GOLD COAST, Australia -- Stand-in Australia sevens captain Jesse Parahi lauded outgoing coach Andy Friend as an "outstanding man" as the men prepare for a change in direction under "quirky" Tim Walsh.
The curtain came down on Friend's tenure on Sunday as the Aussie men recorded a fifth-place Commonwealth Games finish with a victory over Scotland at Robina Stadium.
Having been pushed aside to accommodate Walsh, you could have forgiven Friend for taking a parting shot at his employers, particularly after he'd guided Australia to Sydney Sevens glory only three months prior. But he was classy to the end, Friend hugging each and every one of his players as they left the field following victory over the Scots.
"I continue to be A, really grateful for the opportunity I've had; it's been a great two and a bit years," Friend said. "But, B, probably more importantly, I'm just really proud of that group of players. We've had massive changes over that two-and-a-half years but for this young group here and our staff, they work tirelessly; they're good people which I think is really important, you see the energy and their passion on the field when they play.
"I think all Australians should be really proud of them."
Parahi paid his coach the ultimate compliment in praising Friend's work, both on and off the paddock.
"He's been outstanding for us. The last two years of my life have meant a lot to play under him and be coached by him," Parahi said. "I think I'm a better man because of the way he's taught us. You speak to any of these blokes that played on the field just then and any of the blokes at home, they'll say the same thing: he's an outstanding man and we're really going to miss him."
While Friend helped turn the men's team into World Series contenders, Walsh's record as coach of the women proved too spectacular for Rugby Australia to ignore. Having taken Olympic gold and the 2015/16 World Series crown, an inaugural Commonwealth Games gold medal for women's sevens would have been the perfect parting gift.
But it wasn't to be as Australia were beaten 17-12 in extra time by New Zealand.
Assistant coach John Manenti will take charge of the women in the short term while Australia star Emily Cherry warned the men to prepare for a change of approach under Walsh.
"Unique I think is an understatement, he's [Walsh] very quirky and he's very innovative," Cherry said with a smile. "Before this tournament he had lighters ... a blowtorch at one stage; he had a dartboard this morning talking about precision.
"He catches the imagination and I think he brings us belief and confidence in ourselves to go out there and just do what he's seen us on the paddock do, just go out there and perform. And just enjoy it as well, that's probably the biggest thing he drills home all the time is 'you've done the hard work'. As soon as we step out on that field we enjoy it and play for each other."
Friend, meanwhile, has no immediate plans for the future but did confirm he was keen to keep on coaching. He wouldn't rule out a return to 15s either.
Friend did have some final advice for the Australia sevens program as a unit however, imploring Rugby Australia to uncover more Indigenous athletes like breakout star Maurice Longbottom.
"Yeah, Moz [Longbottom] is a unique talent and I'm sure there are a few more Moz's out there and that's what we've got to do as a game is go out there and find them," Friend said. "I truly believe the Indigenous race is suited to the game of sevens; Porchy's [John Porch] Indigenous as well, Dylan Peach in our squad as well. So we've got to get out there and find more.
"Onto Moz himself, he's special. He's got feet, you saw in that last game his tackling got better; he's got courage as well. To believe he's only in his first year is quite incredible. Watch this space, he's going to be something really special."