An overwhelmingly successful campaign with Te Waiariki men's rugby team last year has led to a coaching opportunity abroad for Rotorua's Murray Sturt.

Sturt coached the Māori side to the Te Hiku o te Ika; Northern Region Maori Rugby Tournament title in rampant fashion. Having won their round-robin games 100-0 and 78-0, Te Waiariki went on to beat Te Raki Paewhenua (North Harbour) 42-15 in the final.

Now, Sturt has been selected to coach Portuguese team Lousã in Portugal's national first division championship.

"Off the back of our Māori campaign last year a role came up over in Portugal and I just applied like everyone else. I'm pretty excited, it's new but it's going to be really exciting, I can't wait."


The team has a mix of cultures, with players from several countries, but Sturt said he would approach it like any club rugby side.

"I think six or seven of the guys are actually Portuguese and the rest are from outside. There's a couple of Kiwis and a few South Africans, stuff like that. You get mixed races in a club side, so it's just like that.

"I go over on a six-month contract, at the end of August, for one season and we get reviewed after that. If they want me back they'll bring me back. It's a really good opportunity. If you get that international coaching experience on your CV, Heartland rugby teams, higher representative teams might look at you. It shows you're willing to go over and learn in another culture."

Sturt said the most important thing about being a coach was having a love for the game.

"I'm just passionate about rugby. I think you have to be passionate about something in your life and sport has been a huge part of my life. I was always coached by good coaches, so it's time to give back to other guys."

Originally a player himself, he played his last game in 2012, for Ngongotahā, before turning his focus to coaching. He also played for Whakarewarewa where he played "a handful of games" for the premier side who won the Baywide title in 2002.

"Most of the time I was in the reserves with [current Whakarewarewa premier women's coach] Ron James and I really enjoyed his coaching. Ron was a guy who just told us to play footy and have fun. I grew up around Joe Tuhakaraina who coached at Ngongotahā when I was a young fella, he was quite influential too.

"There's guys I played with as well who are coaching now, like Ngarimu Simpkins at Rotorua Boys' High School, I've picked his brain a few times. I mean, look at what he's doing, he's won national titles and he's been really good, really open.


"I started off coaching when I was 20 and I was coaching the Ngongotahā under-13 and under-14s with [current Ngongotahā club president] Rob Beckett. I just went down to help Rob and we ended up winning the competition four years in a row. I just went on from there and did my coaching levels."

He said winning Te Hiku o te Ika was a highlight of his coaching career so far.

"It was pretty good for us to win that after a long time. Going up and beating Auckland 100-0, there were some huge wins for us. I think the thing was letting the boys have freedom of expression. They played structure all year with their club, so we wanted to enhance the old Māori rugby style and just throw the ball from sideline to sideline.

"I'd love to take that style to Portugal, it's always good to be unpredictable. If we can play a fast game, that's what I want to adopt over there. I've done some research on our club and they struggled a bit last year, so hopefully we can turn that around and make the finals, that's a huge goal."

When asked what he was most looking forward to about the experience, Sturt said "just going over there".

"I wouldn't go over there on a holiday or anything, so having the opportunity to go over there and have a holiday but also coach rugby is pretty cool. It will be hard as well, being away from my family, but it's a great opportunity."