20 February 2024

Canberra rugby icon Andy Friend back in Brumbies colours 13 years after he was sacked as head coach

| Tim Gavel
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Andy Friend at the Brumbies 2024 season launch

Andy Friend at the Brumbies 2024 season launch. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Andy Friend was sacked as the Brumbies coach in 2011. The decision divided the Canberra rugby community – a number of loyal fans withdrew their support after the decision.

It was deemed by many that the reasoning given by the Brumbies hierarchy was unsatisfactory. This was coupled with the fact that Friend was very much a product of local rugby. He was one of our own.

In the ensuing 13 years, he found success in Japan as coach of the Australian Sevens team and, more recently, five years in charge of Connacht in Ireland.

He has come full circle.

He returns in 2024 to the Brumbies as the technical advisor for the Brumbies Super W team, working alongside head coach Scott Fava.

Brumbies Super W players embracing

Brumbies Super W will benefit from Andy Friend’s experience as the team’s technical advisor. Photo: File.

It would appear as though the wounds inflicted in 2011 have healed.

“I think when it all happened, I was ready to move on,” says Friend.

“It’s not tough to be back in a Brumbies jersey. To me, it wasn’t the Brumbies that hurt me, it was individuals within the Brumbies that hurt me. It’s always been my home club. It has always been the team I admired most in Super Rugby, and it’s nice to be back.”

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Friend said he has been heartened by the reception he received walking back into the fold and it wasn’t a difficult return.

“It has been really good; it’s been fantastic. A couple of the players who were around at the time came up to chat with me and offer their apologies for what happened back then. My response is that it wasn’t their fault; it’s just what happened, and life moves on.”

The obvious question is: does he harbour ambitions of being a full-time coach again?

“I’ve done 29 years of it, and this is my 30th year,” he explains.

“I’m coaching at a different capacity now. Twenty-nine years of non-stop coaching takes its toll and I have a very patient wife. It’s nice to be back home with family, to be honest.”

Andy Friend on a rugby pitch

Andy Friend has three decades of experience as a coach. Photo: Connacht Rugby FB.

And having family in Canberra is very important to Andy Friend.

“My parents are still alive, thankfully, but health issues are there. We’ve got a granddaughter now, and she’s here in Canberra. We have spent a long time away, so it’s good to be in the same town as one of our boys.”

But he is also preparing for the future years, having just established a consultancy business built on the expertise gained through years of coaching.

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He says, “Our new business, called Performance Friend, will work with leaders to unlock their potential. It may well be in rugby or sport, but it could also be in the corporate arena. And I’m keen to do some work with the disadvantaged as well. After 29 years of coaching around the world, you pick up some things that would be nice to share and pass on, and I’m enjoying that role.”

Plenty in the ACT rugby community will hope his return mends a few bridges that may have been damaged 13 years ago. It’s good to have him back.

But for Andy Friend, the focus is very much on the future and the opportunities that arise.

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