16 October 2018

Veteran Canberra rugby coach takes on one of his biggest challenges

| Tim Gavel
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Geoff Stokes

Geoff Stokes, head coach, Invictus Games. Photo: Supplied by Geoff Stokes.

At first glance the name Geoff Stokes is familiar.

And so it should be. Stokes coached the Canberra Kookaburras for three years between 1995 and 1997. He was also Rod McQueen’s assistant coach at the Brumbies for the first two years as well as nine seasons with Wests.

During his time, he coached the likes of Gregan, Larkham, Roff, Caputo, Didier and Kafer.

Until recently he was enjoying retirement in Cooma after 25 years in the Navy and ten years in the reserves.

After retiring in 2015, Geoff had been doing some coach mentoring; nothing overly strenuous. Then, in March last year, a new life opened up with an administration role with Adaptive Sports in the Australian Defence Force.

One thing led to another and in January this year, he was appointed head coach of Australia’s team for the Invictus Games to be staged in Sydney from the 20 October. Geoff has overall responsibility for 11 sports within the Australian team.

It is no mean feat co-ordinating training programs and schedules for athletes who are service personnel, dealing with battle wounds, mental health issues and training injuries.

In one case, Geoff is organising a schedule for an amputee athlete involved in four sports. The key here is to ensure the athlete isn’t overtaxed by training for one sport when they need to spread themselves across another three.

There are 11 sports in the Invictus Games ranging from athletics to wheelchair rugby.

Geoff says the turn of events has taken him by surprise, “Being the head coach of the Australian team for the games wasn’t on my radar but I have really enjoyed the challenge.”

He says while he has an overarching brief on all 11 sports, he has benefited from the calibre of the coaches working with the individual sports.

As he prepares for the Invictus Games, you get the feeling this may be just the start for Geoff Stokes.

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