Dave Craven: Why a coach has to be ‘everyone’s mate’ and a social worker

IT was interesting to hear Paul Anderson say this week that actual coaching only takes up five per cent of a head coach’s role.

Huddersfield Giants' Head Coach Paul Anderson

Any ideas what the other 95 per cent entailed? According to the Huddersfield Giants chief, five per cent was “trying be everyone’s mate” and the remaining 90 per cent he detailed as... “social worker.”

He may have been slightly stretching the point – which had come up in conversation with Hull KR counterpart Chris Chester – for effect but you do get his drift.

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Every assistant who makes the final progression to head coach, at some point, will exasperate how the job really is 24/7 and it’s impossible to second guess what situation they will be required to deal with next.

In Chester’s case, he had the unsavoury prospect last Sunday of having to navigate the rocky path surrounding his prop Adam Walker who had been at the centre of a major Mail on Sunday police story.

In the end, the forward was “stood down” for the game but, no doubt, there will have been many discussions between the player and his head coach – neither of whom will have experienced such a situation previously – before that decision was made public.

Also last week, Wakefield Trinity’s Brian Smith – the veteran Australian who having coached since 1984 probably has, in fairness, witnessed most things – found one of his squad members Richie Owen volunteering to enter a rehabilitation programme with the Sporting Chance Clinic.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott, of course, has had the infamous case of his England full-back Zak Hardaker assaulting a student earlier this year and subsequently being sent on an anger management course.

These examples are just the high-profile ones; there will be plenty others which never reach the public domain and other, possibly daily occurrences, where any one or more of a 25-man squad might just want to go lend the ear of his head coach for simple advice, support or reassurance on any number of issues.

So, therefore, it becomes clearer to understand Anderson’s point and, similarly, it was pleasing to hear Smith’s own positive appraisal earlier this week of the standard of the current predominantly British Super League coaches.

Having worked previously at Hull FC and Bradford Bulls – but his last UK tenure at Odsal being almost 20 years ago – the highly-respected coach recalled: “I can remember around the 89-90 season, and (Wigan’s) John Monie being here as one of quite a few Aussie coaches at the time.

“Someone asked whether a team not going so well needed an Aussie coach and his quote was a beauty.

“He said: ‘No one needs an Aussie coach – everyone needs a good coach.’

“And it’s true.

“It’s good that the standard of coaching certainly appears to me to have improved here.

“I think I even got the label the other day as the only Australian coach in the competition but I’d be hoping that my brother (Warrington’s Tony Smith) is still Australian!

“He’s got his British passport now so maybe he calls himself an Englishman here…

“But, regardless, with Brian Mac, Keiron Cunningham and Baloo (Anderson), Jimmy Lowes, Shaun Wane, Chester and Radders (Lee Radford) – though some have only got their ‘P’ plates on – looking at how their teams play, John Monie is still right. You don’t need Aussie coaches.”