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t’s Monday evening and I’ve just finished my review from the Chiefs game. Sam Cashman (Waratahs team manager) has sent out the schedule for the rest of the week. It’s a big week as we head up to Suncorp to face the Reds – they’re a young team capable of anything. Therefore, this week’s preparation is the key to our success.

First thing on Tuesday, the forwards are cooking the backs breakfast – ‘Brekkie Club’ – something former Waratahs captain Dave Dennis started back in 2014 when injury cruelly stopped his participation in a premiership win. 

Although we all would’ve rather seen him pull on the jersey for that final, the way Denno behaved after the injury was a major factor in the team’s victory. 

He could have easily sulked and no-one would’ve question it. Not Denno. He knuckled down, organised ‘Brekkie Club’ and went about his rehab. *It made a strong group even stronger.*

When I was given the captaincy at the NSW Country Eagles we took a leaf out of Denno’s book. 

Every Friday before a home game we would eat at an Eagles family home. This ranged from a braai in Vaucluse to my own Mum cooking 20kgs of casserole and curry in Tamworth *(there was none left – Tom Robertson and Tolu Latu were in the team that week.)*

The Eagles were minor premiers that year and could’ve won the flag off the back of strong team culture. 

Every home Saturday down at Sydney University the first-grade side clap on 3rd Grade and then meander over to Ralph’s Café. 

Owned by the Panebianco family, Ralph’s is an institution on campus. The Panebianco’s feed the first-grade team one of their famous pastas and coffee. 

This is a tradition standing longer than my decade at the club. In that time First Grade have won half a dozen Shute Shield Premierships. 

The food must be made with love as well. It can’t be brought at a restaurant. 

Regularly on tour for the Waratahs or Wallabies players will be taken out for dinner. Generally something traditional to the place of the tour – Lygon St in Melbourne, a steakhouse in South Africa or Argentina – you get the idea. 

While insightful (and delicious) these meals do not have the same effect on a team. 

In the household I grew up in it was compulsory to eat as a family. *Every night*, no exceptions. 

It didn’t matter who was fighting or if you were in trouble, we ate together. Many families from all backgrounds do the same. 

When a team replicates this, it makes the team environment feel more *homely.* 

A sporting club can be a little like a family sometimes in that people compete for positions and recognition – like many did with their siblings. Yet at the end of the day we are all on the same team and need to function together at a high level to succeed.

My mum is an intelligent woman, but sometimes I’d rather poke myself in the eye than acknowledge she’s right – it’s got something to do with the look on her face afterwards which I swear I can hear down the phone. 

*If she reads this no doubt I’ll hear that expression all the way from Tamworth this week.*