireland. The first of those aptly-named Luck Of The Irish lunches is in Brisbane on June 8, before the Melbourne and Sydney equivalents on June 15 and 22 respectively.
On those Test matches and Australian rugby’s future in general, Kafer is quietly optimistic.
Generally considered one of the foremost thinkers in the game and often credited as the brains behind the Brumbies’ early success, Kafer does recognise the challenges Rugby Australia still faces though, which he’ll play a big role in attacking as part of Rugby Australia’s high performance team – part of his role is coordinating the National Coaching Advisory Panel.
“Last year was obviously a very tough year for Australian rugby,” he said.
“There was some difficult decisions that needed to be made and on the back of that, we’ve seen change. We’ve got a new CEO and there is a lot happening behind the scenes, so the challenge isn’t to create something new, it’s to create something different to how things were previously.
“From a Super Rugby perspective, there is definitely a lot of good things happening, it’s just about how long it takes the sides to translate that into results on the field.
“I have definitely seen an improvement in all our sides’ preparaions this year, physically I think they’re a lot better, mentally they’ll be keener and there has been a much bigger focus on skills so I think it’s heading in the right direction.
“(In 12 months) I hope we’re talking about the amount of wins we’ve had over Kiwi teams.”
And what of the 2019 World Cup, after which Wallabies coach Michael Chieka has vowed to step down if his side doesn’t win?
“There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t win the World Cup,” Kafer, who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 1999, said.
“We’ve got to be strategic about how we approach it. We don’t have the financial resources of England and we don’t have the playing depth of New Zealand or South Africa, so we need to be strategic and that level of detail and growth needs to continue in the way we prepare our professional teams and the way we deliver players into the Wallabies environment.
“We’ve got all the things in place to win the World Cup. Sure, they’re difficult to win but we’ve got everything we need to win it, we just need to put it together at the right time.”
If you’d like to get involved, Kafe’s Celebrity Classic will be played as an ambrose over 18 holes with entries to be returned to Thompson – at [email protected] – by March 28.
Or if you’d simply like to donate to Fight Duchenne’s cause or find out more about the charity’s events, head to www.fightduchenne.org.au.