How do you replace a legend?
It’s a question Hockey Australia are facing up to this week.
The crucial task of finding a successor to Kookaburras super-coach Ric Charlesworth begins this week, in the wake of his team’s spectacular 6-1 demolition of hosts the Netherlands in the World Cup final, conceding only three goals in the tournament.
Charlesworth, who has cited a desire to spend more time with his family, will leave enormous shoes to fill when he departs the sport following the Commonwealth Games in early August.
There was strong speculation at the World Cup that Australia will turn to a foreign coach but HA chief executive Cam Vale will only say it’s a possibility and nothing is being ruled out.
Master tactician and motivator Charlesworth has taken both Australia’s men’s and women’s teams to the top of the world, finishing his career as a two-time Olympic gold medal coach and four-time World Cup winning mentor in addition to his wonderful playing career.
So revered is Charlesworth’s ability to craft winning squads and to think outside the box for an advantage, he was discussed as a future coach of the Australian cricket team in 2011.
But he leaves the Australian men’s team in the best possible shape, heading towards the 2016 Rio Olympics as the world’s best by some margin and with the player depth that is a Charlesworth trademark.
The Kookaburras are near unbackable favourites to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal in his farewell tournament in Glasgow.
All of which explains why Vale is casting his search net far and wide.
“The brief I have from the board is to find the best coach possible,” Vale told AAP.
“And I would imagine we will get a fair bit of interest – they are world No.1 and World Cup champions.
“Maybe the challenge is going to be daunting following someone like Ric but the opportunity, how often does this happen?
“Someone is coaching at the peak of his talents is leaving behind the foundations for future success.
“We will take our time and make sure we find the best possible candidate.”
Vale is hopeful of keeping Charlesworth involved in Australian hockey in some role, albeit a reduced one, so his vast knowledge is not lost to the game.
“His name is just synonymous with the sport, as a player and as a coach. We will look to involve him at the appropriate time when he’s had a decent break,” he said.
“What that means? Who knows – we could build a shrine to Ric. And maybe that’s where we’ll start.
“But I would love to keep him involved in the sport and hopefully be able to pick up the phone and have a chat to the great man when I need to as well.”