New Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire is returning to the NRL a wiser coach
Michael Maguire has woken sleeping giants before. He wants to do it again as he prepares to take control of the Wests Tigers.
“I see it as a big club,” Maguire told The Australian. “It has a massive membership base. I was very fortunate to see the fans enjoy what I created at South (Sydney).
“I think it is a huge club and it is a bit of a sleeping giant if we get it going and get it up to the heights we all want.
“I am really happy. We have a lot of good things and people in place. The club itself is financial now.
“That is what was appealing to me — where the club was at.”
Maguire was confirmed as the Tigers’ new coach at the weekend, taking over from Ivan Cleary with the club still in the midst of a rebuild.
He was also in the mix for the Brisbane Broncos but has no complaints with how the coaching merry-go-round came to a halt — Anthony Seibold, the man who replaced him at Souths, is expected to be confirmed as Broncos coach for 2020 today.
While he is overseas for another fortnight with the New Zealand side, Maguire wasted no time speaking to the club’s leadership group and is genuinely enthused about working with the players, in particular halfback Luke Brooks.
The 23-year-old, who went close to winning the Dally M Medal this year, is off contract at the end of next season and his retention will be a priority for Maguire as he plans for the future.
Brooks can begin fielding offers from rival clubs tomorrow but Maguire won’t give him up without a fight.
“He is a great talent, he is my style of half,” Maguire said.
“He can play straight, he gets deep into the line, he pushes the team around the park, he has a good kick on him and he puts his body in front defensively.
“He is definitely my style of half so I am looking forward to working with him.”
Maguire arrives at the Tigers having used his sabbatical wisely. Not long after he parted ways with Souths at the end of 2017, he travelled to Africa with aid agency Caritas Australia.
He spent time at myriad sporting organisations, using the opportunities to broaden his own knowledge in preparation for his return.
He visited the Melbourne Storm, where he was once an assistant coach to Craig Bellamy, on at least two occasions. He crossed the Tasman and spent time with New Zealand rugby union clubs.
He satiated his hunger to coach by accepting a job with New Zealand — only a fortnight ago he led the Kiwis to a win over Australia.
He took a job at the NRL where he worked with the referees. At each stop along the way, he picked up information that he believes has made him a better coach.
When the opportunity came to return to the NRL, he adopted the patient approach, confident in the belief that his ability and resume would create an opening.
He considered Manly. He spoke to Brisbane.
Ultimately, the Tigers held sway and Maguire could not have been more impressed with the club and their leadership.
“I think I have been patient,” Maguire said.
“I looked at a few things along the way and did a few things around the NRL. It was really good to learn around other areas of the game and people within the game.
“It has been a really good time for me even though I wanted to be in the game coaching.
“Coaching is obviously what I love doing.”
Maguire already has a premiership, having led Souths to their first title in more than 40 years. However, he is confident he returns a better coach than the one who parted ways with the Rabbitohs at the end of 2017. His critics suggest he is too intense but Maguire has learned to stop and smell the roses.
He never forgot the privileged position he occupied — only this week it emerged he sent a package of Souths memorabilia to a nine-year-old Rabbitohs fan who had written a letter thanking him for what he had done with his former club.
“Time will tell but I reckon I am more aware of things now rather than just being so focused about what goes on in one club,” he said.
“I am aware of what goes on around the game. I would like to think the relationships I have had time to build over the last 12 months have helped me.
“I was able to get over to New Zealand and get into various clubs over there and meet people. I have definitely looked at other sports and spent time understanding what makes a club and how it ticks.
“I think I have a deeper knowledge now of what makes a club. Also enjoying it while I am doing it. Sometimes you are in the heat and not realising how great the job is.
“It has made me really appreciate what it is to build a team and a strong team.
“I learnt a lot off refs, I learnt a lot off administrators, I learnt a lot off the international game. I like to think it is going to make me a bit wiser.”