The men behind the Sevens' Olympic journey

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

They’re the two men charged with bringing Olympic medals home but Tim Walsh and Andy Friend have had vastly different roads to the Games.

For Women’s Sevens coach Walsh, Rio has been a long time coming, since he took the lead in 2013, the start of a tenure that will last until at least 2018 after his recent re-signing.

Tim walsh has been with the Women's Sevens for three years. Photo: Neil KennedyAs the days dwindle before the start of competition, on August 7 Australian time, Walsh says he and the coaching staff know this team like no other.

“We've been there from the start and really watched the players progress and I feel like I've progressed as a coach and learned to understand what makes the team work,” he says.

“I think it was extra special for me to be able to watch these girls' blood, sweat and tears (in the past three years) and have the realisation that, one, they're going but then (for them to) keep the focus on going there is just part of it.

Walsh has been adamant that getting to Rio is only the beginning for the World Series champions - a mindset instilled from day one..

“That started three, four years ago that being there or being a participant isn't good enough.

“We're going there to compete so this is just another cog in the ultimate goal.”

Walsh’s counterpart, men’s coach Friend was appointed in January, only taking up the job officially after February’s Sydney Sevens on his from a four-year stint in Japan.

It’s been a steep learning curve, that yielded one of Australia’s most successful World Series runs, and Friend says it hasn’t levelled off yet.

“Every game….I watch something and think I haven't seen that before, should do this here,” he says.

“You go to sleep thinking about that, you wake up thinking about that.

On his appointment, Friend said player management would be his key focus and it’s a priority he still carries with him, seven months on.

“You've just got to be honest with the boys,” he says.

“We ask them to be really honest in giving their best performance and they expose everything out there on the footy field.

“Every tackle, every attempted tackle, every run that they make, you see exactly what their colour's made of. You see everything .We do that every day at training.

“As a coach, you've got to do the same.

“They've got to be able to see exactly what you're thinking and understand exactly why you're doing what you're doing.”

After Geraint John’s resignation last year, Walsh took over the men on an interim basis, before Friend was appointed and captain Ed Jenkins is one grateful for some new-found stability.

“It has been a tough one with the coaching personnel that's come and gone over the last few years but Andy's really built this team together and there's a lot of unity amongst all the boys.”