Where are they now? Tim Rapp
Photo: SPA Images
When the New South Wales Colts side won the inaugural National Championships last month, it was very much a case of the Waratahs’ past looking after the Waratahs’ future. In charge of coaching is former Tah, Tim Rapp, and getting the chance to identify, nurture and groom the next generation of players to don the light blue, is a role the 36-year-old is relishing.
“With the ARU handing these age groups back for our guidance, we can really focus on making sure that, for every kid across New South Wales, coming here to play footy is a viable option and we can control that now,” says Rapp, under his official title of Head Coach Under 20s and Elite Pathway Coordinator.
“As coaches, we’re in a position to really improve kids skills but we also need to improve them off the field in terms of their positive thinking, their work ethic and all those little things. Hopefully, if and when they do get into the level of being chosen for the Waratahs, they’ve got all those skills in their bag ready to pull out whenever they need to,” he adds.
Born and raised in wine country up at Singleton in the Hunter Valley, Rapp played his early rugby at Singleton High School before progressing to the NSW Country Cockatoos. From there, he played Shute Shield rugby for the Newcastle Wildfires before relocating to Sydney’s South and representing Southern Districts in the same competition.
A dashing halfback in his day, Rapp made the step up into the Waratahs set-up in 2000, and despite earning only four appearances in Super Rugby, he has no regrets about his playing days at Moore Park. “I was sat on the bench behind Chris Whitaker,” he explains. “You didn’t rotate players much back then so halfbacks tended to play the full game and to be realistic, I wasn’t better than Whits for sure, so there was no issue there.”
“Just living the lifestyle of a professional footballer with some of the guys that I actually got to do it with, names such as Phil Waugh, Matt Burke, Nathan Grey and Brendan Cannon who are now tagged as some of the best players to ever play for the Waratahs, was a privilege to be a part of,” he says.
Rapp ended his playing career with Souths in 2006 before jumping straight into coaching. He felt it was a natural progression. “I loved playing footy, I loved training for footy and I loved the social side of footy so whichever way I could stay involved in the game, I took and that was coaching.”
His CV since then has included two years as head coach at Souths, time with the National Gold squad, Director of Rugby at Newington College and overseeing the Aussie schools program, a role which brought him to the attention of Michael Cheika, who was looking for a way to harness young talent within the Waratahs set-up.
“Cheik and I were talking about some of the players I had dealt with and how best to get them into some kind of system where we could monitor them and make sure we had first look at the best talent coming through,” Rapp explains. “He wanted to set up a Junior side and as I already knew most of the players, I guess I was an obvious candidate.”
Not only did Rapp’s fledgling Under 20s record victory in the National Championships in Canberra a few weeks ago, the squad also provided the bulk of the recently announced Australian training squad for the upcoming Junior World Championships to be held in Auckland. “To get 14 guys in a 33-man training squad was impressive and we’re really confident that a lot of those kids will push through to the championships,” he says.
“Working closely with Cheik and chief scout Tim Kelaher, we’re now making sure we know who kids are from 15-years-old so hopefully, we have a program that is well organised and doesn’t let any talented kids in the state out of our sights,” he finishes
The future of the Waratahs looks to be in safe and familiar hands.
Original version published in the NSW Waratahs v Hurricanes match program on May 3rd, 2014