Brian Carney was a surprise appointment to the role of Great Britain vice-captain for the 2005 Tri-Nations. He spoke to Thirteen about the role…
Brian, how are preparations going for the tournament?
Very well. I’ve done a lot of training on my own and liaising with the coaching staff because Wigan didn’t make the semi-finals. We then met up on the Monday after the Grand Final and headed off to Spain for a training camp.What are the advantages of training in Spain?
Even at this time of the year Spain should be free from rainy days. The quality of a training session can deteriorate in the driving rain whereas in Spain we should get in two or three good sessions a day and we can get a lot done. Will Great Britain’s approach be different this year?
We have to bear in mind what happened in the final. There’s no hiding from that although before that we were going very well. The first goal was to get into the final but just getting to the final isn’t good enough. We’ve got to go one better. We know we’ve lost a couple of senior professionals but the guys who have come in are keen and eager and they bring tremendous enthusiasm. Also, they bring no battle scars of having lost to the Australians in the past which is important. The Kiwis will be much stronger too and harder to beat this year.
How are you doing fitness wise?
I’m raring to go. I did a lot of training with Wayne Godwin, whilst the play-offs were still on. Wayne was preparing to play for England against France and New Zealand. So we’ve been getting our fitness and preparation up to speed.
You played through last years tournament not fully fit and even stayed on the pitch at half time to keep moving. Are you free from that this time?
Yes. That was because of my hamstring injury and the fact I hadn’t finished the season for Wigan. This time I finished the season, which was good for me, and it’s left me in good stead for this Tri-Nations.
Will you benefit from being fresher than most, not having played much for Wigan this year?
It can work either way. Sometimes you can lack match sharpness but I think I’ll have that after the week in Spain which will do me the world of good. It’s a five game series and whether you’ve played loads for your club or not, you can get yourself up for five games.
What responsibilities do you now have as vice-captain?
There are preconceptions of what the role should entail and I don’t think Brian has named me as vice-captain for my decision making on the field. It’s more to liaise between the coaching staff and the players and to ensure that messages get across both ways. Six weeks is a long time to be together and everything has to be done to ensure that those six weeks run smoothly. There will be trials and tribulations and we’ll be trying to minimise those and that’s the sort of thing that Brian will be looking for me to do.
So it’s largely an off-field role?
It’s on the field as well. We all feed off each other. Even guys who are quiet on the field, like Adrian Morley, lead with their actions. So there are different ways of carrying out the role.
Going back to your Great Britain debut in 2003, what are your memories of that? Did you think you’d scored the winning try?
No, I didn’t think that to be honest. You don’t get too many people celebrating in rugby league because the game can turn so easily. Unlike in soccer when a goal in the first minute can be the winner, that never happens in rugby league. That series was disappointing because we lost 3-0. There were no consolations in how we played. Getting close is not good enough.
So all you take from that series are the lessons to be learned and the things to be corrected?
Yes. We’re not in the business of patting ourselves on the back because we’ve run them close. We’re not here to make up numbers. We’re here to win. You did win three games last year though. You must have taken positives from that? Especially your combination with Martin Gleeson.
Yeah, he’s a great player. One of the best centres in the world. His enthusiasm is fantastic and he takes everything off the training field and does it in a game. Working with Martin for five or six weeks is great and it’s easy to build up a combination with him.
Has the training camp in Bath been the only get together of the year until now?
Yes we had that and we’ve also had the coaches on the phone who have been monitoring us on the DVDs of our club games. Mike Forshaw has also been working with the guys who haven’t been involved with the play-offs so they’re on top of things and Dave Lyon has been monitoring the outside backs and giving us feedback on what he’s seen.
What analysis has there been of the opposition?
We did a review in the training camp of what happened last year and characteristics and traits don’t often change. The coaching staff have been watching the NRL and their semi-finals and we’ll be getting a detailed analysis of them.
What happened at the training camp and what was its purpose?
The purpose of it was to get everybody together and to outline what is expected of us. There was a discussion of the things we have to put right this year and, of course, we discussed last year’s final so we know how to improve and how to take things one step further. They needed to get that in our heads and it gets the players familiar with the language the coaches want to talk in with regards to playing patterns. It would be too much to do it when we first assembled for the Tri-Nations so that’s why we had the session in Bath. They gave us our homework so we’d come fully prepared.
Can you put your finger on what went wrong in the final?
Well we can look at all their tries, the fact they came out of their own half far too easily and we didn’t find the floor enough with our kicks. A lot of the time they were returning the ball having caught it on the full from the halfway line and that’s not good enough. We didn’t complete our sets either. So we know what to rectify and what not to repeat.
Was the approach to the final different to the other games?
No, I don’t think so. We just didn’t play well. It was nothing to do with the approach.
You mentioned the kicking game. How do we rectify that? Do we pick a specialist kicker?
I don’t know what will happen in that respect. Everyone in those positions last year had a tremendous kicking game which they’ve proved week in week out in Super League so the fact the kicking game wasn’t good in the final doesn’t mean they aren’t good kickers. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a specialist kicker compared to the guys we had last year.
These will be your last few games in this country and you’ll want to go out on a high.
Yes but I haven’t looked ahead to next year. I just look at the present. I always have done and I’ll try and stick with that. I want to win the Tri-Nations like I wanted to win the Super League with Wigan. That didn’t happen which was a disappointment but the good thing about this game is you get the chance to put things right. No one plays this game to take part or to get fit. We’re in the business of winning and I want to win the Tri-Nations.