Tom Carter: The unsung hero behind the Sevens’ winning machine

Tue, Jan 24, 2023, 5:55 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Tom Carter reflects on his journey with the Sevens side. Photo: Maddison Levi/Instagram
Tom Carter reflects on his journey with the Sevens side. Photo: Maddison Levi/Instagram

Tom Carter has nearly done it all as a Rugby player.

He's represented his country in Sevens, played over 80 games at Super Rugby and won countless titles for Sydney Uni at Shute Shield level.

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However, when he talks about his role in the historic 'Triple Crown', you can see just how highly he rates it.

“It’s a career highlight. When you start off at your first World Series event in Dubai in 2021, to win back-to-back is pretty incredible," he said to Rugby.com.au

“To then go throughout the year and win 50 out of 55 games, it’s something you look back and it’s pretty hard to surpass...This is my fifth year here and it’s probably the greatest thing I’ve done.

“It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my coaching career and one of the most in my sporting career."

The former Waratahs centre has attacked his post-life career with the same vigour he did on the field, working extensively with the likes of cricket legends Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon in transforming their careers.

Carter linked up with the program in 2018, currently serving as Head of Athletic Performance for Australia’s women’s Sevens team.

Having battled through COVID and Olympic disappointment, Carter has the Australians playing one of the fastest styles of Rugby across all forms.

They regularly test themselves against the best, whilst any combination of crying, running and vomiting has become synonymous with their Triple Crown success.

Across their countless success over the past 12 months, the players were quick to credit Carter's influence in turning the program around.

“Personally I think (the improvements) came as every girl was running. I feel like before Tokyo, some people didn’t really challenge themselves so TC (Tom Carter) told me because we’re one team, everyone has to run even if you are sore or injured," Faith Nathan reflected late in 2021 after their Dubai success.

“I think having that mentality has players working for each other so this pre-season has probably been one of the hardest ones I’ve done. A few tears, mostly every day, but it’s good that TC pushed us because most of us didn’t believe we could have pushed as much as we did and I think that’s how we got the outcomes.”

“I’ve got some great people and support around me like Tommy Carter (Head of Athletic Performance) changing my whole game and physique, (Tim) Walshy trusting me and keeping me from 2016 as we reminisce on a gold medal and wanting to do it again," veteran Sharni Williams added on Carter's influence alongside coach Tim Walsh.

“It’s not just me on my own, there are people around me that are helping me live this dream and succeed. They will be the people that will be and always are thanked at the end of a tournament when you’ve had either a win and success or you’re down in the dumps, they’re the ones who cop it.”

"Defensive wins tournaments, and we're not the biggest team so as the most tenacious or crafty team, we are getting fitter and more powerful, thanks to (Head of Athletic Performance) Tom Carter. We are building those combinations together, stronger and stronger, they're very strong now but we need to build depth," Walsh himself said on Carter's influence

Carter was quick to deflect praise back to the group for the way they harnessed the disappointments of the past as they strive to get better.

“I think it’s multi-faceted but the coaching staff, administration and staff have set this program up with some fantastic young players and I think sometimes you have to have that disappointment to ignite that flame and that’s what Tokyo was,” Carter believes.

“I think we’ve been able to be really clear around what we stand for as a group both coaching and players and we’ve been able to focus on that early and then the confidence come with the success, for some of the girls Dubai was their first World Series and it catapulted from them.

“We’re very clear about what is important in the training environment and ensure that our best players are available. We’re very data-driven to give us the best opportunity to perform. 

“We’re very fortunate to have people like Charlotte Caslick who come along once a generation and Sharni Williams, who I don’t think we’ll see the likes of again. I’s great to have those seniors players and to then bring through the younger ones like Madison Ashby, Faith Nathan, Alysia (Lefau-Fakaosilea), Maddi Levi who now have a bit of World Series experience and feel confident to take it to the New Zealand's of the world consistently.”

This comes from seeking to teach the lessons to the next generations that he failed to heed.

Carter admits he didn't 'maximise' his own ability as a player and with nine players in the current side under the age of 22, the 39-year-old doesn't want them to make the same mistakes.

“I think they teach me more than I teach them," he explained. "I feel like I’m very fortunate to be with such a talented group and I’m just to support them and give them some experiences and insights into where I went wrong and things I would do differently.

“…I felt like I didn’t maximise my skill or talent through how I trained so I try and orientate this group differently to what I did

“They’re incredibly gifted so I feel very lucky that I have such great athletes to work with and they like working hard so I just try to shape and facilitate that to give Tim (Walsh) the opportunity to coach them.”

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