UNCOMPROMISING: Tim Chidgey at Southern Beaches training last night at Allan Davis Field. Picture: Simone De PeakTIM Chidgey thought it was a joke when told pre-season training at Southern Beaches consisted of a game of cricket.
Beaches had seemed content to tread water near the bottom of Premier Rugby when the two-time premiership winner at The Waratahs was appointed in 2011.
Four years in Premier One had yielded a meagre 13 wins, one in 2007, two in 2008, six in 2009 and four in 2010. Their best finish was eighth.
“The major issue was that they still had a First Division mentality, not a Premier Rugby mentality,” Chidgey told the Herald. “That is not being derogatory to anyone. That is just fact.
“People like saying clubs have a winning culture, but they don’t like to use the term losing culture.
“Losing was acceptable to Southern Beaches. A lot of people won’t like hearing that.
“There was an attitude of, ‘Oh well, we were competitive, or we were competitive up until half-time.’ You don’t get points for being competitive in the first 40 minutes.
“The first thing we had to do was change that.”
Similarly, as big an achievement as it is for the relative new boys, playing Wanderers in the grand final at No.2 Sportsground tomorrow is only half the job.
“Making the grand final is not enough,” Chidgey said.
“You have to win it.”
Chidgey knows how to win.
He guided The Waratahs to a premiership in his first year at the helm in 2003 and backed up with another in 2006. He has also tasted defeat, losing to Wanderers 10-3 in the 2005 decider.
Aside from the premierships, he guided Newcastle to successive Caldwell Cup titles.
Over the years he has crafted a winning formula and rarely diverted from it.
“Being really honest, if you had kids coming through Southern Beaches junior ranks five years ago, you wouldn’t want them graduating into a first-grade team that is losing by 100 points,” Chidgey said.
“The club lost Jay Strachan, Blake Creighton, the Gibson brothers, Brad and Mitch . . . they were Beaches juniors.
“You can’t blame them. As a parent I wouldn’t want my son playing first grade and getting his arse towelled week in week out.
“We had to change that and make sure kids wanted to stay and play for Beaches.
“We put structures in place around training, taught them about the culture of rugby, and said, ‘This is what you have to do to win.”‘
Chidgey also worked the phones. He recruited Charl van Niekerk, Nathan Tule and Kane Quinlan in his first year, adding muscle and experience to a group of talented youngsters headed by Andrew, Michael and Marty Delore, Hayden Gavin and Tyler Ostle.
Bang. They won 12 games and climbed to third, but they went out in consecutive finals games.
In 2012, Welshman Bleddyn Gant, experienced tall timber Mark O’Brien and point-scoring Kiwi Tim Riley arrived and they climbed another rung, but they finished in the same manner.
Undoubtedly the biggest coup has been the addition of two-time Anderson Medal winner and captain tomorrow Va Talaileva.
“You have to attract a few players,” Chidgey said.
“Picking up Va. It is not just what he does on the field – don’t get me wrong, he is a key player – but off the field he comes into his own.
“There are players you want to play alongside and players you want to play for. Va fits both bills.
“He is a hell of a leader and ideal for this club.”
Along with Talaileva came Central Coast quartet Matt Lanzini, Glenn Stone and Marshall and Logan Hemopo.
Long-term injuries to Talaileva and Delore brothers Mick and Andrew meant they missed the finals, but the building blocks were laid.
This season, Chidgey was sidelined after he and president Mitch Ostle copped a three-game suspension for their involvement in then suspended prop Willie Fraser playing in the Gunnedah 10s in the pre-season.
After beating Merewether 10-9 in round one, they dropped three games on the bounce to Hamilton (31-13), Wanderers (42-12) and The Waratahs (31-29).
Since then they have won 14 of 16, including the last eight.
“The pressure was on,” Chidgey said. “There was some self-doubt in the team, and a feeling of, ‘Is it going to be another tough year?’
“But you don’t win a competition in June; you have to be here in September.
“We have done the hard work and can reap the rewards now. I actually think it is harder to make the grand final. On the day it is whoever turns up and handles the pressure better.
“If we turn up and play the footy we can, especially the way we have improved the past three months, I think we can upset them.”