National Men's Sevens - October 2016

October 05 2016

Player Work Stoppage: BCRN 7s Correspondent Weighs In on the Situation: UPDATE AGREEMENT REACHED

[ed. we've been advised an agreement has been reached. Here are some comments we've heard, "contracts were forced upon players and signed today and training starts next week. Those that didn't sign were kicked off."... "World rugby threatened RC with loss of Canada 7s if it wasn't resolved quickly." also... "Samoa coach expected to be announced shortly."]

posted Oct 5 2016
BCRN 7s correspondent

This past August we summarized issues surrounding the National Sevens Team as resembling “A Tale of Two Cities” scenario – and as of October 1st we’d have to say “the best of times” should be dropped from that review.

Many fans and followers of the short game have quite rightly asked what in the name of hell has been going on since we were dispatched from the Olympic Qualifier in Monaco.

Brutally and bluntly – the fact is nothing good or of any substance has happened and the blame for all this brain freezing lies squarely on the board and red coat employees at the COE.

Following Monaco the coach was fired and rightly so – it was a disaster from the start but the damage had already been done months before.

Shortly following the qualifier several key players stepped away from the game after realizing that nothing of substance was going to happen following the departure of the coach. The main issues aside from the coaching situation remained - and several meetings and proposals between players and RC staff resolved nothing.

Eventually the players collectively and unanimously made a stand and engaged a lawyer from Vancouver – rightly and understandably they had had a belly full of non-action by RC.

When the union realized their folly by underestimating the determination and intention of the united front by the players it was too late – bridges were broken and the festering discontent from years of bullying the squad into accepting far less than their real worth was now on the front burner – and the players stood firm and united in their demands and a work stoppage ensued.

Meanwhile a ‘search’ for a new coach continued and here’s where the union really get a failing grade (again).

It turns out that the COE Manager flies to a southern hemisphere island to talk to former NZ Sevens boss Gordon Tietjens and then the former NZ Sevens boss flies into Victoria for further talks.
Coaching legend interviewing with Rugby Canada (from The Province)

Rugby Canada is down to the final count in their search for a new men’s rugby sevens coach.

As first reported by BC Rugby News, one of the last men standing is Sir Gordon Tietjens, who coached the New Zealand 7s team with great success for the last two decades.

Following the 7s All Blacks’ disastrous tournament in Rio, Tietjens and New Zealand Rugby agreed it was time to part ways.

He has since heard from the Kenya and Samoa Rugby Unions, but according to Radio New Zealand didn’t hold formal talks. Rugby Canada officials flew to New Zealand for an initial discussion. Tietjens will fly to Victoria this week for further talks.

It’s not known how many other coaches are still in the mix, but there’s at least one more.

Legendary New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens announced he was stepping away from coaching in Wellington on September 6, 2016, just weeks after his side’s failure at the Rio Olympics. During his 22 years in charge, Tietjens guided New Zealand to 12 World Sevens Series titles, four Commonwealth gold medals and two Sevens World Cup crowns.

It’s also possible Tietjens is applying for another job — he did say in his departure press conference from NZ Rugby that he didn’t think he could ever coach against New Zealand and imagined a future as a consultant was more likely. There is the still-vacant High Performance manager job, one that’s been empty since Steve Lancaster left for Netball New Zealand in late 2014; perhaps he’s interviewing for that job.

Liam Middleton was dismissed as men’s sevens coach in July after the Canadians failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Radio silence from players and management

World Rugby-mediated talks between the men’s sevens squad and management took place this past week. At issue is the financial status of the program.
Both sides were asked for comment Friday on the state of talks but neither side responded.

All this travel expense continues as the union insists that they have no money to increase the player salaries for the squad.

It’s a familiar story right from the red coat play book – staff fly around the globe at huge expense and yet the union maintain they have no money for those players who take the field and represent our country.

Clearly all this expense seemed futile as there was no way Sir Gordie was moving to Canada to take charge of our national team (which was on strike!). Maybe he thought he could replicate what’s going on in a couple of other jurisdictions where the coach flies in just before tournaments and return home immediately afterwards…? Who knows at this point?

Meanwhile on the labour front in Vancouver players reported that “nothing has been settled yet” at the mediation meetings despite a World Rugby staffer flying in to assist the process – in fact it was noted that RC walked out of one meeting.

Back in Victoria last Friday apparently there was a meeting with the former Samoan coach Damian McGrath at a pub behind the ‘tweed curtain’ in Oak Bay and appointments are reportedly made.

And while there was no Mumm’s champagne served during the meeting the union certainly is maintaining a “mum’s the word” posture as of this date.

It’s a bad posture for the national union to take as rumours persist in a community which thrives on misinformation and who said what and when and why.

For years the RC administrators have never got their head around being open and frank with the membership – secrecy is their weapon of choice and that has left them dysfunctional and completely without trust or credibility.

Now we are in a day-to-day situation where only a selected few might know what’s really going on - but be certain of one thing - there will be spin-doctor announcements in the days ahead. That’s how we roll!

Stay tuned – this is far from over…

Pemberton Holmes
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