Coaches walk same path to opposite sides
February 22, 2013
Glenn Jackson - SMH
Rugby League Writer
THEY lived a few blocks from each other, attended the same school, advanced to head coaching at the same club based in Perpignan, France, and will lead NRL clubs for the first time in round one. Yet perhaps the most important thing that Mick Potter, the new Wests Tigers coach, and Trent Robinson, the new Sydney Roosters coach, share, is less obvious.
‘‘They’re both determined,’’ said Peter Mulholland, who coached them at rugby league nursery St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown.
Potter and Robinson, NRL coaching newcomers, will oppose each other in the Foundation Cup trial at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. In doing so, they will continue a long line of top-level coaches to have emerged from the school; Jack Gibson, Tim Sheens, Daniel Anderson and Jason Taylor are all alumni.
Mulholland is a big believer the best coaches need work ethic more than they do ability as a player to succeed - and both his former students have it. ‘‘It’s a will to succeed, and it probably comes from a common theme in their background,’’ he said. ‘‘They haven’t had easy lives; they’ve had to work hard, and they’ve appreciated what’s been done for them. They also appreciate the effort required to get to the top.’’
It was Mulholland who convinced Potter to move from Elderslie High School to St Greg’s, after he impressed as a 15-year-old in an under-18s side. Even then, he was a ‘‘good student’’. It has come as little surprise to Mulholland that Potter, who he also convinced to move to the Western Reds with him, would be coaching in the NRL one day.
Ditto Robinson, whom he taught for five years at St Greg’s and coached for one. He was a ‘‘hard, uncompromising’’ back-rower, perhaps never destined for greatness on the field but certainly success off it. ‘‘He was always thinking about things,’’ Mulholland said. ‘‘Sometimes you had to explain things a few times to some players, but Trent picked up things very easily.’’
The coaching careers of Robinson and Potter might have forked into the NRL at the same time, but they were still more than a decade apart at school. Potter, 49, has served a long apprenticeship, while 35-year-old Robinson’s ascension has come rather quickly.
Even though they lived in the same suburb, Camden, they rarely crossed paths. As Robinson was going through the final years of school, Potter was finishing his time at St George. Robinson recalled the first time he met Potter was in 2002 at an SG Ball clash, yet speculates the meeting was more memorable for one party.
‘‘I don’t think he’d remember,’’ he said. ‘‘I knew where Mick lived. He was always quite unassuming and pretty discreet but everyone knew where he lived. His house was just around the corner from us. But the first time I had a long conversation with him was when he first took over at Catalans - I was coaching Toulouse at the time.’’
So from the same streets of Camden, two former students of the same school will meet again ahead of their NRL inaugurations. Both have taken over from experienced coaches and have talented rosters at their disposal. Both have a will to work as well as win - which has their former coach Mulholland, tipping them to succeed.