Dominic Waldouck is enjoying the added responsibility of coaching as well as continuing his playing commitments with Newcastle Falcons.
The 32-year-old centre is working alongside John Wells in helping shape a Falcons defence which is by far the meanest in both the Championship and the Championship Cup this season, Newcastle conceding an average of just 9.3 points per game.
“I’ve always enjoyed thinking about the game and being diligent doing my analysis throughout my playing career, so I suppose coaching was a logical progression of that,” said the former Premiership and European Cup winner.
“You can’t play forever, and this is just another way to feed my love of the game.
“I’m really enjoying it, and now that my injury is behind me and I’m playing a bit of rugby I’m more into the routine of trying to balance the two roles.”
Newcastle are currently ten from ten in an unbeaten start to the season, a run which will be tested on Saturday when they make the Championship Cup trip to Doncaster. Victory at Castle Park would secure a home quarter-final with one round of pool matches to spare, Waldouck unperturbed by this year’s extra workload.
“It’s obviously a bit busier having the coaching side to think about as well as playing, but you’ve just got to be red hot on it and be ready to feed stuff back into the players,” said the former Wasps, Northampton, London Irish and Ohio Aviators midfield man.
“If anything I think my own game understanding has actually picked up as a result of having the additional role, and I kind of wish I could feed some of that knowledge into my 22-year-old self when I had a decent body!
“When you’re out on the field as a player-coach there’s an additional emphasis on you, because guys tend to turn to you when answers need to be found to things that are happening during the match. I quite enjoy that responsibility, and it’s been good combining the two.”
Finding scope for improvement despite Newcastle winning every single one of their games this season, Waldouck added: “Rugby is such a brilliant game because it requires a big emotional buy-in and engagement, and then on top of that you need your skill and the ability to make decisions under pressure.
“For us this season we’re the cup final for every team we’re playing, and so they’re spiking emotionally against us. It’s about managing those periods in games where we don’t have the momentum and teams are really going for us, and then the additional challenge of managing the referee when there’s no TMO.
“These are the kinds of tests that are different to what we’ve been used to in the Premiership, and in some ways are probably the reasons why we’ve had ups and downs during games. We’ve had periods of brilliant play followed by a loss of momentum, and a big part of our focus is on how we can better manage that situation.
“I think the guys are taking it on board, as a coaching team we’re getting our heads round it and we’re just looking to see a week-to-week improvement in terms of how we manage and minimise those momentum swings. When we get into one of those lulls it’s about snapping out of it as quickly as possible, and to be fair I thought we did that well after half-time against Hartpury last week. It shows that we can react - we just need to be a bit sharper about how quickly we do it.”
Hoping for an 11th straight victory from Saturday’s trip to Doncaster, Waldouck said: “For us the focus is just on ourselves and how our performance level stacks up against the Premiership standard that we’ve said we want to maintain across the whole season.
“We know that Doncaster are a good Championship side who will present a challenge to us, but if we deliver what we have worked towards during training this week then we’re confident the scoreboard will take care of itself.
“Like with any rugby game it’s the old cliché of the forwards deciding who wins the game and the backs deciding by how much, and we need to win that physical battle with Doncaster to stand any chance.
“It’s also an opportunity for some of our up-and-coming players to get another run-out. It’s exciting to be part of their journey and their development, and they’re a great bunch to work with. There’s so much ability within that group, and the future for the club looks bright if we can get the best out of those guys.”