No fairy tales in life, Rob Horne warns Waratahs
August 1, 2014
The Waratahs are incredibly tight, players and coach alike talking of their bond with each other © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs won the Super Rugby minor premiership in record-setting fashion, and they boast an astonishing 18 internationals, but once-bitten finalist Rob Horne has wise words of warning to team-mates.
"There's no fairy tales in life," Horne said ahead of the Super Rugby grand final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night, for which Adam Ashley-Cooper, in the first finals campaign of his 10-year Super Rugby career has provided his team-mates with poetic inspiration.
Waratahs vice-captain Ashley-Cooper delivered a heartfelt speech as the players gathered in a tight huddle after training on Thursday, outlining how much it meant to be part of the Waratahs' "special" quest for a maiden championship.
Prop Sekope Kepu revealed Ashley-Cooper's call to arms came in the form of a poignant poem he had penned about each and every member of the Waratahs' 30-man squad.
"It sent shivers down my spine," Kepu said.
"It was pretty emotional stuff. Whether we're meant to share it or not, but it tells a lot about what we've built this year as a team and the bonds and everything.
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"Regardless of whether you're in the 22 or not, everyone's really bought into the culture and everyone loves being around each other."
Kepu said the players and coach Michael Cheika each had a special bond with each other, and it "can't get any better" than hearing Ashley-Cooper's touching tribute to his team-mates.
"When someone goes to that length and includes 30-odd blokes in a poem, touching a little bit about his experience with them or where they've come from, it's pretty special," he said. "Everyone just loves being among the team and hopefully that goes a long way to what we're facing on Saturday."
Ashley-Cooper said "these are the weeks you look back in years to come".
"I went into it full of enthusiasm, but after writing on seven or eight blokes I realised it was going to take a lot longer than I thought," Ashley-Cooper said of the poem, written on his day off on Wednesday, when he tore up one version before starting again.
"I eventually got it done, but when I read it out to my girlfriend she gave me the funny eyes. I'd had an idea of what I wanted to say in my head but that wasn't how it had come out. So I had to start all over again."
The Waratahs, without a title after 18 years of trying, are contesting their third final and - and their third against the seven-time champion Crusaders, who won the two previous encounters in Christchurch.
Horne is among five Waratahs backing up from the 2008 final loss to the Crusaders, alongside Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson, That night, playing at home, the Crusaders recovered from 12-3 down to win 20-13 after Waratahs playmaker Beale limped off injured early in the second half.
"I was a kid," Horne said of the 2008 decider.
"As an 18-year-old, you're desperate to play every week and just doing your best and you don't really appreciate everything else that goes on around you. It was my first year so everything came along quite quickly. In your first year, if you make a grand final, you think: It's alright, we'll win it next year. But it doesn't work like that. They come few and far between, and that's what I picked up.
"When you're there and you're having a good year, you've got to make it the best year. You've got to go and do the business. You've got to go out there and make it happen. It's not just going to happen for us because we want it to."