A chat with a legend

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Given the opportunity, Sevens Rugby icon and all-time leading points scorer in the H.S.B.C world rugby sevens, Ben Gollings, would love to coach a Pacific Island team.

Gollings was here in Samoa as a special guest for the S.I.I. sevens tournament last week and over the weekend sat down with the Samoa Observer to discuss his connections and views on rugby in the Pacific.

Formerly coached by the former Fiji Sevens team, Ben Ryan, Gollings said he would consider following in his former coaches step in taking up a Pacific Island team. 

“I’d love to coach a Pacific Island team because it’s a different challenge and when you’re used to coming from big unions it is very different but I don’t think its different in a bad way but I think the key is you got to use the cultural aspects that are a positive to the game of rugby and really build those from a team perspective.”

“I think that’s something Ben Ryan learned pretty quickly when he was in Fiji, at first it was bit up and down with them and I think maybe he was coming in with the ideas he thought may work but then suddenly realized that you’ve got to listen to these guys and it’s not necessarily about just coaching them its more about giving them a discipline and a game plan that suits the style of rugby and then just maximizing the way they can play rugby.”

“I think it would be quite exciting and I think one of the nicest things is that its supported by the community and they rally behind their teams and I know when their teams are going well that it really lifts everybody. It’ll definitely be something that I would look at and enjoy.”

This is the first time in Samoa for Gollings but certainly not his first time in being connected to Samoa as he points out that one of his earlier mentors  when he was playing gin Englands Harlequins, was former Samoan All Black John Schuster. In his career of playing rugby he talks  about coming up against Samoan players and the unique qualities that Pacific players bring to the sport.

“I’ve played against many of them. I remember Chris Masoe who was just coming into the scene and we were playing against each other. I mean he was just ridiculously strong, you hit him in a tackle - you knew about it.”

“I was fortunate enough to play against Inga the winger, who is actually a legend of the game. Again for me it was a bit like David and Goliath , the other people if you go back into the sevens world with the likes of Samoa and you got Lui Pesamino – all of the crew were quite quality rugby players who used to cause us trouble.” 

“I think the Pacific is spoilt for choice in terms of the athletes they create. They are big, strong and quick. They are movable athletes, you take Jonah Lomu for instance, the man was a man mountain but he can run like a whippet. Its things like that that I think are really unique.” 

Gollings is pleased to be in Samoa and says that the S.I.I. sevens tournament was a great opportunity to come over and see the islands as well as get involved in a bit of rugby.

Ready to hit the links: Ben Gollings.
Ready to hit the links: Ben Gollings.
Ready to hit the links: Ben Gollings.
Ready to hit the links: Ben Gollings.

“For me its been incredible to play against them and its also nice for me to learn about them and their culture and how they do things differently.”

The former English sevens player says that he does miss playing competitively and the transition was difficult at first when he retired from playing. He added that players don’t always translate to being good coaches and he worked hard to learn as much as he could about coaching, travelling to Sri Lanka, China and the U.S.A. to develop rugby in those countries.

“Transition is hard, I still had things going one but there was still a big part of me that wanted to still be running around and watching made it harder, I always wanted to play in the Olympics, age got in the way of that potentially.”

“I would have been 36 if it had of happened. It didn’t, I set myself goals and that would have been one of them but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes you don’t realize until you stop, how you did affect but now I move on wards and look at what the future holds.”

These days Gollings is self-employed, working in consulting on high performance and rugby coaching and is currently at Bonn University on the Gold Coast looking after the women’s sevens programme as Head Coach. 

On top of that he works locally in the Gold Coast to develop grass roots sevens further than just once off tournaments and continues to take on ambassadorial roles in sevens at the World series.

The Englishman has no plans of returning to the U.K. any time soon residing in Australia in the meantime and possibly looking further into the Pacific but Gollings is still very much connected to his British roots and joined millions around the world in tuning into the royal wedding that took place over a week ago.

“Its very funny being an Englishman in Australia watching the royal wedding from afar” he laughs “I just thought the occasion was great actually, I think the royal family are a big positive for England and to see a spectacle like that, you don’t get to see it very often, it’s almost like a once in a lifetime kind of thing to see so I thought it was great.” 

“It’s just lovely to see your home country blossoming with the flags and Windsor is pretty special and i think both Harry and Meghan will be pretty good for the royal family.”

While Gollings was stoked to witness a historical moment for the British Monarchy and while that was a bonus for his country, unfortunately that would mean his favourity t.v series would be losing a key character in its next season

“I got quite hooked on ‘Suits’ and now you see her as a Princess.” He laughed, “I’ve finished the series, I got up to season 8 and so obviously now she’s not going to be in the next one.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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