Thirst for knowledge among coaches remains strong at Youth Rugby Coaches Forum

Mon, Jan 29, 2024, 3:06 AM
Reds Media Unit
by Reds Media Unit

Last weekend’s third annual Youth Rugby Coaches Forum at Nudgee College sent a crystal clear message nation-wide; Rugby retains a heavy, beating pulse in Queensland and Australia and the thirst for knowledge among coaches remains as strong as ever.

First held in 2022, this year’s Forum was headlined by the likes of Australian coaching legend Laurie Fisher, Junior Wallabies Head Coach Nathan Grey, Queensland Reds Super Rugby Pacific Head Coach Les Kiss and his entire senior coaching team (Brad Davis, Jonathan Fisher, Zane Hilton and Dale Roberson).

Hosted by former Reds back Morgan Turinui, Wallaby No. 782, the sold-out Forum welcomed nearly 300 coaches from schools and clubs nationwide, as well as international guests from New Zealand, the United States, England, and even Sweden.

Founder of the Youth Rugby Coaches Forum and Director of Rugby at Nudgee College, Sean Graham, first conceptualised the event in response to some of the participation challenges he noticed at a schoolboy level.

“I was seeing a decline in player numbers across school competitions,” he explained to the QRU Media Unit.

Explaining why he identified coach development as a key way to address that, Graham said “I’m a big believer in a quality player experience to ensure that they turn up the following year and the coach has a big responsibility in that.

"Trying to service the wider Rugby community, not just within the gates of Nudgee College, was the intent and looking at a broader responsibility to the game. We are fortunate that we have the capacity to execute an event on this scale in terms of our facilities and outstanding staff.”

The rest is history. Backed by QRU Apparel Partner Canterbury, Major Partner of the Forum, tickets sold out again in 2024.

Graham acknowledged the involvement of the Queensland Reds and QRU since its’ inception, with the entire Super Rugby Pacific coaching staff taking to the grass last Saturday to demonstrate their approach to the game in front of eager attendees.

“The QRU have been a huge supporter of the forum since the start; for example, we’ve always had Reds Academy players every year to run the on-field drills for our coaches,” Graham explains.

“(Reds utility back) James O’Connor has spoken at all three forums, and this year there was a significant buzz at the forum about the new Reds coaching staff being involved.

"Having James and Zane Hilton on the panel on Friday night was another highlight, as they gave such great insight into the direction of the Super Rugby program heading into 2024, and there is real enthusiasm within the Queensland Rugby community about the direction of the Reds.”

Reds Head Coach Les Kiss was mightily impressed by the size, scale and calibre of the event.

“Full credit to Sean and his team at Nudgee College, as well as all of the presenters and the attendees who gave up their weekend to enhance their coaching experience,” Kiss said. “This was my first engagement with the Forum and I couldn’t speak more highly of what I witnessed and was fortunate enough to participate in.

“We’re certainly proud at the Reds to support the ongoing development of the game in Queensland – and for the coaches who made the effort to travel from interstate or overseas – and playing a small role in such an outstanding event was a privilege.

Reflecting on the success of the forum, Graham challenged fellow coaches to take the next step, stating, "The challenge now for us as coaches is to actively implement new ideas into our own coaching practice, challenge the status quo, and embrace innovation."

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