Passion brings Kerrisk home
Mike Kerrisk admits he has always had something of a soft spot for sevens.
He's now about to take that passion to the next level and after six years as the Tasman Rugby Union's rugby operations manager, next month he starts his new position as New Zealand Rugby's sevens talent ID.
He'll be based in his home city of Tauranga and while his new role will involve identifying potential sevens star of both genders, he'll predominantly be working in the women's side of the game.
As a player, the now 48-year-old administrator went through the grades as a halfback with the Mt Maunganui club, but always showed more of an aptitude for sevens, to the point of eventually representing Bay of Plenty.
New Zealand men's sevens coach Gordon Tietjens was a former Mt Maunganui club coach, so Kerrisk got to experience Tietjens' legendary training methods first hand in both 15s and sevens.
"He was incredibly tough, right from the start, as far as his emphasis on fitness was concerned," Kerrisk recalled. "Now I can only feel sorry for the guys that are [in Tietjens' teams], because the number of times I wanted to crawl off to the side, find a bush and be sick was amazing. But I guess the upside was that you knew you were probably as fit as you were ever going to be at that stage of your life."
It clearly never had any negative affect on Kerrisk' genuine love of sevens, and having been involved in selecting and coaching Tasman sevens teams for the past few seasons, he now gets his opportunity to get involved at the national level. In essence, it will be Kerrisk's job to identify future potential Olympic champions.
"New Zealand have been very lucky up until now where they've just been able to rely on their natural pool of players coming from predominantly rugby and that's been very effective for them," he said.
"But what they're finding is, that with the development of sevens in becoming a really global game, they're starting to look outside of that pool. They're starting to look for different types of talent, different types of athlete.
"For example, at the moment, the women's game is really looking for very tall players, women who have good aerial skills, are very aggressive and very fast. They're finding that in the natural rugby pool itself, there's not those kind of athletes around. So we've taken the lead from a lot of other sports where now we've got to go out and look at athletes in these other codes and approach them."
Kerrisk says it will be tough to leave Tasman, particularly after last season's remarkable efforts by the Tasman Makos when they won the championship title to earn promotion into the premiership.
"That's just the end result of a helluva lot of hard work from everybody here [at the TRU]. It was a long season and I think everybody was going on adrenaline towards the end. But what an amazing result, that's a really nice thing to tuck away in the memory banks.
"It's really bitter-sweet. It's not easy to completely walk away from something that you've really poured everything into for six seasons . . . when I came in here, it's no secret that Tasman was in a fair bit of trouble."
He agreed that in some respects, the Makos were now setting new trends. "Everyone's said that [the Makos] continue to punch above their weight but I don't think you can say that anymore . . . they're a very organised unit that play a great brand of rugby.
The Marlborough Express