Hurricanes networking lifts capital codes

16:00, Nov 14 2012
Mark Hammett
MARK HAMMETT: Under pressure as the Hurricanes show a 50 per cent winning record.

The Hurricanes lead the way as the capital's top sports teams share insights into building a winning culture. Hamish Bidwell reports.

Among the many criticisms levelled at Mark Hammett during his first year as Hurricanes coach was that he was a Cantabrian with no feel for Wellington sport.

There's a certain irony then, that in the time since, Hammett has become the man the capital's coaches turn to.

Hammett knew Central Pulse coach Robyn Broughton before their respective careers brought them to Wellington, and the pair remain in regular contact.

When Wellington cricket coach Jamie Siddons arrived to run the Firebirds he didn't know Hammett from Adam. But Siddons soon sought him out when he discovered the culture at the Firebirds wasn't dissimilar to what Hammett inherited at the Hurricanes.

Hammett has since "had a few chats with the Firebirds" and was among the hardy few who turned out to watch Wellington beat Canterbury by six wickets in last Friday's Twenty20 match at Westpac Stadium.


At the request of Wellington Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison, Hammett will also spend time with the A-League franchise.

Hammett said he felt a responsibility to build those cross-code relationships. First, because he believed they would benefit Wellington sport, but also because it could only enhance his own development.

"Sometimes it's nice to have that support from like-minded people and people that are actually doing the same things," he said.

"I'm supporting those teams and those coaches because I know what goes into it. As fans we often see the two hours at the Twenty20 match or 80 minutes at the rugby or 90 minutes at the football or go and see the netball, but the work that goes on behind that is huge.

"Sometimes I see a lot of environments actually improve and improve and improve, but we don't see the results in those few minutes. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, sometimes years, but there's still lots of really good stuff going on."

That's true of each of Wellington's big four teams, who get plenty of coverage and support, but don't have many trophies to show for it.

However, Hammett is adamant that if you establish the right standards and protocols, success will follow. And, judging by the people who are knocking on his door, others believe him too.

"It starts with a new mindset," he said.

"When people, be they players or management, start thinking in a new way and performing in a new way, what happens then is that when new people come in - bang - that's the standard. Over time you will get a rise in performance."

Not everyone buys into that kind of stuff, though, as the player exodus that followed the Hurricanes' 2011 campaign shows.

"I would say humans aren't great at change. That's natural, we like routine and we like to be quite comfortable and I suppose we're quite habitual in the way we do things and that's why we've got to keep challenging ourselves," said Hammett.

And be open to messages we might not agree with. Hammett said it was easy to accept feedback that tallied with our own view, but sometimes the important information is the stuff we don't want to hear.

Teams and players can't improve and develop, he felt, if they're not prepared to learn.

"If I talk about the Hurricanes franchise and rugby, there is so much potential - I prefer the word potential to talent - in this place. If you look even wider at the great basketballers, netballers, rugby league players, this region actually produces an awful lot of great sportspeople.

"But I go back to my point - and it's only one man's opinion - but unless we have great leadership and great cultures then that talent, or that potential, can be wasted."