Macksville?s mentor, Paul Davis.
Macksville?s mentor, Paul Davis.

Coaches are a-changing


JOHN Cross may have started something when he announced his retirement as Woolgoolga coach at the end of the season.

I suspect he won't be the only departure and we're facing the biggest turnover of coaches - ever - before 2007 is underway.

Crossy made the point the Seahorses would be looking for 'special qualities' in the prospective appointee and in his case, that someone will have to be extra special to live up to the style he's brought to the competition.

People are saying there hasn't been a great standard in Group 2 this year and I agree to a degree.

We're in a transition period and I liken this season to 1994 when we changed from the planned power game of Bellingen and Nambucca Heads to the speed era introduced by Orara Valley, eventually improved upon by the Sharks, before Macksville made their own unmatchable invention.

For a decade, our competition has been the envy of Country Rugby League.

This isn't just for the quality of players on the field - many of whom are not long off retirement - but for another reason often overlooked.

In my job I knock heads with coaches who to be truthful, sometimes must wish I'd disappear up a drainpipe leaving them to get on with the task at hand.

But as we all have a job to do, they tolerate my intrusion, allowing me to get an insight into their habits, little quirks and what makes them tick.

Over the last five years, especially, the cluster of first grade coaching talent we've boasted is my reason why Group 2's standard has passed all expectations.

Maybe it's been a fluke but the club officials who've appointed these blokes must have more insight into human behaviour than given them credit for.

Of course, I have my favourites among them as readers will quickly gather.

And they're not just the usual suspects.

Some of my favourites couldn't even win the toss before the game but made up with it with their "feel" for the game, respect for patrons, regard for rivals and care for players under their control.

A few no longer coach but still play.

I've seen Lee Harvey misty-eyed with pride when blokes he grew up with won against the odds and get choked up with frustration when they came crashing back to earth.

Brad Hart always had praise for friend and foe alike but once shocked me when he rubbished a rival because the bloke acted like a goose.

These fearsome blokes aren't sooks.

They've just got humanity, humility and class.

Others had (or have) the reputation of being hard men but occasionally the mask slipped and I was privileged to see what decent people they are.

Why so much affection for Paul Davis?

One day after the Heads had rolled his boys I observed him rip them up for five minutes without repeating a single swear word.

Tirade over he went around every player in the shed one-by-one, soothing egos, tousling their hair and spreading kind words.

Paul went up to Scott Mieni after beating Coffs last week and dropped some words of praise prompting the Mighty Mo to ring me at Woopi next day.

"I look up to him," Mo said.

"He didn't need to praise my boys like that but he did."

In my fortunate position I hear that sort of thing all the time without having many opportunities to let the public in for a glimpse.

John Cross doesn't know just how right he is.

If as many coaches move on after September 10 as I envisage, we'll be at a delicate stage in Group 2 history.

Getting replacements with ability is the easy part.

Finding men with enough decency to take us to another level will be a little trickier and critical to future wellbeing.

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