The Illawarra Academy of Sport’s rugby union players have had the rare opportunity to be coached by one of the world’s most respected professional coaches.
The boys and girls were put through a two-hour masterclass by renowned coach Alan Gaffney on Tuesday night.
Gaffney has a decades-long coaching resume, having been involved in the development of the Ella brothers, David Campese, Phil Kearns and George Gregan. More recently he has been involved with the Waratahs and the Irish national team.
IAS rugby coach Tony Leeder-Smith said the children all took a lot out of the session.
“It certainly was a successful evening,” Leeder-Smith said. “It was a great experience for the kids, it’s not something that comes along every day.
“He generally works with professional players, but now he’s turning his time to academies like ours, because he feels that’s where Australian rugby’s falling down.
“The boys especially got a lot out of it. Some of those boys want to be professional players and Alan coming from a professional background was able to give insight into what level they have to be at.”
Gaffney made sure to impress the importance of developing basic catch and pass skills, as he put the players through the same drills currently completed by international rugby union teams.
“He mainly worked on catch and pass. That’s your bread and butter, if you can’t catch and can’t pass, you’re not going to win the game.
“He reinforced that even at Wallabies standard, they do these particular drills every day to keep improving their skills.
“He stressed they need to keep persevering with their skills. Don’t worry about results, it’s all about getting that skill level and the results will come.”
Rugby will not be the only sport to benefit from expert coaches, with IAS Academy Athlete Coach and Program Manager Dane Robinson confirming all programs will experience similar sessions throughout the next year.