In 2021, the Gold Coast emerged as the home base for the Australian national rugby union team, the Wallabies, hosting a series of training camps ahead of clashes against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
We spoke with Rugby Australia Director, Scott Johnson, about the Wallabies’ experience on the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast was one of many destinations considered to host the Wallabies training camp this year. What factors ultimately influenced the decision to host the camp here?
SJ: The Covid situation helped, but what attracted us was the facilities – they’re first class. There’s also great weather and access to any facilities we could ask for. Whether its recovery facilities or training facilities – you can’t get any better.
What were the highlights of being based on the Gold Coast?
SJ: The highlight for the athletes and probably the coaches was the accessibility to everything. Most of the time when you’re staying at a hotel, you’ve got to travel on the bus. So, there was very limited bus travel time – which was the highlight. It sounds like such a little thing, but every place we stayed at was completely self-contained from an athletic point of view. This means you can get the most out of your day. When you spend your life in buses on tour from training grounds, it makes the days long – so that’s the beauty of being based on the Gold Coast.
Do you think this environment contributed to the Wallabies having such a successful tournament?
SJ: When we’re here [on the Gold Coast], we get the most out of our days. Not only do we have access to sporting facilities, we have access to transport – we can fly out of the Gold Coast easily. What makes training effective is utilising your time appropriately. It’s certainly helped us in our preparation for these international clashes, because we get the most out of our days.
Do you think the Gold Coast has evolved as a sporting destination as a result of events like the Commonwealth Games?
SJ: There’s no doubt it’s gone to a new level. Even when I’m talking to the other teams that are residing here – the Gold Coast is a surprise to them. Tournaments like this are a great advertisement for the Gold Coast. People get to see the coast in all its glory. It’s a wonderful spot.
Did the players / management team have the chance to get out and about and enjoy the city?
SJ: I didn’t have any complaints from people worried about things to do on their day off. You didn’t have to direct them because they had plenty of choice. Surfing, fishing, water parks, even the golfers were happy – there’s certainly no shortage of courses to choose from here.
As a local, what sets the Gold Coast apart from other cities around the world?
SJ: I think it’s that beautiful mix – it’s big enough without being huge, and you’ve got everything on your doorstep. You’ve got access to AFL and rugby league, and also the arts. It’s got everything of a capital city, without being one. There’s a lot of boxes being ticked on the Gold Coast.
Did the Gold Coast meet your expectations as a sporting city?
SJ: It certainly did. I live on the coast, so I know it well enough. I unashamedly say as a resident of the Gold Coast, that I think the facilities are second to none. I’ve lived right around the world and I’ve lived in Europe for 20 years, and there’s not a place that I’ve been to that has access to facilities like the Gold Coast does.
Will the Wallabies be back?
SJ: We’ll be back doing stuff here for sure. We play in Brisbane a fair bit and all the feedback from the players and staff has been first class, so it’s certainly on the top of our list of discussions.