Galwegians’ community has a wide variety of players, coaches and volunteers from every stretch of the world, and under-17s coach Justin Wilson is no different. Originally from New Zealand, he has quite a career in the world of rugby.
From the age of five, he started to take up the sport as rugby was one of the most prominent sports in the country. Passionate about the game, his first memories came from playing in the cold, frosty mornings at the back of his local rugby club where the sheep would graze the fields throughout the week.
Playing for Waipukurau High School Old Boys and Central Sports Club for four years at the underage level, Justin took a hiatus from playing rugby and began travelling Europe with his best friend. Despite many years away, he would get the itch to play again once he reached his thirties.
Justin enjoyed his Galwegians playing career, being a part of the Thirds with some thoughts of moving up the ladder to the Seconds but opted against it.
“I started playing for Wegians when I was 34 going on 35,” said Justin. “A friend of mine was playing there at the time so told me to come down”.
Despite time away from the sport, he certainly hadn’t lost any of his skills by winning the Galwegians Thirds Player of the Year in 2015. After seven seasons with the squad, he stepped down from club rugby to pursue a coaching position in the club.
Having a young child rising through the ranks at Galwegians, it gave Justin the incentive to start coaching at the youth level, beginning at under 7s and currently managing the under 17s, and helping bring rugby back to schools across Galway like Callasanctius in Oranmore.
“I’m managing/coaching at the moment, mainly managing the under-17s. We have had eight players come over from Galway Bay last season, and we have quite a big squad now with 35 plus boys playing”.
“We pulled a few players from Callasanctius secondary school, we had rugby starting up again there. It was a good thing for the rugby community to have rugby back in that school, they hadn’t played for five years.”
With three young sons, Justin will help bring these boys into little Wegians and could potentially coach them in the current youth setup sometime in the future!
Justin understands the importance of developing young players with proper coaching and guidance, learning from his own experiences and progressing through the tiers of youth rugby. Certainly a challenge as growing up, he didn’t receive the level of coaching in modern-day rugby.
“I’ve gone through the under 7s to the under 17s, I’ve every single age category. You get to see them progress from a young boy to a teenager. It’s very important to coach them the right way, not only with rugby skills but to make sure you are there for them in everyday life.”
“Some kids might come down to rugby and might not been having the best day or they might be having difficulties at home so that you can be there for them. On the rugby side of things, I enjoy teaching them what I have been taught, the basic skills and have a good understanding of how to play”.
Even after stepping back from club rugby, Justin couldn’t shake off the urge to keep playing starting to play tag rugby. Taking a while to find his footing in the Irish rugby landscape, Justin played some tag rugby down at Corinthians, more as a social activity rather than anything serious.
Stopping for a while when turning forty, he found a post on Facebook advertising a masters league with the chance to represent Ireland in tag rugby.
Continuing to play in Corinthians and St. Marys, he played for the Galway’s over-forties team, taking on a Limerick side in Dublin. From there, he received an opportunity to play for the Irish over-fifties international side.
Playing in the Irish side in the 2023 Tag Rugby World Cup, he ended up collecting a bronze medal in the over 50s category, which was an incredible achievement for Justin which goes to show you can never be too old to pick up and start playing! From playing tag rugby in his younger days in New Zealand, it has come full circle for Justin.