Qantas Australian Women's Head Coach Tim Walsh has given rugby.com.au an insight into what he took away from the National Sevens Championships hosted at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen earlier this month...
"It is a very privileged time to be working in Australian Rugby Sevens - particularly in the Women’s sector. To be at the forefront of the fastest growing women’s sport in the world is both challenging and hugely rewarding.
To blow our trumpet a little we are currently the most successful Australia Rugby team in the country and on the verge of succeeding in our quest to be in the top four spots in the World Series that will ensure automatic qualification to the Olympic Games in Rio next year.
We run an elite, fully professional program and our athletes are continually leading the world in strength and conditioning results as well as on-field match play statistics.
The constant challenge for the game remains the standard of tournaments below World Rugby (formerly IRB) level and the number of opportunities available for future Olympians to cut their teeth and develop through the pathway into an elite athlete.
During the two weekends of the Nationals Dale Roberson (Pathway Services Manager - Rugby Sevens) and the Australian Rugby Union hosted two National Championships for both Youth and Senior Men’s and Women’s teams. The weekends were landmark events and very successful on many levels. The participants, atmosphere, organization - and from my point of the view the level of the competition - was at a quality standard.
It was clear to me that all of the teams prepared well in advance and put in a considerable amount of time preparing the teams. This is a real credit to the coaches and individual states for investing both time and money into the growth of Sevens. All teams played with a definite style, strategy and a cohesion that displayed knowledge and understanding of the game of Sevens. I believe the credit goes to the Australian Rugby Union for rolling out Sevens coaching curriculums and the way in which the states invested in their own Sevens Academies and coaching structures. Despite a clean sweep from New South Wales, overall the competition was fierce and closely contested.
The standard and nature of the national titles is the first stage in filling the gap between international-level and club-level tournaments. It is creating a pathway to being a elite player and giving coaches and players the opportunity to perform at a level where skills and attributes can be tested at a level just below the elite.
Ultimately I believe that what we need is a series of tournaments at both domestic and international levels to provide greater opportunities at an elite level. International Sevens athletes require resilience, adaption, touring experience and mental toughness that can only be gained from the rigorous requirements from touring and international experience."
Tim Walsh is a former Australian Sevens representative and was appointed Head Coach of the Qantas Australian Women's team in August 2013.