Helping Indigenous rugby players to kick goals in the US

Bernard sitting at his desk

Bernard Green, a Department of Human Services staff member, was recently offered the coaching role of a lifetime taking a 30-player squad of young Indigenous men to the US for a Rugby Union tour.

The squad played against several rugby teams across New Mexico, Arizona and California and in a world first, the all Australian Indigenous side competed against an all Native American rugby team.

“Rugby is one of my biggest passions and has been a part of my life since I was 4 years old,” Bernard said. “I started coaching when I was undergoing treatment for testicular cancer at the age of 17, as chemotherapy left me unable to play.”

“Since then I’ve had several surgeries to remove benign scar tissue, as well as six monthly scans, but thankfully have not needed any more chemotherapy.”

“I’ve kept coaching as a way of giving back to the club that was really a family to me during that time.”

With a career that has included stints in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand as well as 20 years’ coaching experience, it’s no surprise Bernard was chosen as head coach.

“When I heard there was a job going for the tour, I put in an application initially thinking I might have been lucky to get something like the forwards coach position.”

“Then I was told I had the head coach position and obviously I was really stoked.”

The Australian team faced a huge challenge of six games in 16 days during the tour.

“The team came away with five victories, which was an incredible effort. We were an Under 20’s side taking on sides who were older and often physically bigger than our players, in unfamiliar conditions,” Bernard said.

“We even played one of our games in a small blizzard!”

The team also had the opportunity to spend time in Gallup, New Mexico, with the local Navajo community.

“While we were in New Mexico, we stayed in the local Navajo community for several night,” Bernard said.

“We helped the local Community Pantry put together food hampers and tend to the fruit and vegetable garden.

“We also attended the local High School, which is where we played the USA Indigenous Warriors.”

Bernard was extremely impressed with the achievements of the touring squad.

“We had seven Townsville players on the tour, which is a fantastic achievement – a real coup,” he said.

“I am immensely proud of the entire squad for their hard work and resilience. I am still in regular contact with many of the players today.”