FROM the days he spent on the sidelines guiding the under 13 Bathurst Panthers to hoisting the Women’s Rugby League World Cup trophy as the victorious mentor of the Jillaroos, Brad Donald has always enjoyed coaching.
But as much as the man who cut his teeth as a coach in Group 10 enjoys success – he’s already plotting a 2021 World Cup defence – Donald takes just as much pleasure in promoting talent.
From the moment he was first appointed the coach of the Australian women’s team in November 2016, Donald has not been afraid to make bold coaching decisions and give emerging stars their chance.
Now, as he has signed on for three more years at the helm of the Jillaroos, Donald plans to continue that approach.
“I was really fortunate to inherit some wonderful players that have retired and some that are still with us at the moment and I knew if we are going to look at the World Cup campaigns, we needed to look at a four-year cycle,” Donald told NRL.com
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“That means making decisions based on what’s going to happen in 2021 and we did that. We took some great young rookies [to the 2017 World Cup].
“It was really humbling to hear that there was a player like Keeley Davis, who played for the Jillaroos against New Zealand this year, who was sneaking out of class to watch the World Cup on TV.
“It’s things like that which really inspire the coaching staff to go ‘Well, we need to make sure we take care of the game and we take care of young players like this’.”
Naturally Donald lists his career highlight as coaching the Jillaroos to World Cup glory, downing the Kiwi Ferns 23-16 in a gripping finale last December.
But he knows there is more work ahead of him to ensure Australia retains the prestigious trophy and that the women’s game continues to grow.
“To sign up and go through to the next World Cup, I’m really grateful and really looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead,” he said.
“I think when I stood here a couple of years ago I didn’t realise that I was just coaching a footy side, that I was facilitating a movement with a bunch of people who really believed. That involves fans, the media, playing group and staff.
“We’re at a very opportunistic time to ensure we grow the game properly so we need a lot of care. The playing group are strong about that and with my job at the NRL and as Jillaroos coach I can facilitate that.”