When the Fiji National Rugby team arrived in Cardiff last week, Josh Matavesi wasn’t the only Ospreylian in the camp.
The popular Matavesi took the field in the number 10 jersey of his country and guided his teammates to within 4 points of the Welsh team, with what has been described as a resilient second-half display by the Flying Fijians.
Despite the on field dramas an alternate tale was playing out behind the scenes as two lesser known Ospreys from the Community Team also received the call to duty to act as Team Liaison Officers to the squad.
WRU Coach Development Officer Dan Owens and WRU Player Development Officer Tom Cole were assigned to the Fiji team to support their logistical arrangements during their stay in Wales. Their duties involved ensuring logistics for kit, players and management were in place to carry out the rigorous training regime, and that the facilities for recovery were also arranged including pool and ice bath sessions.
For Owens, he embarked on his 5th tour of duty for the WRU Autumn Series, working with his 6th team since 2010 as Team Liaison Officer (TLO) and for Cole, this was his inaugural opportunity, supporting the Fijians as Assistant Team Liaison Officer (ATLO).
Following his introductory experience, Cole commented:
“This for me was a great opportunity. It is something that I have never had the chance to experience before and I loved every minute of it, even the challenging ones. I worked hard alongside Dan and the Fijians and enjoyed the downtime when it happened. I thoroughly enjoyed the company of the Fijian team and I can’t wait for the next opportunity!”
Reflecting on his 6th involvement with a touring international team, Owens stated:
“This for me was another great experience. I’ve said before, rugby is rugby all over the world, but given my background in Coach Development I’m always very much interested in the culture and environment of the team. It was my first time working with a Tier 2 nation, and that posed its own unique challenges, however the whole experience was extremely humbling.
“The Fijian management and players embraced our presence and were gracious for the support we were able to offer. They accepted us into their culture, and it was a true privilege to work alongside so many professional individuals. The whole group were so polite and accommodating. I’d like to thank John McKee for the opportunity to work with them, and also the Welsh Rugby Union for allowing both Tom and I to take time out from our work programmes and engage with this experience – not every organisation allows you to chase your dreams!”
Commenting on his first experience as an ATLO, Cole said:
“This experience was always going to be exciting. Dan and I sat for some time prior to the week and I was well briefed on what the experience may entail and the expectations placed on my shoulders. Those expectations could never measure up to the reality – it was amazing to be so up close and personal to the stars of European and Fijian rugby and to be able to support them to try to achieve their objectives. I look back on the week and I’d like to think that within the player and management group, I’ve done a good job and made some friends for life.”
Dan Owens during his time as an Ospreys School Development Officer in 2007/8, recruited Tom Cole into his first rugby development position as a Community Coach. When asked to comment on how the week with Tom operated, Owens grinned and remarked:
“I think back now and can see Tom sitting across the table from me when Gary Clement and I interviewed him at Bridgend College. Tom and I have a great working relationship and we are good mates away from work. I know Tom has an outstanding work ethic and that he would bring that attitude and drive with him to the role, and he didn’t disappoint. He showed great initiative and took on responsibility beyond his role. He is a credit to the WRU Rugby Department and to his region.”
The pair are now settling back into their roles at Llandarcy with some good stories and even better memories.