Across an 18-year career as a rugby league trainer, he’s worked with some of the biggest club and representative teams around. We sat down to discuss his career so far and the art of being a good trainer.
To start with, talk us through the various teams you have served as a trainer for over the years, both at club and representative level.
I’ve done a few New Zealand teams, from U16s through to NZ Residents, and the Junior Kiwis back in the day. I have represented at national level with Akarana, and at club level with Pt Chevalier and my other club was Richmond.
It’s not a pathway in the game that immediately jumps out to most, so how did you come to be involved in this capacity?
How I came to become a trainer… I was a backyard footy player playing with mates, and then I had a serious knee injury. The physio at the time said it was going to take a while to come back, and during that rehab process I realised it wouldn’t work out to risk getting injured again.
I was playing for Mangere East at the time under (now Otara Scorpions chairman) Willie Maea, and he suggested to me that I had a good relationship with the players and should have a go trying as a trainer. I haven’t looked back since, so I really credit Willie for getting me into this and giving me that opportunity.
In terms of your preparation for a game, do you basically try and mirror that of what the players do, in terms of the discipline and routine around the days leading up?
Absolutely. It’s about giving it your best, and I always have a mindset to be better than the other trainers who are out there on the other side. It’s about getting the best out of the players and making them successful, because if that happens the whole team is successful.
What particular skills or techniques make a really good trainer stand out from the rest?
What it looks like is always encouraging the players, and kind of coaching out there. You are seeing things players might not see and then feeding things back to the coaches. It’s kind of like a 360 loop, you’re advising the coach on the players and then passing stuff on to the players from the coach.
Sometimes the coach will say things in a way that probably isn’t right, and there’s a lot of explicit words in there, so then it’s about trying to filter that and framing it in a positive and encouraging way.
Maybe this changes from game to game, but when you are out there on the field are you trying to be as upbeat as possible, or more of a calm and consistent voice?
It’s a bit of both. When times are tough you need to stay calm under pressure, but also be up beat and not let your mindset get people down. It is frantic out there, so it’s always about taking a step back and going again. I have always said to the young kids coming up that it’s the top two inches that count, and it will be the strongest mindset that gets through.
Are there any games you’ve been involved in that stand out in your memory?
This year’s Fox final. To be part of that, it’s something that 10-15 years from now, from my rocking chair, I’ll appreciate. To keep a team as good as Glenora to no points, when they had us in every stat area, to keep the boys calm and get through, that’s special to me.
The other game would be the 2011 NSW Cup final with the Auckland Vulcans against the Canterbury Bulldogs. We had that game, but it came down to the mindset and it was lost on the last play of the game, so that sticks out for a different reason.
Has there ever been a game where you’ve made a mistake that cost the team a victory?
I think there’s been times when the interchange hasn’t worked well or the message wasn’t conveyed well. But you take those on the chin, you don’t dwell on them, but you find how you can be better.