Denis and I have only been able to grab some hurried conversations since England’s win over Lebanon. The objective was achieved but as a tired Denis explains it whilst waiting to board a coach,
“Are we disappointed, yes, but it gives us the opportunity to examine, analyse and address those areas of our game where we know we need to and can improve. We came out with a win but need to play better. We’re here to do a job and every last person in the squad is well and truly invested in that”.
The next time we have a meaningful conversation, Denis sounds much brighter,
“The constant travelling is tiring. We’ve been in camp for four weeks now so the last couple of days have been simple days. The lads with families over here got to see them at the weekend and apart from maintenance it’s been deliberately light on the players. Everyone needs a refresh period during a tournament of this length and nature”.
“Like analysing videos for hours on end?”
Denis laughs, “Well there is a lot of that for me and the coaches but then the devils in the detail. Like I said we’re here to do a job”. He pauses, “But we had a good day today”.
“Go on. Make me jealous”.
“We went over to Rottnest Island on Fast Cats as a team and got some beach time. The tan’s coming on nicely”.
He snorts, “It’s a funny period of time. We’re half way through on the calendar but the bulk of the competition and what we’re here for, to compete in the final, is yet to come. A breather’s important. For everyone”.
The players need to know that you’re there for them but you need to be smart enough to know when they don’t want you around.
“Do you spend time with the players or coaches?”
“The players need to know that you’re there for them but you need to be smart enough to know when they don’t want you around. That’s how it should be. No matter how much I try, I’m still nearly 50. But with the likes of Jamie Peacock, Paul Welland and Bubble – we have a good time too”.
If you ever wondered what ex-players turned coaches do when the squad is otherwise engaged, you need wonder no more.
Remember being a kid and sneaking a glimpse into the teachers’ staff room? Who would have thought they got up to those sort of things? Drinking coffee, flirting, laughing. They seemed almost human. (if you’re reading this and are still at school, either as a teacher or student, I’ll take a punt that some things don’t change that much). Turns out the coaching staff on tour are no different. Minus the flirting. Of course.
Three men of steel and the infamous Bubble, winner of the Ken Gee Cup (equally infamous amateur Rugby League competition), give us a glimpse into their staff room (i.e. the gym) before and after their session:
Then there’s the legend that is Doc Brooks. Doctor at Wigan, as well as working in A&E he rides to and fro between his home in Bolton and Wigan’s ground on match days irrespective of the season or accompanying weather. That’s a round trip of over 20 miles. He may be giving away a few years to Denis but Coach Betts is happy to concede, “We almost killed each other”.
What’s the saying? Boys never really grow up into men – they just grow up into bigger boys. Perhaps we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I get tired just watching.
Coach Down Under
This article is part of the Coach Down Under Series.