Welcome to “Behind the Clipboard” – a series of feature articles with up-and-coming community coaches across the country.
Rugby Australia is highlighting clubland coaches from non-traditional rugby heartlands who are making their mark in the game we love.
We begin in Tasmania on International Women's Day with former Brazilian rugby sevens player and triple-premiership winning University women’s coach, Maira Behrendt.
Hello Maira! Thanks for joining us - tell us about your rugby background?
Hello! I played professionally for the Brazil rugby sevens national team and with Yokohama TKM rugby team, totaling 7 years experience at the international level.
During this time, I was fortunate enough to win two South American Titles (2012 & 2017) and a bronze medal at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games with my country.
A career highlight was the 2016-17 season of the World Rugby Women’s Seven Series, where I played centre/playmaker for Brazil.
How did you get involved in coaching?
I had begun coaching juniors at my club (SPAC) and a local non-profit organisation (Rugby Para Todos) but a severe injury in 2014 prompted me to seriously consider coaching as my next rugby path.
I began coaching the University of Sao Paulo rugby women's team (FFLCH), where I stayed until 2017 when I decided to retire from the national team and explore Japan.
While in Japan, I assisted at coaching rugby clinics for children and teenagers along with my club playing duties before moving to Tasmania.
There, I coached the Eastern Suburbs 7's side before taking on the head coaching role with the UTAS Women's Team for the past three years (2020-2022).
You’ve won three premierships in a row with the UTAS Women. What’s the secret to success with this club?
Our club is a tight-knit family with a rich history, and we uphold the core values of rugby in our operations.
What sets us apart is the remarkable camaraderie among all members, from our youngest players to our most seasoned veterans.
As a coach, I am particularly thrilled to work with the UTAS women's team - they are an exceptional group of women with diverse backgrounds and life experiences, but united in their shared passion for learning and improving without fear of failure.
It's truly incredible to have won three consecutive premierships - when I first started coaching, only one player showed up for training sessions and we had just 5 at our opening round.
But by the end of the season, we had a full squad that won the grand final with some beautiful rugby.
The following year was another tough start, with only four returning players but we persisted, made it back to the grand final (this time with more players on hand!) and once again, emerged victorious.
Last year, we started with a strong foundation and set a lofty goal to win every single game of the competition - including the grand final. We won the premiership and came very close to our goal, losing only two games out of more than 30.
The secret to our success is our teamwork.
Despite varying levels of fitness and experience, our players see each other as equals and work together to achieve our goals. No one person is more important than the team.
What does the future hold for you as a coach and how would you encourage others to get into rugby?
I am deeply passionate about coaching and aspire to make it my professional career.
My ultimate dream is to reach the pinnacle of coaching and work towards coaching at the Olympics.
Looking back, going to my very first rugby training is still the best decision I’ve made.
It completely changed my outlook and my attitude in all aspects of my life.
To encourage people, especially as a coach, to come and try rugby, I would highlight the unique aspects of the sport.
Rugby is a sport that values diversity and inclusivity.
Regardless of age, gender, or skill level, there is a place for everyone on the rugby field.
I would also emphasise the sense of camaraderie and belonging that comes with being a part of a rugby team.
As a coach, I strive to create a safe and supportive environment where players can learn and grow both as individuals and as a team.
So come and try rugby, you might just find a new family on the field!