As he helps a revamped Ospreys coaching team prepare for the weekend's LV= Cup clash with Newport Gwent Dragons, Gruff Rees says that he's enjoying the challenge of stepping up to the role of Backs Coach at the region.
Rees has been handed the opportunity thanks to a new initiative that is part of the Ospreys Coach Development Pathway, which has seen Jonathan Humphreys take the position of Head Coach for the week with Player-Coach Filo Tiatia accepting responsibility for the forwards this week.
Rees has spent the past five years as part of the Ospreys coaching set-up, initially as Academy Skills coach prior to his appointment on a full-time basis to the senior Ospreys coaching team ahead of the 2008/09 season. Between 2006 and 2008, he combined his Ospreys duties with the role of Assistant Coach at Neath, while he has also worked within the Welsh national set-up since 2005, coaching various age-group sides as well as the Welsh Sevens team. His first coaching position was at Glamorgan Wanderers, where after a long association with the club as a player, he was Head Coach for three and half years, securing promotion to the Premiership during his time in charge.
Speaking about the challenges of stepping up to Backs Coach this week, Rees said:
“It’s a good opportunity for all of us really, it takes us outside the comfort zone and makes us rethink how we address what we are doing on a day-to-day basis in our regular jobs. I suppose I’m synonymous with skills delivery, five years now I’ve been working in that area, but people can forget that I’ve coached for over 10 years in all and I’ve got a strong background in coaching backs in the semi-pro game. It’s nice to be able to get back into that kind of role, particularly with these players at this level. It’s a challenge, but it’s a decent opportunity and it’s one that I want to make the most of.
“It’s been quite an intense week to be honest. The amount of hours that get put in to planning and analytical work, the behind the scenes stuff that the players don’t see and in fairness, that are new to me despite the last few years I’ve had as Skills Coach here, it all brings with it its own demands. You have to make sure that every detail and facet of the game is covered, there’s an awful lot to get your head round, but we are working as a coaching team to ensure that we cover off everything. We’re certainly finding out a lot about ourselves this week, and that has to be a good thing, the three of us should all improve as coaches through the experience.
“I’ve got ambitions as a coach for the future, so it’s important that I continue my professional development to be able go some way to achieving my ambitions. This is a real opportunity for not only me but Filo and Jonathan as well to put down a marker and show what we can do. It’s very rare to be given a chance like this so I want to make the most of it.”
Having featured as a late replacement off the bench in last week’s Heineken Cup win over Leicester, Filo Tiatia has this week donned the tracksuit and coach’s hat to look after the forwards as they prepare for the weekend, and he echoed the views of Gruff Rees:
“It’s good to be able to step away from playing for a week and really get to grips with a coaching role without the pressures of having to prepare for a game that I’m playing in. Throughout this season I’ve taken on more coaching responsibilities and become more accountable, but this takes it on another level again. It’s a good opportunity for us and a real challenge, as this is the real deal, we are working together as a coaching team preparing the squad for an important cup game and know that we have to get it right so the pressure is on.
“I’ve enjoyed it so far, and I’m sure that will be the case right through the week. There’s a lot of extra work involved, and some long hours, but it’s great to get a real insight into the requirements of the job and see what it takes and I’m sure that the experience will prove to be a real benefit to me in the long run.”