Australia’s Women’s Sevens coach Tim Walsh will finish his tenure after April’s Commonwealth Games, in a surprise decision announced on Wednesday.
Walsh, who led the Aussie side to the first women’s sevens Olympic gold medal in 2016 and also steered them to a maiden World Series win in the 2015-16 season, leaves after five seasons in that role.
His winning percentage in that time is an astronomical 84 per cent, the highest of any Australian professional coach.
Walsh was contracted until the end of the 2018 season, which would have taken him to the end of the year, but has opted to step away on April 30, two weeks after the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The former Reds and Aussie Sevens player first became involved with the program off-field as the teams’ coaching coordinator in 2012, before taking the women’s reins.
“When I got a call from David Nucifora (then High Performance Manager) six years ago offering me a Coaching Coordinator role for both Australian Rugby Sevens teams, I would never have imagined how this opportunity would transpire; an Olympic Gold medal, a World Series Championship, the growth of a new genre and era in women’s contact sport as well as lifelong friendships,” he said.
Walsh said he felt the time was right to hand over the reins, with two years still left until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"I believe every job has a shelf life and as a group we've achieved the pinnacle of success in our sport,” he said.
“I move on with a heavy heart but I know that the timing is right for the program to progress and for me to explore new challenges.”
The Sevens program has progressed rapidly since Walsh took over and the format became an Olympic sport and he said he felt satisfied it was moving in the right directions.
"I'll depart the program leaving it in a very healthy position, with world class players, pathways for our elite development group and importantly, specialised and experienced Sevens coaches and management staff.
"It was an honour and a privilege to be given the responsibility by Rugby Australia to lead the Australian Women’s Sevens team for the past five seasons. Throughout my time I've had the support, freedom, and above all the trust and belief in my ability to do the job successfully. All of my expectations have been exceeded in terms of results and the personal and professional relationships I have forged.
"I have worked with and developed some of the best rugby players and coaches in Australia, and my time with Rugby Australia has been one of the most rewarding and enriching times of my life both on and off the field.
"Off the field I met my future wife at Rugby Australia, we have since welcomed our son Tiger. I was also supported in undertaking and completing an MBA, as well as other personal development opportunities."
Though Walsh would clearly be a sought-after coach, the 38-year-old won’t be jumping immediately into a new role, keen to spend more time with his wife, Roza and their son Tiger, 2.
Rugby Australia is believed to be keen to keep Walsh involved with the code, and it seems the long-time Sevens mentor won’t be lost to the game entirely.
Sevens assistant John Manenti will take over the side's reins until the end of the Sevens season, before a permanent replacement is found.