If a week is a long time in politics, then a year in Rugby must feel like a lifetime for Tim Walsh – the man behind the new-look Australian Women’s Sevens program.
It has been a remarkable 12 months on a professional and personal level, with the former Queensland Reds representative also becoming a father for the first time in August.
The Women’s Sevens team had a breakthrough (2013-2014) season, recording their first ever IRB Women’s Sevens World Series victory in Dubai, an event Walsh pinpoints as one of his highlights of the past year.
“Yes, definitely Dubai,” he recalls. “To be down 22-0 and watch the girls fight back left me a little speechless, but at the same time I was very proud of their efforts.
“The girls worked extremely hard to get to that first tournament and it was a great way to launch into the season and more importantly, begin their journey to professionalism.”
In January, the Australian Rugby Sevens program was centralised at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen, a move that culminated in 21 players being selected to the full-time contracted list.
“The new structure has allowed us to implement a strength and conditioning program and look in depth, at the one-percenters that will make a difference going forward.”
Australia went on to beat their Trans-Tasman rivals in the Cup Final in Sao Paulo and earned top-three finishes in Atlanta and Netherlands to cap an impressive campaign.
Walsh, along with Team Manager and former Wallaby Scott Bowen, has nurtured a host of Women’s Sevens talent during his one year in charge to date. None more so than Emilee Cherry. Walsh has helped transform Cherry from a very good Rugby Sevens to the world’s best. Cherry was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year in May after plundering 195 points and 33 tries from centre – the best statistics among all players playing in the 2013/14 IRB Sevens Player of the Year.
“It’s a privilege to coach such a talented and intelligent group of girls at the centralised structure in Narrabeen. The move has changed the face of Women’s Rugby,” Walsh said.
“To work with girls who have an aptitude to succeed and be able to achieve results in such a short period of time has been a great experience. There is not a game that the girls don’t think they are capable of winning.”
Alongside Scott Bowen, Walsh also led the Australian Youth Olympic squad to a maiden Rugby Sevens’ Gold Medal at an Olympic-event in Nanjing last month and believes developing junior talent is a key facet of the game.
“It’s fantastic to see the expansion of the women’s game in all the states with academies coming through and it’s the first step to building a winning culture on and off the field.
“As a whole, watching the players grow and improve, there’s not a day that I don’t look forward to coming to work and thinking about how we can make the program better,” Walsh said.
As a former captain of the Australian Men’s Sevens team, Walsh is no stranger to the inner sanctum of professional Rugby, having played 17 IRB tournaments as well as the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Now in his 13th year of coaching, Walsh is committed to inspiring the next generation of Women’s Sevens players as he looks to plant the seed for success at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“There is a long way go and the three year plan to the Olympics has only hit first gear. We will continue to work on core skills and develop a structure that suits our style of play.
“The girls and staff are very excited about the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics and we will do everything we can do to forge a legacy in 2016 and beyond.”
The Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team kicks off its 2014-2015 Women’s Sevens World Series in Dubai in December – the first tournament on the Olympic qualification calendar.
Prior to that, the Australian Women’s Sevens side will take on Canada in a three-match exhibition series at the Gold Coast Sevens (11-12 October).
Tim Walsh year at-a-glance
19 September 2013: Appointed Head Coach of the Qantas Australian Women’s team
29 November 2013: Coached the side to victory at the Dubai leg of the Women’s Sevens World Series
January 2014: Oversees the Women’s program centralised to Sydney’s Academy of Sport in Narrabeen
16 February 2014: Australia finishes third at the Atlanta leg of the Women’s Sevens World Series
22 February 2014: Coached the side to victory at the Sao Paulo leg of the Women’s Sevens World Series
6 April 2014: Australia finishes runners-up to New Zealand at the Chinese leg of the Women’s Sevens World Series
17 May 2014: Australia once again finishes runners-up to New Zealand at the Amsterdam leg of the Women’s Sevens World Series
10 August 2014: Becomes a father for the first time when partner Roza gives birth to Tiger Andros Walsh
20 August 2014: Leads the Australian Girls Youth Olympics squad to the first-ever Gold Medal at an Olympic event