A LONG and winding road has led Bathurst rugby union identity Dave Conyers to a position with Rugby Austria. Here, he takes up the story at the start of last year after his time in America – where he went to college as a 51-year-old mature aged student and worked with rugby clubs in Georgia, California and North Carolina - had ended and he was back living in Australia.
At the start of 2017, after 50 years of doing it for free, I was still in search of a paid opportunity in rugby union.
My sister and I toured Vietnam and during that trip I was interviewed, via Skype (through an Aussie mate), for the position of technical director for Rugby Austria.
I beat out a Kiwi and Irishman with my higher-level qualifications and emphasis on youth development. A great legacy of my English orphaned father is an EU passport that permits me to work and live in Europe.
I could not have asked for a better opportunity.
As head of a national union you get a front seat at all the education courses and development seminars.
I got fast-tracked into Rugby Europe’s system, and invited to World Rugby’s coach educator certification where I am now qualified to run coach certification across Europe.
As technical director in a fledgling rugby country I get to shape and implement policy and direction for the union. My job also entails being national sevens coach.
I am passionate about getting some level of the sport into the school’s systems. Contact is not allowed in Austria and rugby is somewhat frowned upon by the parents.
Through another chance meeting in Charlotte, with yet another Aussie who heads up Oztag America, I have set up a meeting in Queensland with former NRL referee Bill Harrigan, who is the boss of Oztag, and I’m looking to use that sport as a tool to develop the sport in my adopted country.
I now have the opportunity as a national coach to pursue my level three and four coaching certifications through England rugby where I have heritage, and Rugby Europe. I would never have got these opportunities in my homeland.
In season 2018, my sons Jarrad and Lachlan and possibly another Australian will be joining my club team in Graz for the Austrian Alpine premier league at different stages of the season.
Our national men’s XVs team will travel to London to play England police in April and contest a number of internationals. The sevens team will contest the conference one European titles in Croatia in July.
I have been asked back to coach the Australian Outback Barbarians for their six-match tour of America’s South-Eastern conferences in May and will be on board with three fellow Bathurstians on the Australian Indigenous U25 tour in September that will play matches against Harvard University in New York and the Westpoint military academy.
Matches have been scheduled against the first nation Canadian Indigenous selects in Montreal and a Mohawk selection in Toronto.
My lifelong travel has now taken me to 46 countries.
The team will also travel to one of America’s most socially disadvantaged communities out of Compton, Los Angeles, where they will again train and play with the “Red, White, Black and Blue” African Americans.
My lifelong travel has now taken me to 46 countries, and that number will grow as I am perfectly situated in central Europe to travel on that continent.
I reckon the decision to leave Australia might just have paid off, and I now have the tools to be an educator in sport anywhere I choose.
It’s a long, long way from the 1977-79 seasons I had with the Blayney Rams where we had just one draw in three seasons and learned the values of losing.