7 Sep 2016

Tietjens' legacy more than Olympics disappointment

6:21 am on 7 September 2016

Sports Call - Sir Gordon Tietjens shouldn't be remembered for the All Blacks Sevens' disappointing Rio Olympics, writes Barry Guy.

There is no doubt that Tietjens wanted to go out on a high, but he can't be blamed for the fifth place finish of the New Zealand men's side in Rio.

Gordon Tietjens after loss to Japan, Rio 2016.

Sir Gordon Tietjens - pictured after New Zealand's loss to Japan in Rio. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Tietjens has announced he is standing down after 22 years in charge of the New Zealand side.

Tietjens said he had taken time to think about his options following the disappointing Olympic campaign in Rio, and felt the time was right for a fresh challenge.

He said the results in Rio showed just how far sevens had developed, and he was confident lessons had been learnt for Tokyo in four years time

The former Bay of Plenty representative first got a taste of sevens in the early '80s and was a part of the first New Zealand team to play in Hong Kong.

He headed into coaching and it was not long before he was considered one of the leading authorities on the game and fashioned a side that dominated the sport for two decades.

Tietjens took over the national side in 1994 and took the team onto four Commonwealth Games gold medals, two World Cup titles and 12 World Series crowns - that would have to make him arguably the country's most successful rugby coach.

He helped launch the careers of many of the game's greatest players, including Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Ben Smith and Julian Savea.

He had a great knack of unearthing talent.

In fact, he often commented that part of his job was to find talent at the provincial level, develop it and then pass it on to Super Rugby or national sides. He appeared to accept that, but in the end that may have played a part in the struggles he had in recent years.

New Zealand last won the World Series title in 2014 and did not really look like being contenders the past two years. The main reason for that was the Olympics.

While other nations poured resources into their Olympic campaigns, it appears Tietjens didn't get everything he needed to make the best possible attempt at Olympic gold. The best players never seemed to be on board.

New Zealand rugby sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.

Tietjens got his first taste of the sport that made his name in the early '80s. Photo: RNZ Barry Guy

It's a difficult one - can you make a player direct their efforts into one part of the game if they don't want to? New Zealand Rugby left it open to players to make their own decisions, and in the end Tietjens had less than a year to mould a team into a winning side, and it all proved too much.

It seems obvious to us all that New Zealand Rugby needs to do more for the men's game - players have to commit at least a year out from the Olympics and be part of a centralised programme.

I had a feeling that Tietjens wanted to leave the game a few years ago, but with the prospects of the Olympics, he either had a change of heart, or was asked to change his mind.

He was a pioneer in the game in the early days, his mantra was all about being the fittest side on the park and he always had a couple of players with the x-factor that would make the difference.

That wasn't the case in recent times. His team hadn't been performing well for a while, there were ongoing injury problems and he could seldom field the same side.

06092016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Gordon Tietjens steps down as All Blacks Sevens coach.  Pictured: L-R Gordon Tietjens and Steve Tew, NZ Rugby Chief Executive.

Tietjens today announced his retirement after 22 years in charge of the team. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He said he'd decided to stand down before the Olympics, but did briefly consider carrying on after that Olympic pool loss to Japan because of the challenge it had presented.

The 60-year-old isn't rushing into anything else. I'm sure there are plenty of nations that would be keen to get hold of him, but he's decided that's not for him.

I'm hoping that he will eventually help out locally, especially with other coaches as now is the time for someone else to make the step up and fill the big boots left by Titch.

Sir Gordon Tietjens KNZM

Sir Gordon Tietjens has coached the All Blacks Sevens at more than 100 international sevens tournaments since taking over the side in 1994. In 2012 he received the rare honour of being inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, unusual for a still-serving coach and the first sevens coach to receive such an honour. He was also knighted in 2013 for services to sport.

Under Sir Gordon, the All Blacks Sevens have won:

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