Versatile Isa Nacewa back to minding the Blues

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2013
Isa Nacewa
THAT WAS THEN: Isa Nacewa in action for the Blues in 2008.

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Returning home with a swag of trophies, a suitcase full of knowledge and three Irish-born daughters, Isa Nacewa wants to deflect some of the spotlight from the Blues' problematic first five-eighth role.

After calling time on his decade-long playing career, which included eight titles in Auckland and Leinster, Nacewa felt a little odd watching the Blues squad start the long pre-season grind this week.

Back at the franchise where it all began, his career has turned full circle. In a complete role reversal, the 31-year-old has assumed the role of mental skills coach, a title he describes as a dream job.

Classroom sessions won't be his approach. Expect him to operate from a practical, rather than theory sense.

"I'm probably not up to speed with the psychological side of the game but I've implemented a lot of mental skills over the last couple of years," he said.

Nacewa was a talented, versatile figure capable of featuring in most backline roles. He won player of the year with the Blues in 2008 and the same accolade at Leinster in 2011 but his career took off with a move to No 10.

That has long been a troublesome position at the Blues with Carlos Spencer the last pivot to guide the franchise to glory, back in 2003.

"It's been 11 years," Nacewa said.

Rather than place added pressure on the need for next year's first-five contenders Baden Kerr, Chris Noakes and Benji Marshall to stand up and lead the team, Nacewa favours a different approach.

"These are accomplished guys who have the skills, but it's more the guys around them. It's not just the 10's role to direct the team it's creating leaders to take the pressure off.

"If we can do that the 10 won't be so in the spotlight."

Last year Sir John Kirwan's men lost seven games by fewer than seven points. With Nacewa and Sir Graham Henry taking ownership of the mental side of the game, there should be no excuses for not transforming those results this season.

The Blues now boast a six-pronged management team. It seems every base is covered.

It's a far cry from Pat Lam's tenure, when limited resources left him with one assistant.

With off-field support flourishing, results must now follow.

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