Larkham's legacy looms large at Brumbies

Stephen Larkham’s presence is hard to miss at Canberra Stadium, both in the flesh and in the fact that one of its grandstands bears his name.

As the Brumbies coach finished up his final game in charge, it was that mark his captain Sam Carter first pointed to as a sign of his mark on the place.

“Half the stadium’s named after him so it’s a pretty good legacy,” he laughed.

“‘Bernie’s been here the whole time I’ve been here, he’s been massive for my development.

“The organisation has been part of his whole life, I don’t actually know what he’s going to do when he leaves. I’ve got nothing but praise for what Bernie’s done for this club, for this organisation.

Larkham’s influence on this team was shown in a gutsy performance, as well, embodying a belief that drove them to prove their critics wrong in 2017, despite a host of high-profile departures.

“This place, it’s a very organic club, what we’ve achieved this year, although disappointing tonight, has been far more than what we set out at the start of the year, so it comes down to him,” he said.

Larkham, who will join the Wallabies full-time from the end of the season, said he was yet to process the feeling that this was his final game.

“It hasn’t really sunk in at this stage,” he said.

“The game’s too fresh – there’s plenty of things to review about this game and then obviously the season.

“Then the emotion will kick in after that, once you have a bit of a look at the season and you realise where maybe we’ve gone wrong or where we’ve gone right and good times we’ve had along the way, the disappointments we’ve had along the way, then I’ll probably get on to thinking about the fact that I’m not going to be here next year.”

The Brumbies found plenty of positives despite the loss on Friday night, not least of which was the emotional return of Christian Lealiifano, but there was also a glimmer of hope for the future.

Carter said that first half showed that the Kiwis are far from invincible, despite New Zealand sides holding a 26-0 streak over Australian Super Rugby sides this year.

“They’re not unbeatable,” he said.

“The margin for error is so fine, so if we keep the pressure on for 80 minutes and play the way we did in the first half, we could beat them, they’re not unbeatable by any means.”

The Brumbies will welcome back David Pocock next year, while Lealiifano is expected to play a key role and a handful of players now go into 2018 with a final under their belt, ingredients that mean Larkham is positive about next year.

“We certainly achieved a few things this year and put ourselves in a really strong position for next year, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

“Some guys are moving on from the squad this year but we’ll get some new faces in there and we’re going to learn.

“It’s a young squad and we’re certainly going to learn from this experience.”

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