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'I just came over here to visit my brother and I never left'

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Connacht team manager Tim Allnutt. Photo: Sportsfile

Connacht team manager Tim Allnutt. Photo: Sportsfile

Pat Lam

Pat Lam

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Connacht team manager Tim Allnutt. Photo: Sportsfile

Connacht Rugby has changed exponentially in the last decade and a half, but manager Tim Allnutt has seen it all first hand. But it was a long series of events that resulted in him visiting Galway in the first place before eventually deciding to put his roots down here.

"My first year with Connacht was back in 2001. I only came over here to visit my brother Simon who had been playing in Castlebar and then he moved to play with Corinthians in Galway," says Allnutt (pictured below).

"I just came to stay with him, but straight away I just loved the city. I had a few buddies here from home so I stayed on a bit and played a bit with Corinthians. Simon got injured then and an opening came up at Connacht.

"I got involved in training with the boys, got an opportunity to play a few games and did okay and got offered a contract at the end of it.

"To be honest, I hadn't intended on living here or anything like that. Playing-wise, I just got an opportunity and when you look back on it now, it's funny how it worked out, but I am delighted," said Allnutt, who played 24 times for Connacht in a three-year spell.

As in many tales of moving to the west, a Galway girl, Geraldine, kept Allnutt hooked on the City of the Tribes.

The couple now have three children, Jake (9), Sam (7) and Mark (4) and Galway and Connacht is now very much home.

A career-ending knee injury meant his future plans were left in doubt, but when the manager's job at Connacht Rugby appeared, it suited him perfectly.

"I was captain back in 2002, and we ending up winning five on the trot. We had a pretty good team then and we were over playing Bridgend, but I did a pretty good job on my knee and it put me out for about nine months.

"On the back of that I struggled to get any form back. With the strains and rigours of pro rugby, I played one more season after that, but I struggled to get any sort of consistency back. It was halfway through my last season and I knew it was time to call it a day.

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Transition

"John Fallon was finishing up as team manager and he came and had a word with me and asked would I be interested in becoming manager. Because it is a dream job and a chance to keep involved in the game, I was quite excited by it. I applied for the job and I was lucky enough to get it.

"I suppose it was a hard a transition early on, to come direct from playing to becoming team manager. Being in charge of disciplining guys that you have been quite close to for a number of years was tough at first. But, as I have gone on, the role has evolved and you mature too. You get to know the role and you try to add to it and improve it and add to the environment as best you can. Hopefully I have done that."

Apart from a career in rugby, Allnutt has managed to get his hands dirty along the way too. Reared in the rural New Zealand town of Waimate, hard work was never far away. He has worked in supermarkets, and as a sheep shearer back home, but is adamant that rumours that he worked as a lumberjack have been exaggerated over the years to become part of Connacht Rugby folklore.

"I have had many jobs growing up along the way and I did do some tree-planting. You name it, I've been out there and had a look at it. I even worked in a sports shop in Galway.

"The manager's job itself has evolved a lot over the years. It used to be a logistical job, just making sure the team had everything they need.

"Making sure the right facilities are ready for training, that the travel arrangements are sorted, hotels, food all that sort of thing. Now a lot of it is based on recruitment and player retention. Again, I would be in charge of all of the logistics side of things in terms of staffing.

"It is basically running everything off-field and helping the head coach or the director of rugby by making sure that they have everything that they need to get results on the field."

In his playing days Allnutt was regarded as a powerful ball-carrying centre, but he also filled in for Eric Elwood on occasion in the No 10 shirt, but he admits he "wouldn't have been the best 10 in the world".

Before his arrival in Connacht he played rugby for South Canterbury and the Canterbury Colts, and subsequently went on to represent Gort, Corinthians, Galwegians and Buccaneers here. But since then his influence has been all off the field. He has worked alongside head coaches Steph Nel, Michael Bradley, Eric Elwood and most recently his compatriot Pat Lam. Allnutt puts Connacht development over the years down to the province's willingness to absorb multinational traditions.

"It's not just Kiwis but also we have had some Australians, South Africans and some Islanders that have made an impact. Everyone who has come in here has left their mark. On the recruitment side of things, when we recruit now it is not just about the player you have to make sure that they are the right fit for our environment.

"We really want to bring a lot of Irish-qualified guys in here, but when we have to go outside that we want to bring in quality players.

"For us in Connacht, it's all about continuously building on from where we are currently at. You can't stand still in this game because you get eaten up. We have an academy structure that is producing players so it is about getting them through to help us become a better team."


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