Former NRL head coach Matt Elliott has accepted the position of head coach of the Australian Universities team ahead of next year’s Festival of World Cups but concedes he is unlikely to ever coach in the NRL again.
Elliott was approached about the role by international development manager for the Rugby League International Federation Tas Baitieri and although unsure of the exact nature of the position told NRL.com that he saw it as an opportunity to give back to the game.
The reigning World Cup holders after their win in England in 2013, the Australian Universities team will be selected at the annual interstate clash between Queensland Universities and New South Wales Universities which will this year be played at Suzuki Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, October 8.
With only a limited preparation – Elliott expects only to have the squad together for a week-long camp leading into the World Cup – the former Panthers, Raiders and Warriors head coach says he will call on the honour of representing their country to bring the Australian team together, just as he did with the American team in qualifying for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
“I worked with the American team first back in 2009 and that whole process taught me a lot about how to bring teams together very quickly and the type of language and systems to use as well,” Elliott said.
“What can you achieve in that time? You can certainly achieve unity and some really base fundamentals about how the group will operate. Some of the assurances that each individual can give to each other.
“The American team had guys with not a lot of experience but at the end of the day they chucked their hand up to represent their country and when you do that – I don’t care what level it is – you stake a willingness to do that, there’s some responsibilities that comes with that.
“It’s going to be a fun and unique opportunity for them but there’s also a serious side to it.”
It’s been more than two years since Elliott was sacked from the Warriors and the 51-year-old is realistic about the possibility of coaching again in the NRL.
A prominent analyst and commentator now with ABC Radio and also NRL.com, Elliott is also an in-demand corporate speaker, working with a diverse range of industries such as mining, national engineering and architecture firms and the legal fraternity largely in senior leadership and middle management.
Opening up about the very real likelihood that his coaching career in the NRL will not go past the 272 games he accumulated at the Raiders, Panthers and Warriors, Elliott said he has come to terms with what the future now holds.
“I haven’t answered this question up front for a while to be honest but I’m really fortunate not just with the media but the corporate work that I get to do now which has really taken off for me,” Elliott said.
“As far as coaching goes, there’s probably only 16 jobs I’m really interested in. If I put myself in a CEO’s position and I look at a guy like me who for all intents and purposes got the punt from his last two positions I’m probably not at the top of the recruitment scale as far as finding the next opportunity.
“There are some realities that come with that. I don’t necessarily believe that that’s appropriate or right but that’s just how it is.
“The truth is that at the moment it’s probably unlikely that I’m going to have an NRL position.
“For anyone who knows me closely or well knows that I’m someone that deals with reality pretty well so I’m at ease with it. I would certainly like it to be different but I’m completely at ease with it.
“I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve had some other opportunities that have allowed me to put my attention elsewhere. I’m a lot more fortunate than other coaches and other players.”