In the past several months, rugby sevens star Scott Curry has led New Zealand to victory at the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup. This success follows a three-year cycle during which the All Blacks failed to finish higher than third in the season-long World Series and changed head coach after 22 years. With gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games his ultimate aim, we caught up with 30-year-old Curry to chat through training routines, childhood heroes and his background as a science teacher.
After Commonwealth Games gold and victory in the World Cup, does it feel like your work is done as you head off for your holidays?
For this year definitely, job’s done. I remember sitting in the World Cup changing room looking at Clarkey (Clark Laidlaw, New Zealand men’s rugby sevens head coach) and saying, “Far out, we actually did it. This is what we came out to achieve - to win the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup - and we did both.” It was, and it is, an awesome feeling.
A lot has been said about the new culture that Laidlaw has brought in since he took over as head coach in June 2017 following Gordon Tietjens’ 22-year reign, but what has that meant in practical terms?
On the field, it’s about working hard for each other and a massive focus on effort. Off the field, Clark has brought in his own vision and values that the team has really bought into, and these drive everything we do off the field.
You and Tim Mikkelson are co-captains of the All Blacks sevens side; are you similar characters or do you each bring very different things to the table?
We are a good balance. Timmy is the class clown, I guess you could say. Everyone loves him, he’s quite funny and everyone is naturally drawn towards him. I am probably more of a driver, driving standards and stuff like that. We work well together.
After New Zealand lost to eventual champions Fiji in the quarterfinals at Rio 2016, what would it mean to you two if you were able to lead the All Blacks to Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2020?
It would be huge. The Olympics are the pinnacle of our sport. To be able to just compete in the Olympic Games is a huge honour, but to be able to go over and hopefully win a gold medal would be massive.
I don’t think about it too much. It’s obviously in the background and signing through (at the beginning of August 2018, Curry and Mikkelson signed contacts with New Zealand Rugby taking them to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games) brings it to the forefront; but we have to qualify for the Games first, and that comes with next year’s World Series. So, that’s the focus right now.
As speed and power are key attributes in rugby sevens, is it difficult to train effectively to improve both at the same time?
Nah, speed and power are pretty closely related, to be honest. We have a couple of days per week solely focused on speed and power, and then a couple of days on the long distance and endurance side of things, because you need a balance of those in sevens as well.
We understand your hero growing up was Jeff Wilson, the man who won 60 caps for the All Blacks 15-a-side rugby team and played six one-day cricket internationals and one T20 match for New Zealand. What is your cricket like?
I played first XI for Reporoa College, which was quite an achievement (laughs). Nah, all you had to do was pretty much turn up and you made the first XI. I did really enjoy playing it when I was growing up, though. But I was pretty average, to be honest.
You seem a multi-talented guy: your teammates say you play the guitar and the piano, and you are pretty handy on the golf course; is there anything you cannot do?
That is the first time I have ever heard that I am good at golf; I am terrible at golf. I can half play the piano and I can play the guitar all right – so you should be careful about what you hear (laughs).
As a trained science teacher, do you have a favourite experiment?
It’s been a long time since I have been in a science classroom, to be honest. It would have been nine years since I have done anything like that. So I am a little bit out of the loop, but it might be something I come back to when my rugby is finished.