Hurricanes feeling better this year
Wed, 18 Jul 2012 6:48p.m.
By Ross Karl
What a difference one year has made for the Hurricanes.
Their Super Rugby season is over, having finished eighth, but they've left last year's internal battles behind.
Coach Mark Hammett is no longer Wellington's public enemy number one.
New stars have emerged and the 25,000-strong crowd at Friday’s win over the Chiefs suggests their fans are back.
No longer seen by many as the one who cut star All Blacks, Hammett's set to re-sign with the hurricanes.
“I feel like we've got something started and I want to make sure we finish it out and continue to move forward.”
Chief executive James Te Puni supported Hammett's controversial axing of Ma'a Nonu and Andrew Hore last year, a decision he feels has paid off.
“The expectations were pretty low after a rough introduction personally last year,” Te Puni says. “But having backed the coaches it's really satisfying to see how it's panned out and I’m really thrilled for the team.”
The new-look Hurricanes posted 10 wins in 16 games, helping the franchise become profitable for the first time in years.
The team brewed up the idea that team culture is vital to a turnaround and it worked.
“I could see how tight-knit the team was getting,” Hammett says. “The amount of time they were spending in receptions of hotels just playing cards or scrabble or just having a coffee and it was really clear there were no cliques.”
Highlights for Hammett were Julian Savea and Beauden Barrett becoming All Blacks and Conrad Smith's match winning try against the Blues at Eden Park.
Such highs are helping keep players on board.
Smith and Victor Vito are expected to be added to the 19 players already contracted for next season.
“With respect that's the complete opposite of the situation we had last year where we had to work hard to get people to signs with the Hurricanes,” Te Puni says.
So life is pretty sweet at Hurricanes HQ, although the new challenge is to go a step further next year.
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