WAGGA rugby union export Damien Hill has been tipped as the man to elevate newcomer Melbourne Rebels from the bottom of the Super 15 ladder.
Since leaving Wagga to pursue a rugby coaching career several years ago, Hill has been given the ultimate job of head coach of the newest Super 15 franchise this season.
Joined at the Rebels by fellow Wagga export and former Wallabies prop Nic Henderson, Hill yesterday said the home ties are hard to ignore.
“I was born there, I went to Sacred Heart and then St Michaels and Trinity,” he said.
“Dad coached a fair bit of rugby when I was a kid, but they didn’t have junior rugby at that time.
“I used to play a bit of soccer and rugby league instead.
“My family has moved on now, my parents live over in Griffith, but I’ve still got a lot of friends in Wagga so I tend to get back about once a year.”
Since leaving Wagga at the age of 18, Hill’s coaching career has gone from strength to strength.
Hill earned a Sports Science degree at Canberra University before taking up a development position with the Brumbies.
From there he expanded his experience in Japan with Suntory Rugby Football Club and returned to Australia to guide Sydney University to three Shute Shield premierships under his reign.
But since taking over the Rebels’ top job from last year’s head coach Rod McQueen, Hill said the main obstacle he faces is consistency.
“We finished 15th in that year so obviously we’re building to get a bit further ahead than that,” he said.
“We don’t have any grand plans, we’re not thinking too far ahead, but we certainly have season goals that we’re trying to fulfil each week.
“I think we’ve moved on from last year and the main thing is to put in a consistent back-to-back effort this season.”
Despite losing all three pre-season trials, Hill is confident
the Rebels have the potential to improve.
“I was reasonably happy with how we went (in the trials),” he said.
“We picked pretty hard trials though against the Blues, Crusaders and the Chiefs first up.
“We were at least competitive against the Blues and Crusaders, but we need to improve against Waratahs if we want to go forward.”
The Rebels will kick off round one of the Super Rugby competition against NSW Waratahs at AAMI Park tomorrow night.