The Wests Tigers head coaching drama (the current epic anyway) has been ongoing for several weeks ever since current coach Ivan Cleary was asked to return to the Penrith Panthers.
Cleary did deny he was leaving, albeit a few days after it dominated headlines, news stories and social media chat.
He said he was concentrating on getting the Wests Tigers into the 2018 semi finals.
Now, the playoff dream failed. The NRL season is finished.
Week by week, more and more Wests Tigers fans have been coming to terms with the fact that the man who famously stated the line “you’re either on the bus, or off it” when talking about former player Mitchell Moses wanting to sign with Parramatta, would he himself ‘get off the bus’ before his contract permitted him to.
Fans are fearing that without the bus driver, the wheels won’t turn. More and more fans and now board members are coming to the reality that Ivan wants to join his son Nathan.
Just last week, news outlets were running with that it was fact that Wayne Bennett was to hop on the coaching merry-go-round and arriving in Concord allowing Ivan would be released back to Gus’s kingdom up the M4.
But now, NRL News has learned the Wests Tigers board aren’t keen on bringing Mr Bennett from the Broncos. As much as the Broncos would love to wrap him in a bow and send him south of the border with a “thank you” card taped to it, Wests Tigers want former South Sydney Rabbitohs and premiership winning coach, Michael Maguire.
As a long (suffering) time Wests Tigers member myself, I have faith in chair Marina Go and the rest of the board to make the right call.
If they can recruit Maguire, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Madge could well be what the board and us fans expected from Ivan. And then-some. Here’s why:
- Maguire is available. The Wests Tigers wouldn’t try and “poach” a coach under contract from another club like some other franchises do/can. Even if they possessed the audacity, financial status and media power to be able to.
- He has runs on the board.
- Maguire took the helm at South Sydney and literally took them from the bottom to the top. Despite being let go from Redfern in 2017, you can’t dispute that what he did with that club in taking them to their first premiership broadcast on colour television.
- He was known amongst the players as a strict, but likeable coach and his discipline when it came to fitness and attitude was Craig Bellamy like.
- Who he just happened to assist at the Storm during their “golden” era the record books no longer show. Bookkeeping aside, four years as an apprentice to Bellyache can’t hurt. Oh and for the record, there are no premiership rings on Ivan Cleary’s fingers.
- The Kiwi connection. This was one of the reasons Ivan gave much hope to Wests Tigers faithful, he was the Kiwi whisperer and led to marquee signings Ben Matulino and Russell Packer as well as the return of club legend Benji Marshall.
- Maguire’s coaching job at the moment just happens to be the head coach of the New Zealand international team.
- Player relationships are incredibly important, especially for a club in Wests Tigers who normally has to pay overs to recruit elite talent.
- Beyond those with New Zealand passports, Maguire’s years of experience at other clubs is also an advantage when it comes to signing free agents.
- For example, Origin hooker Damien Cook happens to be a free agent in 2020. Which happens to be Robbie Farah’s first year of enjoying retirement as well. Wests Tigers fans can only dream (most of the time that is literally true).
- Youth. 44 is still young for a coach. Heck, he’s 24 years younger than Bennett. While the experience of Wayne is priceless and yes he may have a few kilometres left to rack up on the odometer yet.
- Maguire can be the Wests Tigers’ next Tim Sheens. They don’t need someone to come in to live out of a suitcase for a couple of years and then fly off into the sunset. They need someone to take the keys to the franchise and have complete control of everything football and to look forward years ahead.
- Ivan Cleary was given this privilege. Luckily, Maguire won’t have to turn the place and the roster completely upside down like Ivan had to. The hard yards have been done.
- He’ll want the job. Maguire this week turned down the head coaching job at Manly. Can you blame him? The Sea Eagles are almost like looking at the the Tigers four or five years ago when they had little money, disgruntled players, poor management and flirted with the wooden spoon.
- In 2018, Wests surprised everyone by winning 50% of their games and knocked off the Storm twice and other top 8 sides along the way.
- Sprinkle a bit of discipline and a star player here or there, Wests Tigers can break their seven season finals drought with one good off season.
- With players such as Esan Marsters, Moses Mbye, Luke Brooks and Ryan Matterson about to enter the peak of their careers over the coming seasons, a good smart rugby league coach can see them reach their peak.
- While at the time of writing pen hadn’t been put to paper, Michael Maguire and the Wests Tigers is a match made in heaven and very likely to happen.
- We’re ready to let Ivan take his bus out west. Mr Maguire, please take your seat of the Concorde of Concord. It’s cleared for take off.