Leaders need to stand up for Taranaki
Stand up and be counted! The time has arrived for something really special to be implanted into the already proud history of Taranaki rugby.
Sunday is the moment when the small rugby-mad province of Taranaki start their push towards the NPC premiership against Wellington.
Hoping and dreaming will not be good enough. Belief, combined with a huge physical effort is what it is all about.
Every individual needs to approach each game with the sole intention of out-playing his opposite number with nothing but an enthusiastic and intense performance being acceptable as skipper Craig Clarke and the team head toward creating their own piece of history.
Step one is all about the leaders making sure they are leading.
This in itself will provide the foundation for the team to play at the top of their capabilities and build an ever growing confidence.
Clarke understands what is required, after his success with the Chiefs, and he must demonstrate again that he is the rock in the middle of every physical foray.
Backing him up are his two All Blacks mates in the pack who need to visualise and feel themselves as they were in their prime when they wore that black jersey - Jarrad Hoeata, being so physically and totally involved, and Jason Eaton being a dominant lineout exponent and skilful field player, whilst also showing commitment to the dark places.
Their performances need to be of a "follow me" variety.
Jayden Hayward must lead the way in the backs. Long a provincial favourite, Hayward must take control of the backline with his ability to attack and penetrate , while just as importantly working hard off the ball and on defence for the full 80 minutes.
With big performances in the middle of the park, he will provide the impetus for the abundance of talent in the backline.
Step two is to ensure every player has the deep down belief that will ensure the mind is strong and the body is willing. If the minds are not cluttered and the plan is clear, then carrying out the tasks will be so much easier.
For coaches Colin Cooper and Leo Crowley, the plan must be to get the on-field team playing better than at any stage of the season.
They have to fill the players with belief in how they are going to go about winning and demonstrating their confidence by selecting the best team available and keeping players on the field who are playing well regardless of any initial plan.
The hard work, the planning, the evaluating and the execution of the physical requirements are all in place. Now is the time for fine tuning and ensuring that the players are taking ownership with eagerness and a smile.
Step three is all about the demonstration of desire to do well.
If it comes down to any one aspect, then what the public want to see is a team that smashes the contact point, creates go forward, and wins the battle of the "corridor of power" in the trenches.
There must be no let-up. Beating Wellington on Sunday would provide the possibility of a home semifinal and a real impetus for the drive in to the final. Either way, two big performances are required.
It will not be easy, but like most things worth having the hard work and dedication will provide the best result.
Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.
Taranaki Daily News