Jason Williams had one of the toughest coaching jobs in Auckland this year, trying to guide what was at times an U21 team through New Zealand’s toughest domestic rugby league competition.
The former Canberra Raiders and Cronulla Sharks enforcer also took the reins at Mt Albert Grammar School, guiding them to the Auckland final. We caught up with Williams to review the year that was, and talk about his future in coaching.
Well, I actually thought we would do a bit better than we did. We had a few young boys, a lot of the older ones retired, so it was a bit of a rebuilding phase.
We were in plenty of games, six or seven, but vital things at vital times cost us.
You’re right about the close games, and at times you footed it with the likes of Pt Chevalier in narrow losses. How frustrating was that to go through?
Very frustrating, and at times it was hard to keep the boys’ heads up throughout the year to be honest. Those close losses can be the worst, you’d probably rather get thrashed than lose in a close one to be honest.
Marist is my old club, I was brought up with them… it was very, very hard to watch.
What do you see for Marist over the next few years. With that young team, you would think the only way is up?
We have got a good lot of raw talent. It’s just experience.
Next year is our 100th year, so maybe some of the boys from other clubs might want to come back. It would be good to see a lot of those Marist old boys like Chris Sio, Keni Gavet and Simon Luafalealo coming back.
You had a career which included over 20 NRL games spread across stints at Cronulla and Canberra, and since then you’ve also dabbled in boxing. Was the plan always to get into coaching in Auckland?
Well I can’t play anymore – my body has had enough – but I want to still be involved some way. I don’t know how far I will go in coaching, but it seemed the best option.
Does much of what you learned as a player in the early 2000s transfer through to your coaching tactics these days?
No! The game is very different. I remember when I saw (former NRL prop) Mark O’Meley pass the ball, I knew the game had changed at that point, because back in my days for a prop it was just hitting the ball up and no passing. The game has totally changed. You still need size but the fitness is the big one now.
You also coached Mt Albert Grammar School’s 1st XIII this year, guiding them to the Auckland final. How was that?
That was really enjoyable. Coaching MAGS was great, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, but we did well with the school. We did well this year and I am hoping to stay and build again next year, half of the team is still at school, so I’d like to.
Do you enjoy coaching the young players more than adults at this stage?
I love working with the kids, they are easier to coach, they don’t have bad habits and they listen! I really want to build league up at Mt Albert Grammar and I really enjoy coaching the younger kids at club level too.