The NSW Waratahs have appointed Anthony Cutrupi as Head of Athletic Performance, with Corey Bocking joining Rob Penney’s staff as a Senior Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Coach.
Cutrupi and Bocking join Michael Stephen (S&C) and Ben McIntosh (Sports Science) to round out the team that will ensure the NSW Waratahs are in top shape heading into 2020.
Stephen has been with the NSW Waratahs for two seasons, working with Super Rugby and Academy teams while McIntosh will continue his work in athlete monitoring and analytics.
Cutrupi – who cut his teeth in the National Rugby League (NRL) with the St George Dragons and West Tigers – said he was looking forward to taking the reins at the Tahs.
“It’s very exciting for me, it’s been a quick transition for the time I’ve been in rugby, but it’s been a decade long journey to get here,” Cutrupi said.
After his time in the NRL, Cutrupi joined Rugby Australia to work in their Academy but quickly found himself with the 2019 Rugby World Cup train-on squad. He then returned to NSW Rugby headquarters to act in the Head of Performance role, vacated by Brad Harrington.
After going through the recruitment process for what proved a highly-sought role, Cutrupi began working with Rob Penney to formulate the Tahs 2020 vision and was glowing in his praise of the incoming coach.
“He’s a really good guy, good communicator and he’s definitely about the group. A modern-day coach, very athlete centred and people-based,” Cutrupi said.
“I think he understands people, staff and has those soft skills. He’s a coach in every sense and understands the human side of things to harness individual and collective potential.”
Cutrupi’s praise for Penney extends to his attitude towards S&C and the license he’s been given to effectively prepare the squad for the rigours of Super Rugby.
“My S&C approach is performance-focused for rugby, I’m very much about how does the coach want to play and how does our S&C competencies fit into that,” Cutrupi added.
“That philosophy centres around how S&C and rugby work side-by-side, with the Head Coach and myself coming together and combining how those elements work for one another as much as possible.
“Traditionally, it’s been ‘you go get ‘em fit’ and ‘you go get ‘em rugby’ and hopefully somewhere in the middle it works – but it’s a much more collaborative approach now.
“I’ve worked closely with Rob to get an understanding of the style of rugby he wants to play, where he sees our squad, the trajectory of their rugby development and how we best contribute to that from a physical perspective.”
Cutrupi’s new right-hand man will be Corey Bocking, who he worked with during his time at the West Tigers.
Bocking was Head of Performance with the NRL outfit, spent time with Greater Western Sydney in their early years in the AFL and most recently, has been Head of Performance for West Indies Cricket.
Cutrupi said Bocking’s vast array of experience – particularly in rehab, strength and nutrition – would be beneficial to the squad in 2020.
“Corey’s got international level Head of Performance experience; he understands the coordination across the whole rehab process and knows how to get the best outcomes for athletes in that setting,” Cutrupi said.
“We also needed a world-class strength and power program and someone with the experience and expertise to get that off the ground immediately.”
During Bocking’s time at the Tigers he worked with the likes of James Tedesco, Mitch Moses and Luke Brooks in their early years and was looking forward to helping players at a similar point in their careers.
“I’ve been overseas for the last four years, the last few with the West Indies but was looking to come back home and the Waratahs was an organisation I was really keen to work with,” Bocking said.
“The ones that are coming in early you obviously need to get them up to standard, but you have to do it responsibly so it’s about knowing where they’re at and where you want to take them.
“There’s no shortcuts, it’s a long-term plan for those guys in the first year or two of a Super Rugby program. You might not see them much early on, but whenever they’re required we need them to be physically ready.”
Bocking has worked within a variety of high-performance teams and hopes that breadth of experience will benefit the Tahs in 2020 – particularly around injury management and return to play, the by-product of the brutal contact in rugby.
“Having a diverse experience and the opportunity to work in different sports with different types of athletes, it gives you a good perspective on high-performance and what helps an athlete get the best out of themselves,” Bocking added.
“Every injury is different, hopefully my experience in helping athletes return to play will allow us to draw up really targeted plans when they’re in rehab and effectively support the work of the physios and medical team.”
Bocking has had the chance to see the group in training during their first week of pre-season, and has been pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“A great group of guys, a real eagerness to get about their work and a willingness to improve themselves every day,” Bocking added.
“I can’t fault their commitment or attitude, I’ve really enjoyed working with them so far.”
Both he and Cutrupi talk passionately about the need for their S&C work to seamlessly into Penney’s plans on pitch.
“It’s about transferring what we’re doing in the gym to out on the field, so that comes down to building a foundation of strength, power and improving their overall athleticism,” Bocking said.
“If you have a look at the group and their physical nature, there’s a number of guys who have been in the system for a while and have the competencies on paper and our job is to fuse with Rob and turn that into a rugby performance,” Cutrupi added.
“There’s a group there that we need to bring [those competencies] up so that they’re at a Super Rugby level, with a longer-term plan in mind.”
While they acknowledge their former sport in the NRL attracts a different type of athlete, Cutrupi said he and Bocking will certainly be taking learnings from their time in the 13-man game.
“I think the intent and intensity that you go about your work is something that we can take [from the NRL], that aggression particularly with weights and field conditioning,” Cutrupi said.