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Baber looks to the future with optimism

Opinions / Analysis

GARETH BABER'S resignation as the head coach of Fijian men’s 7s team comes on the back of success and optimism.

The Welshman who took charge of the team at the start of 2017 guided Fiji to the World Series title in 2018/19, a Commonwealth Games silver medal on the Gold Coast and Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Baber’s poise and purpose clearly defined the man, a coach, and the person that he is and with a golden resume as backup, last week he was named Edinburgh Rugby club’s new skills and assistant attack coach.

Baber made no secret about the hardwork and the challenges needed to win the Olympic Games gold.

And after that fruition, he looked to the future with optimism.

His refusal to accept another contract offer came down to his confidence in his capabilities and the lifelong desire to coach in the 15s side.

With his wealth of experience and coaching pedigree, he will fit well with the great coaching group at Edinburgh.

But like other professional coaches, Baber kept his intentions known to him, till renowned HSBC commentator Rob Vickerman dropped a grain of a hint during the Vancouver Sevens in mid-September.

Vickerman called it, that Fijian men’s 7s team is ready for a local coach.

Was that grain enough? or a message within, of the imminent partying away, that followed.

Whatever one can make out of that, last week’s resignation should not at all come as a surprise.

Baber’s predecessor Ben Ryan did the same, following the 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold win he severed ties with the Fiji Rugby Union and later cashed in a tell all ‘Sevens Heaven, a beautiful chaos of Fiji Olympic dream 2018 book'. Not all he said was digested well at the rugby house.

Vickerman, though put Baber on the pedestal for his sound tactical and technical lace, deep knowledge of the game and discipline, adding the accomplishments emphatically set a better record than Ryan.

His assessments were that the greatness of the future Fijian national 7s team lies in fair selection, work ethics and discipline, all which Baber valued and held strong during his tenure.

And as much as he was a player’s coach, he also put special focus on the diet.

“The link between good health and good nutrition is well established”, said Baber during a SUNsports interview in 2018, the year Fiji won the Vancouver Sevens.

He emphasized habits and its impact on players' performance.

“Whether you are a competing athlete, a weekend sports player or a dedicated daily exerciser, the foundation to improved performance is a nutritionally adequate diet”.

And what else separated Baber from Ryan, is that the former faced difficulty of the pandemic, over 5 months in seclusion camp, and difficulty playing any international games for over two years.

Overseas based-professional rugby players in Europe also had difficulty flying in to train due to covid restrictions and much more.

He also selected a few uncapped Fijian players and trained his experienced players to adapt to the situation.

The Fiji Rugby Union and the sporting fans owe Baber an unerring gratitude for time well spent during his stay in the country and as the coach of Fijian men’s 7s team, planning, development and setting targets.

But there always will be the lingering question of how much more he could have accomplished if he had stayed for, say, another contractual term.

“I’m an individual who is driven by the challenge of the sport that I love, and this is what brought me to Fiji in the first place, the chance to coach the best 7s team in the best rugby nation in the world. My family and I have lived the sporting experiences in Fiji that I never thought would have been possible and I cannot express my gratitude enough to the FRU Board and everyone for supporting us on our journey.” said Baber.

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