Following an illustrious eleven-year playing career, Nick Stiles would embark on a distinguished coaching career spanning more than 17 years, in four major cities, across two different counties.
Despite his initial reluctance growing up, Stiles’ background in teaching and behavioural management made the move a seamless transition.
“When I came through the rugby pathway it was still amateur, so I didn’t actually grow up wanting to be a professional coach, it was something that just evolved over time,” said Stiles.
“Once I stopped playing it was something I easily moved to having already undertaken some coaching while I was at university studying teaching, and when I worked at Queensland Rugby Union as a Coaching Director.”
Following two encouraging seasons at the University of Queensland in the Premier Grade, Stiles spent the next four seasons as Forwards Coach for the Kubota Spears in Japan’s Top League, before switching back to Super Rugby, joining the Western Force in 2010.
At the end of the 2013 season, Stiles returned to his old stomping grounds, unveiled as the Queensland Reds’ Forwards Coach, before leading Brisbane City to back-to-back premierships in the NRC’s first two years of competition, including a spectacular undefeated 2015 campaign.
Stiles’ Super Rugby journey soon come full circle when the Reds promoted their favourite son to become the club’s Head Coach for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Two years later, the proud Gregory Terrace student packed up his bags and travelled back to the Land of the Rising Sun, joining Wallabies’ Quade Cooper and Will Genia to represent Melbourne Rebels’ strategic partner, the Kintetsu Liners, in Japan’s Top Challenge League.
In his final season with the popular Japanese club, Stiles played a commanding role in helping the Liners qualify for the Top League Playoffs, before signing with the Melbourne Rebels, in what he said was “unfinished business” with Australian rugby.
“Victoria has always been a special community, with a strong passion for rugby, so returning back to the city I was born in and where I still have a lot of family was a great opportunity.”
“There’s been rugby in our community for a very long time now – my father played at Kiwi Hawthorn back in the day, so I know just how passionate and how devoted everyone is across Victoria.
“To now head back to Melbourne, working with Australian rugby – it’s really exciting.”
Reflecting on a combined eight years coaching abroad and the lasting impact its made moving forward, Stiles says the experience was a catalyst behind his evolution as both a leader and a communicator.
“My time in Japan was an incredible experience on and off the field.”
“Having large squads of fifty players, plus staff and having long contact hours, you were able to fine tune your coaching and communication methods.
“Coaching in a foreign land with a different language, you had to use translators which meant I needed to be really specific in what I was saying.
“It’s so easy to dribble on, but knowing you have to use a translator to connect with a player, it made you really sharp at what you were trying to pass on, so that’s been important for my development.”
As he begins a new chapter as General Manager of Rugby at the Melbourne Rebels, Stiles paid tribute to wife, Anna, and their two children, Xavier, and Lily, for their unconditional love and support throughout his memorable playing and coaching career.
“The journey I’ve taken, the memories I’ve made, and all the wonderful people I’ve met, none of this would’ve been possible without my family’s support. They’ve been incredible and I’m really grateful to have them by my side.”
Looking ahead to Season 2022, Stiles says he’s excited to join a cohesive executive team, and lead the ambitious coaching trio of Kevin Foote, Geoff Parling and Ryan Martin, into what he believes will be a successful era of Victorian rugby.
“There’s just great camaraderie within the club across all departments, particularly in the executive team, where I’m spending a lot of my time and acquiring a lot of new knowledge.”
“Everyone has been working together really well, clearly identifying our club’s strategic priorities and how we’re going to grow not just the Melbourne Rebels, but also Victorian rugby as a whole.
“To now be able to come back down and lead our club into a successful era with a strong Victorian flavour is something which really motivates me.”
“As we saw through Trans-Tasman, with the emergence of Carter Gordon at 10 and a few other adjustments, the speed and width which we played at was an improved attacking style.
“One of the many exciting things about the Rebels heading into the new season is bringing in Ryan Martin, who holds an extensive and successful background coaching in New Zealand.
“We all know the way New Zealand sides like to play and how good they are at playing rugby, so Ryan’s vision on attacking rugby is really going to benefit guys like Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway, and Carter Gordon, who are going to thrive playing an attractive, aggressive style of rugby – something which will really excite our fans across the state.”
The Rebels have enjoyed a prosperous start to this year’s offseason, announcing a number of key on-field signings such as experienced scrum half Moses Sorovi, the powerfully built Tamati Ioane, and Olympian Joe Pincus, with a couple more to be announced shortly.
The club has also welcomed back Wallabies’ pair Matt Philip and Andrew Kellaway, following their short stints overseas last year.
These signings cap an exciting time for the emerging club, after a recent club-wide review established a renewed focus on strategic priorities, and the strengthening of connection between the on-field and commercial departments, and the wider Victorian rugby community.
Melbourne’s new GM of Rugby said it’s an exciting time for Victorian rugby.
“Our members and supporters should be really happy by the work that’s been done behind the scenes at the Rebels.
“We’ve established a vision to become Australia’s most respected, most accessible and most connected rugby club.
“This will be achieved by being relentless through player development, talent identification, increasing our financial stability, commercial innovation, and continuing to reconnect with our beloved Victorian community which despite having endured so much recently, continues to grow in size and stature.
“What the Melbourne Rebels stands for as a club, is to enrich the lives of our people through the game of rugby, and that includes our valuable partners, our passionate and fiercely loyal members and supporters, our dedicated players and staff, and the incredible Victorian community.
“Through hard work, honesty, and accountability, we’ll endeavour to continue to grow the game, to keep developing our emerging homegrown talent and our Wallabies’ and Wallaroos’ players, and to win finals for our club, our supporters, ourselves and for Victorian rugby community.”