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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Matt Johnston - International Sevens Game Analyst

As professional rugby intersects with the information age, statistical trends and historical data are crucial to the success or failure of a professional team. At the test level, coaches and selectors are handed a treasure trove of information about their player pool. All of this comes to life on the back of a talented rugby analyst. 

Titan of Rugby Analysis: Matt Johnston

Matt Johnston (Aussie by birth, but currently morphed into a global ambassador for footy) is one of the most knowledgeable rugby analysts I had ever met to date. Better yet, he was patient and kind enough to walk me through some of the areas about rugby video analysis where I was completely clueless. In a couple weeks time, he instilled the confidence in me to start flying the drone myself and biting off an additional role in the U-23s fall camp. To top it all off, he's a class bloke and one of the more easy going human beings I've met. 

Here's a snap shot of what we covered in the conversation.

How does World Rugby design a player pathway?

It's not just getting into the right locations to scout talent, but making sure that they're accessible to the young players of the region. According to Matt, "You've got to build the base of the pyramid, then you can help push people toward the apex."

How does World Rugby grow the game (outside of player development)?

Awareness, Enjoyment, and a lifetime participation in the game. We need people playing a full career of club footy, then picking up the whistle to coach, organize or officiate. Developing casual fans is important, but developing and retaining "fans for life" is also imperative.

What is it like being an analyst for a high performance team?

According to Matty "It's one of the best seats in the house." Matt got into analysis in order to help his coaching. He learned by sitting in with the best minds, and absorbing their knowledge, patiently asking questions and acquiring knowledge of how to break down film. Soon knowledge turns into know how. It soon became another form of literacy for Matt. 

How does an analyst balance what the see in the numbers vs. their "gut instinct"?

"The numbers aren't there to steer the direction of the conversation, but more to act as an accelerant." Matt knows and stresses the importance in allowing data to paint a bigger picture, but it's never a complete substitute to the bigger coaching picture. A good analyst will stay connected with the coaching staff at each possible moment to inform and educate them on what statistical data can help compliment their decision making.

Four screens, one set of eyes ... this analyst has a demanding job come game time

To anyone in the American rugby landscape who is interested in growing their skills in analysis ... The TIME IS NOW! Make some phone calls, get plugged in with your local expert. Or just head online and learn as much as you can from available online sources. No excuses, get on your horse and help #GrowTheGame !

Thanks again to Matt Johnston, a top bloke. If you see him at one of the International 7's stops, be sure to have a yarn!



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