From Builder to Olympian: Hayden Sargeant’s Rugby 7s Journey

In our latest Balance the Grind conversation, we’re excited to chat with Hayden Sargeant, a Gold Coast local who’s not only a Rugby 7s player but also on the verge of possibly heading to the Olympics.

In this interview, Hayden shares his incredible journey from being let go during COVID to making a stunning comeback. He talks about balancing work as a builder while training for rugby, the moment he got the call from the coach that changed everything, and what it’s like to land a sponsorship with BSc. 

Hayden also opens up about his motivation, the support he received, and how he’s preparing for the possibility of representing Australia on the world stage.

Hayden, your journey from being a builder to a Rugby 7s player is truly inspiring. What kept you motivated to keep pursuing your rugby dreams despite the setbacks?

I’ve always had a strong internal drive to succeed. Before COVID hit, I was so close that I knew if I persevered, I could go close to achieving my goal once everything returned to normal. The hardest part during that time was not knowing how long the pandemic would last. My other main motivator was my brother. I wanted to set a good example for him, showing him that if you have a dream and give it everything you’ve got, there’s no doubt you can achieve it.

You started playing rugby to prove a point to your neighbour. Looking back, how do you feel about that decision and how it shaped your rugby career?

It’s quite amusing looking back now. I used to love soccer but switched to rugby just to prove to my neighbour that I was tough enough. I even played up an age group for a few years to be on his team and play tackle instead of touch. I’m not sure how much it shaped my career, but it definitely got it started.

Your dad used to give you $5 per try as a motivator. Do you think that early encouragement played a significant role in your success on the field?

Absolutely! I have such clear memories of telling my dad how much money he owed me during our car rides home. At the time, it seemed so much easier than doing chores to earn money. I was also obsessed with skateboarding, so I aimed to score as many tries as possible to afford the latest gear. I remember one game where I scored a few tries, and afterward, my dad decided to reduce the reward from $5 to $2 per try because I was costing him too much!

Getting that call from Jonny last year must have been a pivotal moment for you. What was going through your mind when you got the invitation to train with the Rugby 7s team?

For sure! A lot was going through my mind at the time. I was actually in the middle of a budget meeting at work when he called. My first thought was, “I hope my boss lets me have the week off so I can train with the team!” Luckily, he did. From a rugby perspective, I felt it was my last chance to make the team, so I was determined to give it everything I had during that week.

Balancing work as a builder and training for rugby sounds challenging. How did you manage to stay disciplined and keep your rugby skills sharp during that time?

I personally don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds. After all, most club players in all sports work during the day and train in the afternoon. With that in mind, I thought about what I could do differently to gain an edge over everyone else. So, I started training in the morning, getting to work early, and leaving early to fit in some extra practice before the training started.

Making your debut in LA and quickly landing a sponsorship with BSc are huge accomplishments. How have these experiences impacted your confidence and approach to the game?

Thank you! The sponsorship world is quite vague to me as it’s extremely different from construction, where I have more experience. Navigating this has been a learning curve, and I’m incredibly grateful to have BSc on this journey with me throughout 2024. Their support has been outstanding in every aspect, providing me with resources and guidance that have made a significant difference.

A big shout out to Taj, the athlete manager, who consistently goes above and beyond by checking in regularly to see if there’s anything I need or any way he can assist allowing me to focus on my performance. I am excited to see what we can achieve together this year.

With the possibility of going to the Olympics just around the corner, how are you preparing both mentally and physically to potentially represent Australia on such a grand stage?

Yes, fingers crossed! I think it’s easy to get caught up in looking at the big picture, and you can easily become consumed by the thought of the event. We are fortunate to have a world series that almost replicates the Olympics every year.

We visit a new country each month and compete against the top 12 teams from around the world. Because of this, I don’t think there will be too much change in how we prepare for the Olympics.

Of course, we’ll keep a few tricks up our sleeves, and perfecting those in the weeks leading up to the event will be crucial. This ongoing international experience gives us a solid foundation, and the consistency of our training and competition schedule should help us perform our best when the time comes. 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.