Gus Stevenson takes on coaching role in Wagga
Former Eagles’ coach Angus Stevenson has been appointed head coach at the Wagga Wagga Waratahs Rugby Union Club for the 2019 season.
Gus became a cult figure at the Eagles during his recent years as a coach and trainer, and famously led our mighty T3 to a 2017 1st-Division 1st-Grade premiership.
New work opportunities in Wagga Wagga last year meant Gus had to leave the Canberra Rugby scene after his successful third-grade campaign in the red and black.
The Wagga Wagga Waratahs Rugby Club consists of four grades; three open men’s grade, and women’s sevens. In the 2018 season, both first and second grade were undefeated, and all men’s grade teams were minor premiers and premiers.
We sat down with Gus to find out more about his appointment at WWWRUC.
How did this come about?
I moved to Wagga on 14th of August 2017, which was the week of First Division First Grade Grand Final. For the final week of coaching at the Gungahlin Eagles I was commuting from Wagga. Initially I’d intended to assist with the Juniors in Wagga however in December 2017, I was approached to coach second grade at Wagga Waratahs or first grade at Wagga Ag College. I am not an old boy of the club, but a number of family friends had a close affiliation with the Waratahs and spoke with Dan Atkins about my decision of where to coach in Wagga.
What motivates you to coach? And is coaching something you’re looking to take further?
I’m not really interested in coaching at the rep level, because for me, coaching is about the opportunity to play together as a group of friends united by the common goal of victory. The week in week out relationships you build provide me with my reason to coach. I enjoy the communal camaraderie of being involved with a rugby club, I also just enjoy being part of the history of a club. The mantra ‘leave the jersey in a better place’, and the opportunity to play is about representing all those who’ve come before and who are currently supporting making present opportunity possible. Those supporting extends to players from other grades, coaches, strappers, medics, friends, partners, parents and children.
My only ambition is to ensure the players I am coaching enjoy the game and training. The way play we play is a reflection of the way we train together, and ultimately, we earn the right to win and we will deserve our victories and share the emotion of heartache in defeat together. If part of enjoying the game is to win, then I hope to be as successful as possible.
How did your time at Eagles shape you as a coach?
There are so many people that shaped me as a coach. My fellow coaches and supporters in Chris Grierson, Shannon Pye, Mark Dawes, Nuggest Bowden, and Ross Milligan just to name a few. The endless phone calls and selection consideration, and the selflessness yet complete determination to win. It was much a pleasure to share these moments with them.
Dan Atkins, admittedly still unsure what he initially saw in me as a coach, but without Dan, nothing of what I have achieved as a coach would have happened. Dan opened me up to a realm of possibilities, I will always be grateful. Box Hayes and Ruaidhri Murphy, along with Dobson brother taught me a great deal about scrummages; as a country coach, you need extensive knowledge from scrimmaging to kicking tactics. I still remember the patience of Ruaridhri and Box explaining several drills and scrummaging techniques. Troy, Glenn, and Ben – I learnt so much from watching them coach, whether it be a games running water or captains runs on Thursday night. It was hugely helpful to have colts to run against in the final training sessions of 2017 before the grand final. My captains, Kane Broadrick and Michael Nicholas… Words are cheap, but the actions of both captains both on and off the field speak volumes. I lost my first ever game as coach 71-14 to Cooma Red Devils, Kane and Mick both played in this game, it was their resilience and perseverance that provided the foundation for achieving the two minor premierships and premiership.
You are always learning, I learnt so much from players I had the privilege to coach. Ben McGee, Andrew Withers and Andy Gibson, so much knowledge in the lineouts, which now appreciate how extensive their knowledge was that I have to pass on what they had taught me. Backline, which many of the referees in Southern Inland would argue Waratahs second grade had best set piece backline in the three levels competitions. This is due to knowledge bestowed on me from Anthony Dawes, Michael McMahon, Matt Power, Sean Connachie. I cannot believe how much I manage to learn in such short period of two years whilst at the club.
The multicultural recognition, particularly at the Hangi. I thought it was a great way to celebrate and share the rich cultures within the club. Similar to Eagles, Waratahs have strong affiliations with many groups, I want to share and celebrate their experiences with the entire club. The friends that I’ve made I will always take with me. I was incredibly tough to no longer be able to coach at Eagles . I look back with the fondest memories.
Is there anything you’ve learned from your stint as a coach at the Eagles that will try to replicate?
The professionalism of community rugby, from strapping at training to radio headset for runners. That in making small one percent efforts, that may appear as inconsequential, but are the pillars we need to take game to the next level without compromising on communal atmosphere. The game is only as important as you make it, that community rugby can be as significant, if not more significant than any level of professional rugby at present. The welcoming nature, which goes from Dan introducing new players at preseason, to Sam O’Leary helping me warm up in some of my first games as a coach. I want to emulate the welcomeness that I felt when arriving at Eagles to the Wagga Waratahs.
Simply put the way players greeted me as a coach when arriving at training, I want to give that level of acknowledgment back to players I am now coaching. It is important for a coach to give enthusiasm and recognition. Dan, in a very selfless manner made everyone feel important. At Waratahs, I realised that if you have strong third grade your second grade will do well, if you have a strong second grade your first grade will do well. From Dan, that as a first grade coach I realise the importance of coaching a club and not just a team, that if I want to be successful as a coach I must ensure all grades get my time, my enthusiasm and community recognise that we are a club and not just individual teams.