Arkansas State has named a new head coach – NeMani Delaibatiki. The Kiwi expatriate has been involved in the American rugby scene the last decade, most notably player-coaching Palmer’s DI men’s side a few years back and having played at Belmont Shore.
Delabaitiki relocated from Palmer’s home in Davenport, Iowa to the Houston area for grad school purposes about a year-and-a-half ago, where he’s been helping out with the Bay Area Rugby Club and most recently with Texas’ new men’s all star competition.
Matt Huckaby, whose been serving as the interim head coach since Alex Houser’s resignation earlier this year, will continue to coach the 7s team through the National Championships later this month.
“It was important we got a candidate in soon, because we definitely want him acclimated for the spring season, for 15s coming up,” said Huckaby. “With his approach and coaching philosophy, I feel like he’s going to be a good fit here at Arkansas State.”
Delaibatiki was drawn to Jonesboro, Ark. by the amount of administrative support for the rugby program and the Red Wolves’ recent success.
“Arkansas State, just the name itself, the last couple of years has really come up through the ranks in college rugby,” said Delabaitiki.
“I looked at a couple of things with the team, things they’ve done, and I think collectively as a whole, everything about Arkansas State rugby, as opposed to some other job prospect that I could have taken, lured me down this way. Me coming down for a visit and meeting all the boys, I think that’s pretty much what sold the deal for me.”
Arkansas State has developed a strong recruiting pipeline into the state of Texas the last several years, bringing in the likes of Jake and Zac Mizell, Zinzan Elan-Putick and Dylan Carrion. Delabaitiki hopes to leverage his connections in the Lone Star State to continue bringing in high school talent.
“That’s definitely one of my goals, to work a lot harder on recruiting, because I know I have a lot to compete with in regards to Life, Cal and BYU,” said Delabaitiki, “but I definitely know that Arkansas State does have a big pool with a lot of Texas high school teams, so I’m looking forward to continuing that.”