Friday, 3 August 2012

Coaches - Who Cuts the Mustard, & Who Does Not

Coaching, Christ.

It is an unrelenting, nerve-shredding occupation. Coping with a whole range of players’ behavioural abnormalities? Jesus Christ. Some of those players reveal a near total ignorance of all known cognitive processes.
Remember when Gus Gould revealed that Trent Barrett was so dense and un-coachable that after much frustration he just had to tell him – repeatedly, and with some force, to JUST RUN STRAIGHT, AT ALL TIMES ?? I don’t either but my brother does because he told me about it when we were discussing who we thought the stupidest players ever were, in a conversation that inevitably originated and ended with Mark Gasnier.
In settler times Aborigines working the cattle stations would put a hat over a cow’s eyes to get it to walk calmly backwards. The farmers had never seen this done and it impressed them. Make of that what you will.
Welcome to the wonderland of first grade coaching.
Bellamy, Craig. I like the way he seethes. I like it how he puffs his cheeks and blows out air as if to say ‘well now…’ in that belligerent way of his. I like the way he occupies the coach’s box like it’s his personal pulpit. I like it how he plays the part of the crazed preacher man ranting and frothing, beneath biblical skies but surrounded by about a dozen Mount Franklin water bottles that he channels his inner seething into and systematically destroys. I like it how you look at him and just cannot imagine him partaking in flabby, human indulgences like sleep. And I love how he looks like he would be lewdly comic away from the cameras, like every anecdote would end with him braying “…AND THAT’S HOW I SPRAINED MY BONER!”

Bennett, Wayne. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Is that from Hamlet? Aren’t all those power-and-paranoia quotes? Everything about him just says ‘let me handle my business’ and as such the twitches around his mouth are more eloquent than anything he can ever actually say. I like the fact that he doesn’t much go in for talking. Neither do I. Although I am clearly not a coach. In any case, when he does speak, you damn well listen. I like that he plays an affectionate and fatherly role in Darius Boyd’s hitherto untethered life. I like this so much that it makes me like Darius Boyd. He follows Papa Wayne from club to club to club! It’s awfully sweet.

Cartwright, John. He is deep in that sink of iniquity that is the Titans. He has heavy frown-lines and an air of burnt out truculence but he seems quite lovely and despite his club’s problems I can’t imagine him indulging in much high-decibel hectoring. Also, he lives on the Gold Coast and has thus far avoided wearing pastel leisure clothes and plastic visors. A good sort.

Cleary, Ivan. If I saw him messily eating a burrito in a food court or something I might be more inclined to believe he is human but I haven’t, so I can’t. Operates with robotic unpleasantness and is already dead where it counts – behind the eyes. 

Flanagan, Shane. He was rushed to hospital with a violently twisted bowel earlier this year. This is really all I can think to say about Shane Flanagan, aside from pointing out that his name is similar to that of True Blood’s Nan Flanagan, who is fierce. Todd Carney seems to think he’s alright. He said he “treats him like a human being” while implying that Brian Smith did not. What else? He has a lovely cashew-coloured skin, and he looks like his favourite movie would be Con Air. Nothing wrong with that. I was watching Con Air at the cinema with my brother the night Princess Diana was killed. 
Furner, David. He just can’t seem to strike the right tone. Sometimes he displays that inane breeziness common to morning TV presenters. Other times he emanates an air of ‘what-can-you-do’ resignation. Sometimes he is waspish and bitchy. Where is the sense of bitter ideological betrayal and urgent anger? I want to see him lapsing into a psychotic episode or two. Something to really frighten those Raiders into some form.

Occasionally, in my more lucid and generous moments, I wonder whether perhaps it is not all Furner. Perhaps the Raiders are just a maddeningly enigmatic and disparate group of individuals who cannot get it the fuck together on a weekly basis. When I am thinking like this I feel desperately sorry for Furner and the good deal of distress they must cause him. He does come across as someone who is just bone tired - psychologically and spiritually weary. Well, what the hell? The NRL is no place for a man who yearns for leisure time allowing him the right to wear salmon-coloured slacks and drink gin before noon. If he requires a rest he should step aside and make way for someone with more stamina. But no. If nothing else the bastard has serious staying power. He is rusted onto the Raiders organisation like a fucking barnacle on a ship. A sinking ship.
In any case, empathising with Furner is an uncomfortable sensation. Thankfully it is also one that occurs rarely and passes rapidly. 
Griffin, Andy. I’m not talking about the Broncos on here. I’m actually officially boycotting them. The stranglehold they have over the Friday night timeslot is the most unfair element of the modern game. Fuck the Broncos.  
Hasler, Des. Oh my god. I love him. Here is a man who is allergic to the saccharine and the insincere. Everything he says is incredible; all flashes of Wildean wit and lacerating, droll humour. My favourite thing he said was about Brett Stewart, after he had come back from his suspension and sexual assault acquittal and was busily marinating in his poisonous misdirected hatred for David Gallop and Dessie defended him by saying “His soul has not been cleansed.” This is straight from the book of Sodom and Gomorrah. Type the words ‘Des Hasler’ into any search engine and you will be treated with ‘Des Hasler dummy spits’ as your first option.
Now he is at the Bulldogs and has every one of those Dogs doing their jobs. This sounds simple but it is not. See: Smith, Brian, and Furner, David.  

Henry, Neil. I don’t know why, but he is of limited to nil interest to me. He’s a very long way away, which may be it. I liked it in 2010 when his Cowboys were playing the Raiders in Canberra and at halftime he forgot himself or had a coaching flashback or whatever and accidentally strolled into the Raiders dressing rooms like he was still coaching them instead of the Cowboys. Awkward.

Kearney, Stephan. He was fired but whatever, I’m still including him. Kearney was like one of those fancy types of honey sold at markets - viscous and dark, with brooding undertones. You just want the Yellow-box though, don’t you, to spread on your crumpets? He was picked up by Parra because he was said to “understand how the Polynesian mind works”. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but either way the process stripped him of about twenty kilos. The ‘steeping in failure’ diet, that’s what it’s called. He looked like some kind of dying Christmas tree.
I’ll miss him. I’ll miss his fine looks. There has never been a coach with such spectacular cheekbones.
Maguire, Michael. Currently being feted as a man of incredible vision and ambition for bringing consistency and structure to John Sutton’s loose and lazy game. I don’t like saying nice things about the Rabbits but my grudging admission is that the improvements in John Sutton typify and reflect the improvement in the entire Souths team. God help me.  
McClellan, Brian. I don’t even know how to spell his name and I don’t care enough to check.
Price, Steve. Both his behavior and his demeanor are cowardly and evasive. He’s hangdog and reactive. Furthermore, he looks like the type who’d always be swabbing at himself with moist towelettes. Not first-grade material, in other words. The rumour that he may have fallen out with Jamie Soward gives him a little bit of cache, but until this is confirmed I will continue to despise him and his tapering face.
Sheens, Tim. Obnoxious. Paranoid. Shrewd and wily. He has an inflated sense of his own relevance, and a smirk that rivals Bruce Willis’. Irritatingly hard to dislike. 

Smith, Brian. Christ, what a crappy coach. Socially and sartorially ill-suited to such a job. Has none of the usual traits of popularity – conventional good looks, smooth manners, an agreeable temperament. As such, he is diabolically unpopular.
The miscreant Roosters have not thrived under him, apart from 2010 when they took matters into their own meaty, scandal-stained hands, administered a self-imposed alcohol ban and played themselves into a grand final. 

Toovey, Geoff.  Geoff Toovey is a revelation. Who knew Toovey was in possession of an hysterical nature? A few weeks ago, after Manly’s loss to the Bulldogs, he displayed a highly likeable lunacy that I had no idea he was capable of. In the press conference he ranted like Mussolini from the balcony. It was unreal. He was pointing and rasping and his eyes were bulging and crazy and I thought ‘now there is a man of passion and conviction.’

In addition to the confiding rasp, he has a creaky, vaguely bow-legged walk and, as I now know, is prone to explosions of paranoia. He is also prone to hyperbole. His manner of speaking is gothic and theatrical. All this is at odds with his bleached out surfer look. He says things like ‘TO FORGE A WIN OUT OF THE JAWS OF DEFEAT’, and makes frequent reference to ‘the football Gods’. What is going on at Manly? First Des with the soul cleansing business and now Toovey preaching hellfire and damnation, like Brother Justin all crazed and enraged in Carnivale?

Business as usual, really.

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