Mitchell the right man for the job

STEVE MITCHELL: ‘‘With my experience, I’d like to think I can make a positive difference.’’
STEVE MITCHELL: ‘‘With my experience, I’d like to think I can make a positive difference.’’

Steve Mitchell's career in sports administration is about to take an exciting new turn.

Mitchell is replacing Mike Kerrisk as the Tasman union's rugby operations manager after he recently accepted a new position as New Zealand Rugby's sevens talent ID.

For 52-year-old Mitchell, his move to TRU headquarters is about "increased opportunity really, a bigger role and another challenge".

His current role as Sport Tasman's senior advisor for community sport has seen him involved in a "fairly diverse" cross section of codes over the past eight years and he admitted it would be nice to "be able to concentrate on one sport".

"I'm very impressed with what the union's achieved of late. I've worked alongside people within the union in my current role and they're a great team - and my background is rugby."

That might come as something of a surprise for a man better known as a boxing coach and trainer. But rugby's in his blood, including a lengthy involvement with the Upper Moutere-based Rangers club where he's filled just about every administrative position and has also been a player and coach - even forming the entire loose forward trio with his two eldest sons Mark and Sam in one game for the club.

"I'm a better administrator than I am a rugby player," he quipped.

Mitchell closed his Whakatu Estate gymnasium last July, having spent the previous 17 years officially coaching and training fighters, although he's been mentoring young boxers since he ended his own competitive career 27 years ago.

He has a level 2 national coaching qualification - the highest in New Zealand - and is the president of the Nelson Boxing Association and vice-president of the New Zealand Boxing Coaches Association, having resigned as a national selector. He's been involved with eight New Zealand representative teams as either manager or as part of the coaching setup.

He's coached boxers to six national and three Oceania titles and five boxers have gone on to represent New Zealand.

Mitchell reckons he couldn't be joining the Tasman union at a better time, given the Tasman Makos' promotion into this year's premiership.

"They played one of the most exciting brands of rugby [in last year's ITM Cup competition] and I know enough of the age grade competitions too to know that Tasman's systems at the moment in developing age grade athletes are fairly strong and robust.

"I'm walking into an established set of systems which I'll get a hold on before I make any recommendations, but I think with my experience, I'd like to think I can make a positive difference."

Despite his lengthy involvement with boxing, Mitchell's just as comfortable in a rugby environment.

"I love my rugby, I love standing on the sideline watching a good game of rugby and I love combat sport."

He'll be taking plenty of accumulated knowledge with him from his time with Sport Tasman.

"The learnings since I've been with Sport Tasman have been huge," he said.

"The people that I've worked with in Sport Tasman, both internally and externally, are going to be the biggest things I miss. Some of the projects I'll remember are the establishment of our resource series, you know, we've got some of the best resources in the country around club development [and] I've been involved in the development of the hockey-softball pavilion."

He also started a graduate diploma in not-for-profit management last week.

The Tasman union's chief executive Tony Lewis said that Mitchell was the perfect fit for the role.

"We were looking around for the person who had the strategic expertise and knowledge and would be a people's person to work closely with clubs," Lewis said.

"We're aware that clubland is always powered by volunteers and we want to work strategically with clubland. We've got Jenelle Strickland currently doing warrants of fitness and health checks on every club in the region and she's doing a great job there and from that will come a lot of data.

"We feel that Steve, in conjunction with Jenelle, will be able to make a real impact. Other than the core role of operations and competitions, he's got a number of special projects around club football."

While essentially a straight swap in the wake of Kerrisk's departure, Lewis said the job description had been tweaked a little.

"The role has probably a much more strategic role in regards to what Tasman Rugby can do to assist clubs, work with clubs and engage with clubs. That's no disrespect to Mike, that's just using the expertise Steve has developed over a number of years," he said.

"Strategically, we believe he's going to be fantastic for our clubs.

"When the opportunity came up to replace Mike, we were gutted because Mike was a fantastic lieutenant, but it gave us the opportunity [to find out] who's the best person in Nelson-Blenheim to do this role.

"Everyone I spoke to came back with Steve."