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The 'Coaching Apprenticeship' shaping O'Brien

A lot’s been made of Adam O’Brien since he was confirmed as the nib Newcastle Knights Head Coach.

To many, his name being tossed up for the job seemingly came out of nowhere, however to many in rugby league circles, it was simply the inevitable finally coming to fruition.

O’Brien was in the process of completing the ultimate ‘coaching apprenticeship’, including twelve years under Craig Bellamy in Melbourne before rounding out with a season at the Sydney Roosters under Trent Robinson.

Sitting down with Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast, the man himself described the experience between the two clubs as ones which could not have been more contrasting.

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“Completely different, which was great for me because I’ve certainly moulded my philosophies and coaching on Craig’s mentality, having spent so much time with him, he’s certainly moulded me” O’Brien told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.

“The Roosters are a winning culture and it was important for me to round out my apprenticeship before taking on a role like this because there’s more than one way of doing things.

“Craig’s way is the boys are extremely fit through the pre-season and hit round one running, where Robbo will build into the season a lot more.”

O’Brien’s fingerprints are undoubtedly all over the sustained success both sides have experienced since he came into the coaching sphere.

His thirteen years of experience at both Clubs have made him one of the most qualified people in the code, despite not having a single game to his belt as a Head Coach.

“I’ve done a lengthy apprenticeship, I’m not a guy who’s dipped into coaching for two years and thought ‘yep I can do this’,” O’Brien said.

“I’ve been through playing for no points with salary cap scandals, I’ve been through five-six game losing streaks, I’ve been to six grand finals and won four, well I didn’t, the players won them but I’ve experienced grand final week six times and the last four in a row.

“I don’t think there’s many more qualified assistant coaches out there.”

While his time spent in Sydney with Robinson is something O’Brien considers one of the most important moves made in his career thus far, he has little doubt his time south of the border has made him the coach he is today.

“I think I owe a large amount to Craig,” he said.

“The last three years of my coaching apprenticeship down there was a Senior Assistant role, so I was a lot more involved in recruitment and retention and training programs, so that rounded me out.

“I did a little bit of media, but not as much as I’ve had to do here.”

Across his time spent at both Clubs, O’Brien believes he has experienced and now knows what it takes to create a winning culture.

With the Knights searching for their first finals appearance since 2013, it’s something he’s desperate to recreate.

“I guess it’s what you highlight and what you don’t accept,” O’Brien said.

“Some of the standards that you’re happy to walk past, well you can expect them to drip into your game once they drip inside the culture or the fabric of the club.

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“There’s no switch we can turn on Friday night and expect to get a result, so we have to live a certain way from Monday through to Friday and give ourselves any edge we can get on our opposition there.

“It’s constant re-enforcement, so not just about catching guys out but catching them in too.”

As for how differently Robinson and Bellamy implement this culture?

“Craig’s way is the boys are extremely fit through the pre-season and hit round one running, where Robbo will build into the season a lot more.

“The teams a reflection of your coaches’ character, so Robbo’s teams are highly intelligent, very tactical and skilful, the Storm will play for three days because Craig will work for three days.”