Once the man who helped Kelston to become the kings of New Zealand secondary school rugby league, Phil Gordon will return to west Auckland in 2019 as one of the new co-coaches of the Te Atatu Roosters in the Auckland second division.
Here’s our catch up with him ahead of the pre-season getting underway.
2019 will mark a return to first-team coaching for you Phil. What was the motivation to take on the co-coaching role at Te Atatu?
It was an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, to coach a top side. The club is in a bit of a different situation than Mt Albert. I really enjoyed my time with the Lions – there were some great people at Mt Albert – and I was lucky to work with the likes of Cody Walker, Willie Swann and Boycie Nelson, and I learned a lot from them.
Te Atatu have a desire to be a permanent fixture in the Fox Memorial. That seemed like a great challenge. It won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to it,
What was the situation at Mt Albert – was their an offer on the table for 2019?
I possibly could have been up for the reserves job again, but I didn’t pursue that. Mt Albert have got a very well proven coach in John Ackland for the next couple of years, and they have got their vision.
Talk us through why you think yourself and Keith Hanley will work as a partnership at the Roosters?
The last three years I have been part of the Akarana premier coaching team with Keith, and we have won three titles together, in addition to working together at Mt Albert. So in a variety of different ways we have worked together.
He is a good fella, very experienced, and he is the sort of guys who will let me do my thing, while he does his, and we will work together.
You’re a west Auckland man with a long history with Kelston, how much of a factor was that in your decision?
Absolutely it was a factor. While it’s not my junior club, it’s the junior club for much of my family and a large part of my wife’s side. My brother in law was a Te Atatu junior, my father in law coached over there, my wife’s uncles and all that are all Te Atatu fans.
I love being a west Aucklander and will do whatever I can to help out the people in our area if I am in a position to.
Speaking of Kelston, do you have any desire to return to being involved with the school’s 1st XIII team?
I have learned never to say never. The way I feel about Kelston, if I have an opportunity to help I would find it hard to say no. We have a great community there, so I would always help out our boys if I was in a position to.
Off the field you’ve also had a big year, tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to in terms of education in 2018?
I have been studying a total immersion Maori course for a full year, full time. I was lucky enough to receive an educational scholarship sabbatical from the Ministry of Education, which allowed me to do my study while getting paid normally, while the school didn’t lose any staffing or anything.
It has been hugely challenging, it has opened my eyes. Being of Maori descent… it helps in everything you do, it changes your outlook and I do feel more of a complete person. I think it impacts on everything you do.