The ACT Brumbies hope the man who helped Pat Cash win Wimbledon can help them find a winning mental edge and tap into an often under-utilised resource in sport.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has added sports psychologist Jeff Bond to his staff for the Super Rugby season to work with players to improve mental preparation.
Pat Cash scales the Wimbledon wall after winning in 1987, with Jeff Bond (circled) in his players box.Credit:Solo Syndication
Australian tennis great Cash turned to Bond, a former Australian Institute of Sport psychologist of 22 years, to give him an advantage over his rivals during his career.
The pair teamed up for Cash's Wimbledon triumph in 1987, while Bond has also been to nine Olympic Games and has worked with the Sydney Swans, Richmond, St Kilda, the Newcastle Knights and individual rugby league stars.
Jeff Bond has worked with individual athletes and different sporting teams.
Now the Brumbies hope he can added another element to their preparation and review of games, with players scheduled for regular meetings with Bond.
"We focus so much on physical and skill development, but not a lot on mental skills. How you deal with stress, pressure and anxiety," McKellar said.
"We wanted to bring in the right person. I had a meeting with Jeff and there's no better fit to be honest. We had that instant connection and thengot him to meet with our [team] leaders.
"It's just about him providing them with processes and tools to deal with difficult situations."
The Brumbies are already facing adversity just two weeks into the Super Rugby season. Toni Pulu (cheekbone), David Pocock (concussion) and Henry Speight (hip) are likely to miss the round-two clash against the Waikato Chiefs on Saturday night after being injured in a round-one loss.
Dan McKellar signed a coaching contract extension last week.Credit:Karleen Minney
The injuries and disappointing result are by no means reason to panic, but the Brumbies face a tough stretch to start their season.
They haven't beaten the Chiefs since 2014, travel to New Zealand to play the Wellington Hurricanes next week and then face the Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs in Australian derbies.
McKellar will finalise his team for the Chiefs clash on Thursday, with Chance Peni and Lausii Taliauli competing to replace Speight, and Tom Cusack is expected to come into the squad to replace Pocock.
The coach has tinkered with the squad's training schedule for this season to change the routine for a fresh start and Bond has joined the squad as another resource.
"When I was in junior squads we had access to sports psychologists, but it sort of went out of the game for a little while," McKellar said.
"For me … why does someone take a shot at goal from in front and kick it 99 times out of 100 with their eyes closed, but in front of 30,000 people they miss? Or miss a tackle, or a lineout, or not have the belief to back themselves?
"It's all about the outcomes and I think we've made some steps forward. We're only at the early stages, but Jeff is already offering a lot. He's not going to be someone who blows in and out, I want him to be a part of the team. We're really pleased."
Bond will attend home games and captain Christian Lealiifano said all players had embraced the move.
"I think it's a massive point of difference for young guys coming through and I'm definitely enjoying it as an older head to cope with things mentally," Lealiifano said.
"Everyone works on fitness and their bodies, but it's about between the ears as well, and having some strategies to cope. Hopefully it puts you on the right page to perform at your best."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND TWO
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Waikato Chiefs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
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