Sevens offers Scott Waldrom a career option

ONE CAP: Scott Waldrom in action for the All Blacks in 2008.
ONE CAP: Scott Waldrom in action for the All Blacks in 2008.

Scott Waldrom would rather be playing than jotting down notes on his clipboard.

But with metal rather than bone holding his foot together, the former All Black openside knows his future in rugby isn't between the lines.

Last year the 33-year-old's 13-year professional playing career came to a halt when he had a second major operation on his badly damaged foot.

"It's a constant pain. It basically aches whenever I'm on my feet and the longer I'm on my feet the worse it gets. A couple of hours are about the limit," Waldrom said this week.

"I've still got 12 screws in there holding the bones together. I think if they took them out, half the bones in my foot would just fall away."

Known as Scooter to his mates, Waldrom's not the type to stand still too long and an enforced stint on ACC doesn't sit well with a bloke who worked harder than most in his playing days.

Though he loves looking after his two children, son Bair (4) and daughter Fern (2), he also wants to build a post-playing career to support his family.

And so his passion for rugby has drifted into coaching sevens where his eye for detail, particularly at the breakdown, and ability to spot talent has quickly paid dividends.

A decade after winning the national sevens title as Wellington captain, Waldrom lifted the trophy as coach in January.

"You are doing it for the love, not the money," he laughed this week. "I'm trying to work on a career. I'm still on ACC at the moment, so I can only do part-time work and the coaching probably doesn't help the foot too much either at the moment.

"I'm a rugby development officer for the Avalon club which is part-time and I'm trying to build my coaching experience by getting along to a few courses.

"I always wanted to do it [coaching]. I was always quite an opinionated player, questioning coaches about why we were doing different things. Coaching has given me an opportunity to actually do things my way, which I enjoy.

"Generally I love the game of rugby, so to be involved in coaching is good for me. I think if I just stopped and became a spectator I'd struggle a bit."

Waldrom sees it as a long-term project, but his timing couldn't have been better, as the New Zealand Rugby Union starts to make some meaningful investment in the abbreviated game.

That includes beginning the search for national men's coach Gordon Tietjens' successor. A clinic last December included eight of the country's brightest prospects as selected by the NZRU.

They've been sent away to complete sevens-specific development programmes and will meet again at the end of the year.

Waldrom, who played for Tietjens from 2004 to 2007, wasn't part of that group, but his win at the nationals and a stint with the Dutch women's national team have quickly seen his stocks rise.

He is sure to come into the elite group and will soon take up a new part-time role as one of six New Zealand rugby regional coaching coordinators.

They'll be charged with overseeing the members of the men's and women's national side in their area and ensuring they are on track with their training programmes.

It's the beginning of what is sure to be a period of competitive jostling in the sevens coaching ranks.

"It's a great opportunity for me to get involved. It's not a high-paying job, but it's high in experience and it will help a lot with my coaching progression," Waldrom said.

"It is tough because there's not a lot of paying sevens jobs around. It has to be a career plan, but one where you know it's a long road.

"Experience is going to take time and won't come at any great financial value, so you have to mix it in with other jobs. It's an exciting prospect, though, and the opportunities are getting better as sevens picks up pace."

Tietjens isn't going anywhere until at least after the 2016 Olympics, but he is passionate about ensuring he hands the baton to the right person.

He's noted the progress of Waldrom and Taranaki coach Willie Rickards, but warns against fast-tracking his successor.

"Remember they are only in their first year of coaching. The challenge for those young guys is they are still coaching guys they played with, so that's a big challenge in itself."

He believes in experience, and notes that Hurricanes skills coach Clarke Laidlaw is an example of someone with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sevens.

Tietjens said opportunities for coaches would increase in coming years and he expects more national teams and development squads to be sent overseas to compete.

For example, with the IRB moving the sevens World Cup to 2018, the same year as the Commonwealth Games, to fit into the Olympic cycle, there will soon be two pinnacle events in the same year for New Zealand's top sevens players.

That could mean the need for more coaching resources and the opportunity young sevens coaches such as Waldrom are looking for.

Fairfax Media