All Black Assistant Coach Mick Byrne is a great example of where footy can take you

Wednesday, April 10 2013 @ 09:23 am ACST

Contributed by: Rod Shaw

Sydney born Mick Byrne's playing past in Aussie Rules helps him fit neatly into the Rugby Union Super 15’s Blues co-coaching jigsaw. Like many Sydney youngsters Mick Byrne began his sporting life on the league field. Then one of his schoolmates persuaded him to bring his teenage 2m frame to Aussie Rules training.

"I really liked it because of the freedom of running and the kicking that was involved," Byrne said. So in his last year at school, Byrne ended up playing rugby on Thursday, Aussie Rules on Saturday and Rugby League on Sunday.

He made an Aussie Rules rep side as a ruckman and centre half forward and signed a contract as an interstate player and headed off to Melbourne. Byrne went to the Melbourne Demons, subsequently Hawthorn where he won a Grand Final winner's medal, and the Sydney Swans in a 167 game career over a 13-year career.

On retirement he found he was still keen on coaching any of the winter codes and through common friends he met Kiwi league captain Mark Graham who had been used by the Swans to help them with their tackling techniques.  Graham was coaching league at Manly and asked Byrne if he could help his players kick and catch like Aussie Rules players. A session a week with league men like Cliff Lyons, Geoff Toovey and Owen Cunningham worked and when Graham shifted to coach at North Sydney, Byrne helped out there too.

His reputation spread until he helped out at the Manly rugby club where future Wallaby coach Tim Lane was coaching. From there he was on his way into rugby and fulltime work as a kicking and skills consultant.  His skills have taken him to work around the globe in Australia, South Africa, England, Japan and Scotland and now New Zealand.

Subsequently Byrne met the New Zealand All Blacks then coach Graham Henry. The conversation was crisp.

"So kicking coach, what can you teach me?" Henry inquired. The answer was equally to the point.

"I have never met a defensive coach I can't outkick," Byrne said and the pair were soon in deep conversation about plans to improve the All Blacks' skills and a range of programmes to suit age-grade players.

For more, see Rugby: Skills from across the codes come in handy.

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