Faith in youth paying off for NSW Waratahs

Wallabies star Jack Maddocks has applauded the Waratahs' coaching staff for investing in youth during the new Super Rugby AU competition.

JACK MADDOCKS.
JACK MADDOCKS. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

It won't happen overnight but Jack Maddocks is convinced the NSW Waratahs' exciting rebuild is in full flight thanks to coach Rob Penney's unwavering faith in youth.

The Waratahs' best performance of 2020 ended in a gut-wrenching 24-23 Super Rugby AU loss to the Brumbies last Saturday night.

But it was impossible to ignore the giant strides the Tahs have made following Penney's daring decision to invest in the future even if it meant short-term pain for a heavyweight franchise that boasted an embarrassment of riches only last year.

In the backline alone, gone are Wallabies veterans Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps, replaced by Maddocks and little-known but emerging talents like James Ramm, Joey Walton and former Australian under-20s captain and playmaker Will Harrison.

Despite their last-gasp loss to the much-fancied Brumbies, Australia's Super Rugby conference champions for the past two years, it was the new-look Waratahs, also including debutant starting hooker and man of the match Tom Horton, who most impressed.

Ramm's brilliant try from Harrison's inch-perfect cross-field kick typified the growing belief and confidence that 23-year-old Maddocks credits Penney and his assistant coaches for instilling.

"It was always going to be a little bit of a long process and a play like that is probably two or three months in the making," Maddocks said on Tuesday.

"The coaches are very big on us taking ownership and reading the game and so the first part of that is having your eyes up and being ready if it's on.

"But the big part of that play is having the confidence to go do it and that's something that takes a while to instil from a coach's point of view, that confidence and also that no-fear factor."

Even with seven Tests under his belt, Maddocks the perfectionist is relishing the chance to improve every day in the comfort of knowing there won't be backlash if plays don't come off, like kicking with both feet.

"The coaches give us the confidence to try those things out on the field. It can be easy to shy away from things that you're not completely comfortable at," the fullback said.

"The coaching staff are really good at encouraging us to test our skill sets."

Much has been made of New Zealand's rival Super Rugby Aotearoa being polars apart in class to Australia's domestic competition, but Maddocks says give the developing Waratahs and Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels, Brumbies and Western Force a chance.

"The quality (in round two) wasn't as good as weeks one and three but it was very wet that weekend and it's only natural for teams to play percentage footy," he said.

"That can sometimes be a bit more boring for fans but I feel like every week we're growing in confidence and our play will start to improve off the back of that."