Joanne Yapp, the newly appointed coach of the Wallaroos, is eager to develop the untapped potential of Australia’s players. She is excited to work with the raw materials available and help refine them into a successful team. This was expressed by Daniel Gallan.
Unfortunately, there was a lack of positive developments in Australian rugby union in the year 2023. The men’s World Cup saw a humiliating early elimination, which was just one example of a larger problem. Throughout what could be considered the worst year for the Wallabies, two head coaches resigned in disgrace, a promising young player who was seen as the future of the sport switched to rugby league, and experienced players with over 100 caps were discarded like unwanted leftovers.
Fortunately, this is only one perspective. Turn the page and you will discover a more optimistic storyline to pursue.
Joanne Yapp, the former scrumhalf and captain for England’s women’s team, has been announced as the new head coach for the Wallaroos. This is a significant milestone for Australian sports as she is the first woman to lead a senior national football team in the country. Yapp believes that there is great potential for success in this role.
“It is a tremendous honor,” she states, speaking from her residence in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England, where she is currently located until her relocation to Sydney in early February. “I am incredibly enthusiastic about this opportunity. The program has immense potential for growth and I am particularly thrilled about the addition of full-time coaches.
“I am honored to be the first woman in this role, and it’s a significant aspect of the sport. However, my main focus is on elevating this team to new heights.”
Yapp, who represented England across 70 matches including at three World Cups, has been coaching ever since her retirement in 2009 when she worked with the national Under-20s programme. In 2019, she was appointed director of rugby at Worcester Warriors, where she’d played all her career, and held the post until the club folded in February.
She believes that going through a difficult time in English rugby, which included the administration of London Irish and Wasps, will benefit her in the future. She learned the value of establishing trust with players and recognizing them as individuals.
“I had to navigate through unexpected challenges, which revealed my core values and priorities. This experience also taught me how to approach and handle tough decision-making processes.”
These words are meant to inspire Wallaroos players and fans who have witnessed their team reach a limit in their progress. The team, largely consisting of amateurs with some professionals from the accomplished sevens program, have exceeded expectations on the international stage.
After a respectable elimination in the second round of the 2022 World Cup, the team went on to secure a notable third-place spot in this year’s debut of the WXV tournament. However, there is still a noticeable gap between the Australians and the top-performing teams above them.
“Yapp mentions their 29-20 victory against France in October, proving their ability to rival top teams.”
“We must focus on maintaining consistency. The Super W, which is similar to the men’s Super Rugby competition, has played a crucial role in player development. The clubs have also made great strides in creating a competitive league to elevate their game. This shows that we are making progress in the right direction. I am optimistic that we can narrow the gap between ourselves and England and New Zealand.”
There is currently no guarantee of winning any silverware. The upcoming World Cup is scheduled to be held in England in 2025, followed by the next one in Australia four years later. According to Yapp, by that time all Wallaroos players will have the support of a fully professional program and will be striving for top prizes.
Yapp was pleasantly surprised by the Wallaroos pack’s performance in the WXV, which has historically been a weakness. While she acknowledges that improving depth and experience are crucial, as there are only three players in the current squad with more than 20 caps, she has observed promising talent emerging and is optimistic for improvement. However, she is urging for patience in the process.
She warns that it will require patience. The teams ahead of us are significantly advanced in their progress. They have been operating at a professional level for many years and have more established leagues. We possess the necessary resources, but success will not come quickly.
Yapp is committed to comprehending the underlying reasons for what she refers to as “the group’s ‘why'”. In other words, why have these women elected to play rugby? What drives them to strive for achievements that previous generations have not attained?
The Wallaroos have a strong relationship with First Nations individuals, shown through their various customized uniforms that pay tribute to Australia’s indigenous cultures. This serves as a constant reminder for the team.
Yapp expresses that they are not completely knowledgeable about everything, but they are enthusiastic about gaining more understanding. They believe this demonstrates the group’s recognition of its significance. There is a purpose beyond what occurs on the field that motivates them to wear the jersey, train diligently, and make sacrifices for their country. This is highly significant.
Yapp is definitely expressing all the correct sentiments. If she can demonstrate those sentiments with success on the field, she may be able to create a more positive chapter in the story of Australian rugby.