Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tietjens says NZ needs seven centre, Mount perfect

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Sir Gordon Tiejens has called his time as head coach of the All Blacks Sevens team after 22 years. Photo/File
Sir Gordon Tiejens has called his time as head coach of the All Blacks Sevens team after 22 years. Photo/File

Retiring All Blacks Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens has called for a central base for the sport to be established.

Tietjens yesterday called time as head coach of the All Blacks Sevens team after 22 years in charge.

The 60-year-old Tauranga resident announced his decision to step down, ending a remarkable reign unlikely to be repeated in sevens rugby or any other international sport.

He said he had seen first-hand the rapid improvement in other nations that centralised the running of the game.

"That is definitely the key to the future. It is something that I have been a little disappointed about that we have not moved as quick as some of those nations.

"In Australia if you make the sevens team you live in Sydney, in South Africa you live in Stellenbosch and in Kenya it is Nairobi. It just goes on and on.

"In New Zealand we don't do that. We are scattered all around the country. The demands placed on fitness trainers, physios and skills coaches is greater, with more pressure on them because we are always catching up.

"The only time we get together as a team is at the assemblies prior to the tournaments and that is not enough."

He believes the University of Waikato Adams Centre of High Performance at Mount Maunganui is the ideal place to base a centralised sevens programme.

MENTORING: Sir Gordon Tietjens with Sonny Bill Williams at an All Blacks Sevens training session at the Mount back in March.
MENTORING: Sir Gordon Tietjens with Sonny Bill Williams at an All Blacks Sevens training session at the Mount back in March.

"I think it is a fantastic facility. It has everything there now with the grounds, the training gym, the recovery and physio rooms, and is the obvious place to really make the sevens game prosper."

Tietjens played a pivotal role in growing the profile of sevens in New Zealand and around the world that culminated in its first appearance at an Olympic Games in Rio last month.

His New Zealand teams won four Commonwealth Games gold medals, two Rugby World Cup Sevens titles and 12 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

But the ultimate prize of an Olympic medal eluded the first sevens coach to be knighted and inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame.

Tietjens said in the past year the Olympics was his major driving force. "That was the pinnacle of my career. I was certainly going to consider retiring after then. I had probably done my time and it was time for someone else to come through.

"I never expected it to last as long as it has. If you had told me in 1994 I would still be coaching in 2016 I would have thought you were mad," Tietjens said.

"It has been a great, great journey obviously with a lot of success along the way and a lot of great, enjoyable times.

"I am looking to re-energise if you like and put that disappointment behind in not winning Rio.

"Obviously all of us are tremendously disappointed by the result, that's the players and the management team. You go into that tournament with a goal of winning a gold medal and we all know how intensely competitive it is now and the Olympics confirmed how tough it is.

"We will have learned so many lessons from Rio and hopefully that will certainly put us in better standings going into the next Olympics."

When Tietjens considered the legacy he had created and what he was most proud of, there was no obvious, immediate answer.

He was proud of so much he had overseen and so many players who first made their name in his sevens teams before becoming great All Blacks like Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Beauden Barrett and Ben Smith.

"First and foremost I am unbelievably proud to have coached the All Blacks Sevens for so long and to have had so much success.

"For me, my first gold medal in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, and then to go on and win another three gold medals at Comm Games, are things I am immensely proud of.

"When you look at the game now and how tough it is, to win 12 World Series and two World Cups is something I have to be proud of as well.

"Eric Rush played 13 seasons for me and was an outstanding captain. He was someone I built a very, very good relationship with and he played a big part in creating our culture that played a big part in our success.

"Karl Te Nana, Liam Messam and DJ Forbes continued on those leadership qualities, understood the culture, values and the commitment that was needed."

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