‘It’s a swap’: Manenti to take charge of men’s sevens, Johnson departs RA
Rugby Australia has appointed current women’s sevens coach John Manenti as the new men’s sevens coach, completing a remarkable swap with his predecessor Tim Walsh.
The Herald on Monday revealed RA had offered the position of women’s coach to Walsh, sparking tension between the pair and leaving Manenti in the lurch despite claiming back-to-back world series wins in the last fortnight.
Australia’s in-form women’s sevens side with coach John Manenti (inset left) and the man who will swap roles with him next year, Tim Walsh.Credit:Getty
In another twist, the Herald can also reveal that RA will on Friday name Manenti as coach of a stripped-back men’s program, which will call upon more Super Rugby, Shute Shield and Queensland Premier Rugby talent with far fewer full-time contracts on offer.
Both coaches agreed to take on their new roles after the weekend’s tournament in Dubai.
“It’s a swap. It’s on the back of our review after the Olympics, resetting the strategic focus of those programs and conducting an interview process around that. We just believe they are individually better suited to those programs,” RA chief executive Andy Marinos told the Herald.
Marinos and the RA board members charged with reviewing the programs after unsuccessful Olympic campaigns believe Walsh is the right man to lead the flagship Australian women’s rugby program, while Manenti’s experience at Shute Shield level with Eastwood will help pluck the best talent to join his squad.
“Through the review and analysis, we just felt Tim was better suited in that program. He’s had previous success with it and for where that program is now, we just believe he’s better suited there,” Marinos said.
“Similarly for John, into the men’s program. His past experience in coaching a men’s program, working collaboratively with Super Rugby clubs and bringing through players as Tim has started to do this year, we just believe he’s better suited in that program. We want to play into each individual coach’s strengths.”
Marinos conceded there were some “uncomfortable” conversations with Manenti, in particular, after the Herald informed him Walsh was set to be appointed in his place.
“The uncomfortable nature of it was because we were still having conversations with coaches when all the news broke,” he said.
“John has been very open, very receptive. He obviously enjoyed his time coaching the women, but he relishes the opportunity in front of him, and he’s passionate about staying involved in sevens and making a positive contribution towards it.
“He’s been really good, and Tim’s been really good with dealing with the switch that we now need to put into place.”
RA on Friday morning also confirmed the departure of director of rugby Scott Johnson from the organisation.
He will be replaced by a high-performance director, who will be charged with driving greater alignment between RA and the Super Rugby franchises.
“He’s done a huge amount of positive work, he’s brought in the new coaching regime, and he’s certainly worked really well on developing relationships with Super Rugby clubs and getting our staff into clubs throughout the year. They’re working in a lot more collaborative manner and that’s the sort of alignment we’re seeking,” Marinos said.
“We’ve gone through a lot of work on high performance and the structure, and we’re going to be restructuring that whole department.
“We don’t feel we need a director of rugby, we need a high-performance manager to come into that role.
“Johnno is more than welcome to apply for that role, and we will look at that. The role of director of rugby came at a very specific time, with a very specific purpose. We don’t believe we need that in the new system and the new structure going forward.”
RA will begin the search for Johnson’s replacement next week.
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