Laurie Fisher was under the spotlight like never before when he was appointed head coach of the Brumbies in 2005.
He came under fire from some sections of the fan base for his long hair, his beard and his bucket hat.
Those supporters wanted their coach to look like a salesman. But Laurie is devoid of ego and presents himself exactly as he wants.
Laurie would not change anything regarding the length of his hair or wearing shorts in the middle of winter. None of these things had anything to do with his ability as an outstanding rugby coach. He applied one of the best rugby minds we have seen to his role. He was not a marketing type from central casting.
But he did want to sell the game. He wanted to do it his way by talking to the grassroots rugby types – the true rugby fans – many of whom he had played with or against during his seven-year reign as the captain of the ANU, including their premiership season in 1992.
He wanted to educate those outside the inner sanctum about rugby tactics, strategies and the use of statistics.
He loved statistics. He could talk for hours about the breakdown and the value of the set piece.
I remember hosting a function with Laurie as the guest speaker before his first game as head coach in 2005. He was the first Canberran to take on this role.
For 30 minutes, Laurie enthralled the rugby nuts in the audience as he talked about stats in the red zone, comparing statistics from yesteryear to the current day.
It was indeed a lesson in rugby strategy.
After the function, feeling the warm inner glow of a successful afternoon with plenty of audience participation, I was approached by one of the guests who said he didn’t understand much of what was discussed by Laurie, myself, or the audience.
The disappointment is that there was no doubt a section of the Brumbies community who didn’t understand the value of Laurie Fisher’s rugby mind.
Regardless, he loves talking rugby, whether it’s scrums, red zones or exits. He can talk about it in minute detail.
And the players loved him because they knew he made them better players.
He is high energy at training, showing players first-hand how he wants it done.
He appears to be at his most effective in this hands-on role as a specialist forwards coach rather than a head coach where there is a certain amount of delegation.
This week he announced that he would be retiring from professional rugby at the end of the season. He’ll be handing over the reins to Ben Mowen, who was tutored in the dark arts by Laurie during his time as Jake White’s assistant coach in 2012/13.
Yet it is hard to imagine Laurie being lost to the game entirely.
I’m predicting he will be involved in some capacity down the track, perhaps with Uni Norths. We’ll all see him there, somewhere in the crowd, decked out in shorts on the coldest of winter days, resplendent with a bucket hat. He’ll be casting that same analytical eye over every moment of play as he has always done.