New Director of Rugby Mark Hammett has outlined his long-term vision for his Cardiff Blues - and vowed 'I want people to want to belong to his place'.
Hammett – nicknamed Hammer – jetted into Cardiff last week as part of an intensive fact finding mission before he takes on the top job at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park following his work with the Hurricanes in the Super 15.
The 41-year-old also met the rugby media ahead of his move across the globe and spoke passionately about his reasons for moving to Wales.
And he revealed that people are his passion and he will not shy away from making the tough decisions to bring the best out of the Blues.
He said: “I’m passionate about my people and I’m pretty damn loyal. What I’m really big on is I want people to want to belong to this place. That takes time and I think that’s one of my strengths.
“I want people to sense there’s something going on here, something good about this club. There will be a lot of that already.
“You have to remember that after 2011 with the Hurricanes I had a Mark Hammett hate page. That was from having to move people on when I joined. I moved on two great All Blacks. It gets pretty nasty, but that’s because people care and are passionate about the place.
“But I knew the inside, knew what was holding the place back from people wanting to be there. I knew I had to make some moves for the good of the whole club as opposed to just individuals. When I talk about the team being first, that’s not just lip service. Nobody is bigger than the club, not even me, and we make decisions for the good of the club.”
Hammer admits his new surroundings in Cardiff evoke some personal memories adding: “I actually played for the Barbarians here and I was here in the 1999 World Cup as well.
“I played against the South Africans in the third-fourth play-off after the French beat us in the semi-final… New Zealand cried for about another four years. It’s just a place that I’ve always enjoyed. Cardiff is very well respected, not just for rugby but as a city.”
And he revealed the reasons behind moving his family thousands of miles across the rugby globe to take up the hotseat at Blues.
“It was always the plan to leave New Zealand at the end of this year. I hadn’t made a decision on a club at that stage. But Cardiff clicked. It had a good synergy about it. What’s fantastic is the club has a long-term vision. I am really excited to be here,” he said.
“I’ve been here for a week, meeting and greeting. I’ve enjoyed it and learned a lot already on this trip. It seems like the business and the club cares about their people and the way I have been welcomed in this first week would certainly prove that to me.
“I want to hit the ground running. There’s going to be a lot of work to be done in the first year, but it’s exciting and I am looking forward to it. I’m going to make some mistakes. I won’t hide from them, don’t worry about that. But I am a quick learner.”
Hammer expects to arrive at Blues in mid-August once he has finished with the Hurricanes and insists he will leave no stone unturned when he takes on the top job to bring success to the region.
“My head and my heart is in New Zealand with the Hurricanes at the moment, as it was with the Crusaders before that. Once I get here, the club and the players will see that this is number one. I know I can be successful,” he said.
“As a club we want to keep getting better and better. There is a heck of a good mix of experience and talent in the group.
“I’m inheriting a squad and management team, but I’ve done it before. I did it with the Hurricanes and you do need a year to be able to see who is world class, who you can manage up and lead and at times, unfortunately, who you need to manage out.
“That will be one of the things I need to do. I’ve been working this week to understand the strengths and get an idea of the things that need to change. I’m excited to get started.”