It’s not every day that a Super W Assistant Coach can lay claim to having 14 years of rugby coaching experience, intertwined with a long serving army career.
Yet, that’s exactly what Melbourne Rebels set piece and re-starts Coach Aaron Callister has achieved throughout his career.
A Tank Crew Commander in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Callister has now emerged as a key component in Alana Thomas’s coaching panel alongside fellow Assistant Coach Nic Piva-Giblett.
Callister’s coaching pathway to his new Super W job has been a well-earned, yet long affair, after he was forced to retire from playing rugby due to injury.
“I started playing at school in 1983 in Sydney, I wasn’t a particularly good rugby player, but after I joined the army, I played rugby within my unit and then played in the Victorian country rugby competition for a good amount of time,” Callister said.
“I got injured, so I wasn’t able to continue on the playing path, so I switched over to coaching quite early in about 2000.
“I coached some of the units, but after that, I got into club rugby as I bounced around different states of Australia with the army over different years.”=During his time in the ADF coaching units, Callister landed a job as the Head Coach of the Australian Defence Force Women’s Rugby team.
Callister took the reins of the premier women’s ADF team for four years, which included a tour to the USA in 2016 to play against United States Defence Colleges, as well as International Championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
After having such a long and extensive experience in women’s rugby union, Callister’s passion to take his coaching to the next level was sparked by the introduction of the Super W competition.
And after coaching against Alana Thomas in state championships and witnessing the progression of women’s rugby first hand, Callister set his sights on being a part of the Rebels women’s program.
“I made my intentions pretty clear through conversations with Alana that I was interested in being a part of the Super W,” Callister said.
“As it progressed forward, I’d given the indication that I was going to leave the ADF coaching role at the end of this year.
“When the ad (for the role) went out, I was cc’d in the ad by Nic Henderson (Head of Academy) and Alana.
“I put my hand up, submitted a resume and had the interview with Adrian Thomson (Head of National XV’s - High Performance Rugby Australia) and Nic and they asked me if I was happy to be an assistant coach and I said, ‘hell yes’.”
From his appointment earlier this month, Callister has been pleased by the step up in professionalism which has accompanied his new role in the Rebels’ Super W setup.
One of the biggest differences Callister has seen in his short time while coaching in the Super W is the amount of time the staff have to work with the players to further improve their game.
“You kind of struggle with coaching in the ADF (in terms of) not having a massive amount of contact with your playing group throughout the year and you only go into camp just in time to prepare because the players are everywhere,” he said.
“(However), from the (Rebels’ Super W) induction day, it was good to see the numbers there, it was fantastic.
“Then moving on to the coaching session and being able to be hands on with such a large group was really good.”
As he heads into his first year of coaching at Super W level, Callister has a very firm idea of how he wants to be perceived by his players.
And that perception is being able to be an Assistant Coach who is always there to support and provide players with as much tutelage as possible.
“I’d like them to see me as quite approachable and a very hands-on coach in what I’m trying to deliver to them,” Callister said.
“I’ll get in amongst the weeds with them and I’ll do the hard yards.
“Like last training session, I was doing some one on ones with some players with scrummaging technique and things like that, showing them new skills and building some trust between them and me.”