Joey Johns: Hagan a big loss to NRL

Andrew Johns on Michael HaganAndrew Johns has declared the NRL will be worse off without the likeable Michael Hagan, referring to Hagan as one of the few remaining ‘honest blokes’ left in the game of coaching at the moment. Joey also confirming Hagan as his most influential coach during his playing days.

Johns chatted at length with Hagan during the recent charity walk Joey was hosting for NIB and The BlackDog Institute.

It was during the walk; where Hagan opened up to Johns and discussed the stress of the Eels role and how the distance and commute was hurting him and his family. Michael Hagan’s wife Sue and his daughters Melissa, Lauren and Danielle all still live in Newcastle.Despite the concerns, Johns still didn’t believe Hagan would pull the pin with 12 months remaining at the Eels. In saying that, Johns also felt the weight of the world would be lifted from Hagans shoulders and the former Knights and Eels coach could get his life back to some extent.

“He was obviously sick of the constant grind of coaching, which is the main reason I will never take it up.” said Johns.

Joey also felt that one of the reasons for Hagan quitting could have something to do with how the NRL has changed in recent years; with methodical, ruck-dominated games the norm.

“Rugby league is going to miss Hages. For one thing, it’s going to miss his honesty and his easy-going nature.” declared Johns

Joey sticking up for his former mentor; confirming that in the day and age of cut throat coaching – Hagan remained an honest and easy going guy.

Michael Hagan always put the players first; a players coach – a strong endorsement from Johns. However, it may have been this honesty and support for players that landed Hagan in trouble at the Eels. His decision to keep more experienced Eels on the park during the tougher times this year, was frustrating the younger players at Parramatta – players that didn’t like to be told what to do or held back.

Johns also declared Hagan the most influential coach he played under; a massive call considering the ability and coaches that Joey played under during his time at the Knights, NSW and Australia.

“With all my off-field dramas, he had a lot to deal with and he probably aged quite a bit because of me. But he was able to bring out my best because he understood me so well and was such a great people manager.” said Johns

Without doubt, his greatest triumph was obviously the Knights’ premiership win in 2001. Joey and Hagan combining to topple the seemingly unbeatable Eels that year.

That was Hagans first year as coach and the whole environment at Newcastle that season was ideal, which culminated in the premiership win, an atmosphere totally created by Hagan.

“The thing with Hages is it didn’t matter how good or bad the team was going, his relaxed and steady temperament never changed. We loved playing under him and it wasn’t just me he brought the best out of.” recalled Johns

The game has lost a great coach but even more, it has lost a great bloke.

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