Hammett departure won't affect team - Smith

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 15:08 10/04/2014
Conrad Smith
Getty Images
MAJOR MILESTONE: Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith reflects on his 100th Super Rugby match in the wake of Saturday's 60-27 win over the Cheetahs at Westpac Stadium.

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Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett's pending departure will not affect the side's performance this season or spark an exodus of talent next year, captain Conrad Smith says.

Smith said the players were shocked yesterday when told Hammett would not seek reappointment at the end of the season.

Smith, who was told last week, said player power had not been a factor in Hammett's decision.

Hammett had the respect and support of the squad.

"He's been brilliant," Smith said. "He'll leave us in better shape than when he turned up.

"He's made some massive calls in the time and in terms of the work he's done on the culture of the place.

"I love the team, but I've particularly loved the last few years and the changes he's brought about.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve, and guys love that. He's very passionate, he's committed to the team and he wants all the players and management to feel that way."

Although the results had not been ideal, Smith said, the fact that so many players had re-signed with the franchise was evidence it was heading in the right direction.

"You've seen in the last two or three years we've probably had the lowest player turnover in that time, and I know in management there have only been a couple who have moved on," he said.

"That surely reflects more than anything how he runs the team and the wider management group and how well he's done."

Smith expected the players to take a day or so to process the news, but he did not think it would have a lasting effect, particularly on the more experienced members of the squad.

"You have to remember as players we deal with this a lot," he said. "None of us are guaranteed [our jobs].

"I've been through a lot of coaches in my time with different teams. It's never nice seeing them go, and its just like a player when he signs up overseas - it's a reality of the business we are in.

"Most of the team found out only an hour or so ago, so there was a little bit of shock and a lot of sadness in the room.

"I had a chat and we quickly turned it around.

"We talked about the season still to play and a lot still to prove ... I think that will take us through the rest of the year."

Smith did not believe a change of coach would see a host of players decide to head elsewhere.

"We deal with these things a lot. Most of the guys will have contracts for one or two years," he said.

"If you aren't playing well, it doesn't matter who the coach is; you aren't going to get picked.

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"If you are playing well, it doesn't matter who the coach is; you will get picked, you will get contracted.

"It will be more on a personal level we'll be sad to see him go, but contractually I know for myself it's a factor, but it's not huge.

"It's not going to influence a whole lot of people."

Smith reiterated comments he made after last Saturday's win over the Bulls in Napier that some public criticism of Hammett had been over the top.

"I don't agree with it, but I'm in a different position [to fans]," he said. "Everyone reacts differently [to results].

"We've had a good relationship all the way through and I think that's why I have so much respect for the guy.

"I know that all he ever cares about is his team, his players and his management, and he's always had the respect of us.

"I think that's why he's been able to cope with whatever's been fired his way."

- Fairfax Media

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