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'Learning and developing at forums like this can be life-changing'

More than 200 coaches from across Queensland left the Queensland Coaches Network Forum at the weekend not only as better coaches, but as better people, thanks to the knowledge and expertise shared by sporting industry experts.

With a huge focus on not what is coached, but how it's coached, the two-day conference saw some of Australia's greatest sporting minds take to the stage to educate and provide insight into further developing skills, psychology and culture to equip, strengthen and inspire leaders to be the best they can be through keeping an open-mind to learning something new every day.

Guest speakers included a number of leading high performance staff, prolific rugby league identities such as Wayne Bennett, Mal Meninga, Tahnee Norris, Brad Donald and Neil Henry and even renowned sporting stars from other codes, such as former Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell and 2008 Olympian Marty Rabjohns.

"It’s great to be here... for me, being a coach, being at this forum is an opportunity to cross-pollinate," the four-time Australian rowing champion said.

"I always find I’m learning different things across different codes and even the informal conversations in the breaks – just getting the opportunity to meet people and network from other codes allows me to pick up some useful tips from other people who are also in the room."

Like Rabjohns, the opportunity to share and learn was something Sunshine Coast Falcons Harvey Norman Under 19 assistant coach Emma Liesegang really appreciated.

"Attending events like this one is important because it gives an opportunity to share," Liesegang said.

"There are always different ways and people are always going to have different opinions, so if you can learn something new from someone else, you might think to yourself… ‘oh, that works well, I can really use that’.

"I think no matter who you are, everyone can learn of other people, so networking is a great way to keep learning."

Four-time national rowing champion Marty Rabjohns.
Four-time national rowing champion Marty Rabjohns. ©Cameron Stallard/QRL

For Runaway Bay Seagulls coach Darryl Fisher, who had a formidable professional rugby league career in Australia and New Zealand before picking up the clipboard, the ability coaching gives you to shape the lives of young players is what is most rewarding, and being able to learn and develop at forums can be life-changing.

"I’m a coach so I can guide young men. I’ve coached senior footy for a long time but now I’m coaching junior kids as well around my son’s age," the former first grade winger said.

"I just get a lot of reward out of guiding them in life as much as football itself and it’s keeping me young and I’ve learnt a lot about myself being a coach as well as hopefully helping them a lot as well.

"Of the coaching courses I’ve done over the last decade, there’s key things I’ve taken out of every single one of them that I still use now and there has been from this conference as well.

"Coaching can be a lonely job, but getting to meet coaches who are doing a similar age group to you or even hearing from experts from the field with their knowledge.

"You might only take a few key things away from it, but it can be life changing as a coach."

The passion to keep learning was even highlighted at the elite level, with both of Australia's top rugby league coaches Mal Meninga and Brad Donald sharing their insight into how they continually develop.

NRL elite pathways manager and Australian Jillaroos coach Brad Donald.
NRL elite pathways manager and Australian Jillaroos coach Brad Donald. ©Cameron Stallard/QRL

"I’m fortunate enough to sit across both sides of the game and at the community level, I don’t really coach too dissimilar as I do at the higher level," Donald said.

"I'm always looking to learn and I can quite honestly say that I’ve learnt a lot [at this forum] about what I’ll be able to do with my community level team and what I’ll be able to do with the Jillaroos.

"It’s always important that we are continually learning and evolving and I’m fortunate enough to work alongside Mal and he spoke about the fact he’s done about three or four courses in the last six months to improve.

"So there’s a bloke who sits on the top of our pathway as the Australian coach and he’s always looking to learn and teaching us to do the same."

Now the manager of Bendelta, a company enabling organisations, teams and individuals to reach their full potential, Rabjohns is thrilled to have attended the networking opportunity hosted by Queensland Rugby League and said his learnings would not only help him as a coach, but most importantly as a person into the future.

"The QRL have done a great job in creating this opportunity and bringing together a broad group of people to talk about coaching and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it," Rabjohns said.