Melbourne Rebels Super W Head Coach, Alana Thomas, says she’s thrilled by the opportunity to take part in next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, after today being announced as an assistant coach with the Fijian Women’s Rugby team.
After earlier working with the women’s Australia A side in 2019, Thomas will be making her international coaching debut on world rugby’s biggest stage and representing one of rugby’s most passionate countries in the process.
“Going in as a first-time coach, into that international stage and with a team at their first World Cup ever in fifteens – I’m really excited,” said Thomas.
“They’re such a proud rugby nation and the Fijian people just love their rugby – you see what they’ve done in the Sevens and just how much it meant to them, so to be a part of that and go over there and help them on their journey, it’s great and part of why I coach.”
Having watched Fiji qualify during last year’s 2019 Oceania Qualifiers in Lautoka, Thomas says being part of her new side’s first ever World Cup campaign will make her experience extra special, and believes, despite Fiji’s inexperience, that her new side is destined to surprise a lot teams come September.
“They’ve worked so hard and have been doing great things over there in terms of growing that space in the women’s fifteens.”
“The captain came out in a story with World Rugby recently, saying ‘we’re there not to make numbers up but to create waves’, and I think that’s a great attitude to have.
“To be walking into a team that’s really going to back themselves and put in a good showing and probably knock some teams off, it’s really exciting and I can’t wait to get started.”
Reflecting on her swift ascension to international coaching ranks, Thomas paid tribute to her Melbourne Rebels male counterparts, Dave Wessels and Kevin Foote, two coaches Thomas has forged a strong relationship with since beginning her Super W coaching career at the Rebels in 2018.
“Dave (Wessels) and Footey (Kevin Foote) have been fantastic – whenever you’re in the office, they’re genuinely keen to hear what’s happening with the women and always offering up help and assistance.”
“You can always flick them a text and talk to them and ask them questions and that’s something that’s important for any coach, just to have that support and somebody to talk to and to connect with other coaches.
“Dave and Kevin are just good human beings and they genuinely care for other people and those that are around them and are involved in their network.
“That what makes the Rebels such a great club – everyone is connected and there for each other to help out.”
After calling time on a decorated playing career in 2010 – one that included playing over five years for the Wallaroos – Thomas transitioned into coaching in 2014, beginning her career with Sevens Rugby and Rugby Victoria, before leading the Melbourne Unicorns to a stunning premiership win in 2017.
The accolades continued for the girl from Glen Innes, when Thomas was crowned Rugby Australia’s Community Coach of the Year, in recognition for her outstanding success and contribution to the game. But Thomas is only just getting started - continuing to grow women’s rugby across Victoria and helping players grasp new opportunities to become the best players and people they can be.
“The whole reason I got into coaching was I wanted to still be connected to the game and you do feel an obligation – in a good way – to give back to the game and make sure the opportunities are there for other players.”
“If it’s a girl wanting to play rugby for the first time or a girl trying to play at the international level to represent the Wallaroos or Fiji or the New Zealanders, if it’s what they want to do, I just want to make sure they’ve got that opportunity.
“I want to make sure women have opportunities and they can see it and that people are going to support them and go into bat for them when they need it.
“I think what we did this year with the Rebels Super W and getting our first win and really competing in games, we showed we’re on the right track and we’re really going to have some success in the next few years and that all comes down to our network and the support we all get."
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup takes place in New Zealand, between September 18 and October 16.