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The Coach Whisperer

Sun, 01/05/2022, 2:57 am
Gerard McLenaghan
by Gerard McLenaghan

The Moorabbin Rams women’s team is on the field playing their first trial match, as they prepare for their maiden Lindroth Cup campaign.

Captain Titilia Yabaki is set one off the ruck, about to receive a pass from her halfback before charging into the Melbourne Unicorns defence.

Whilst one eye is fixed firmly on the ball, Titilia scans the ground, searching for some hyper active spectators running amok.

“As I’m playing, I was watching my children running around and playing,” explains the mother of five.

“I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but whilst I was running a pod, I was scanning the field not just for Unicorn players but scanning the field for my children as well.”

The driving force behind Moorabbin’s push into the Lindroth Cup, Titilia’s husband Konisi had his hands full as well; The Moorabbin Rugby Club stalwart is the coach of the women’s inaugural team.

“Moorabbin Rugby Club is where I started my rugby journey. My husband Konisi also played at Moorabbin too,” says Titilia.

“When he got appointed Head Coach of the women’s team, it only seemed fitting that I would return to our family club.

“Now that my daughters have started playing rugby at Moorabbin too, it just feels right.”

Without a seniors women’s team until now, Titilia’s rugby journey in recent years has seen her don the colours of Kiwi Hawthorn and Casey Crusaders on her way to earning selection in the Rebels Super W team in 2019 and 2020.

However, with her family so entrenched in the Rams community, it was always a driving ambition to see Moorabbin embrace the women’s game.

“There’s just so many women associated with the club already; sisters, wives, partners. There was a high demand for us to create a women’s team,” explains Titilia.

So how does the captain manage to maintain a functioning relationship with her husband and coach?

“We are both very good at keeping the training and house relationship separate,” reveals Titilia.

“But rugby really is our passion. We wake up in the morning and it’s all about how we are going to better each other.

“We can always critique each other in how to be better at coaching and playing.

“But when we are on the field, I have learnt in the past few years to bite my tongue and let him do his part,” laughs Titiliia.

“I just work behind the scenes to give these girls a quiet little push and some encouragement in case they don’t know what the coach is saying.

“I’m always there to just whisper in their ears to make it easier for the players and the coach.”

With the youngest of her five children Filipe just ten months old, it’s remarkable the working mother even has the energy to play a full game of rugby each week.

“When we are warming up or training, I have my youngest right beside right up until the whistle is blown,” says Titilia.

However, the growing Yabaki household has offered Titilia another incentive to keep playing - to run out onto the field one day alongside one of her daughters.

Now in the u/11s at Moorabbin, eldest daughter Jimaima represents Titilia’s best chance of achieving that goal.

“That is one of my biggest dreams,” confesses Titilia.

“I have seen in the past mums play in their final season with their daughters. I wish that my knees still hold together so that I can run on with my daughter.

“When I played Super W In 2019, she (Jimaima) kind of got the grasp about what rugby was and the fact that ‘mummy is playing at a really high level.'

“And now she plays rugby and is the only girl in her team but absolutely loves it.

“I hope one day we can play together, I just really wish it will happen!”

The Moorabbin Lindroth team train Tuesday and Thursday night at Moorabbin Rugby Club from 6:30pm. All welcome.

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