Defence will win Roos the Cup: Gillmeister
Trevor Gillmeister's defensive philosophy was started in the backyard and is decades in the making, and he insists the World Cup final hopes of Australia hinge on those same ideals.
His late father drummed the virtues of stopping tries – as opposed to scoring them – into the Kangaroos assistant coach when he trained a youthful 'Axe'.
"Me and my brother were only 13 months apart and as kids we tackled each other every day," Gillmeister told NRL.com ahead of Saturday's clash with England at Suncorp Stadium.
"I said to my father 'why are we tackling each other all the time?' and he said 'you can drag a person off the street, throw them a ball and they can catch it and run with it but not everybody can stop someone when they have the football'.
"I thought that made a lot of sense."
So much sense that Gillmeister insists beating the Wayne Bennett-coached England will revolve around improving a defensive structure that has resulted in Australia conceding just 16 points in five games.
"In the Four Nations last year we got better and better defensively as the tournament went on," Gillmeister said.
"We have gone to another level defensively in this tournament and we still need to go to another leveI. I think we can and the players have said the same.
"The first time we played England in this World Cup we only got away from them in the last 10 or 15 minutes [in an 18-4 win].
"They will have a bit of belief and I am sure Wayne will have them ready. He knows himself that defence is the key to winning the game. He has always said that."
“There is a lot of pride in this jersey and that is why Mal has guys like him around the camp to give us pointers. When he talks, you listen."
David Klemmer on Trevor Gillmeister
Gillmeister explained how the Kangaroos defensive clout in this World Cup had revolved around old school values of desire, technique and trusting the man next to you.
"On the footy field defence is about not letting down your mate beside you. I played that way and so do these blokes," Gillmeister said.
"You can put the best laid defensive plans in place as a coach but the players have got to want to do it, and full credit to these Australian players. They have just run with it and made it a priority.
"They said they wanted to be the best defensive team in this World Cup and they wanted to send out a message to everybody else that we were going to be hard to score against, and they've done that.
"We've fine-tuned a few blokes with things they need to improve, but it comes down to attitude and trust.
"They want their mate beside them to be confident they can do the job. That flows into wanting you in the team, because they know you are not a liability."
Gillmeister caught sight of Wade Graham in the team hotel as he was speaking and said the Kangaroos bench forward epitomised that ethos.
"They can be Origin players but they are still willing to learn and improve and Wade Graham is a perfect example," he said.
"We've been tinkering a bit with him and getting his feet right, because footwork is everything.
"People think defence it is all about getting your shoulders in, but we give them a few different options when they come in to this Australian team about mixing their defence up.
"You don't run the ball the same way every time and you shouldn't tackle the same way every time.
"It is a muscle memory thing and we need to fine tune it all the time."
After speaking with Gillmeister about his philosophy, NRL.com asked prop David Klemmer about the influence 'The Axe' had brought to the squad.
"Gilly just has that old-school approach and that experience as well. He loves to put his head where people don't want to put their head," Klemmer said.
"He keeps helping us forwards and tips us up. They are not major, just little things that you have got to tweak.
"There is a lot of pride in this jersey and that is why Mal has guys like him around the camp to give us pointers. When he talks, you listen."