The Wests Tigers’ decision to sack Michael Maguire has divided the sporting world and once again shined a light on the eternal new school vs old school coaching debate.
Maguire was relieved of his duties on Tuesday after a tumultuous three-year spell coaching the joint venture.
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The Tigers now face perhaps the most important decision in the club’s history as it looks to end a finals drought extending back to 2011.
Part of the process will be deciding what type of coach the team wants.
They opted for the hard taskmaster in Maguire who had won a premiership as recently as 2014, but it didn’t pay off.
But is a new school and perhaps softer approach the one that a club needs to lift itself out of the doldrums?
Veteran sports journalist Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock believed that the old school approach with younger players will struggle more often than not.
“When you talk to a lot of modern players, they say there is a disconnect in modern rugby league of coaches about my age or a bit younger with athletes of about your age or a bit younger,” Craddock said on The Back Page.
“They just don’t get each other. I’m not blaming anyone in particular, but it’s the modern world.”
Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja felt that the younger athletes are more “sensitive” which requires a notably different approach than what he’s accustomed to, but believes it’s the coach’s job to “relate” to the different players.
“There is definitely a generation gap,” Khawaja said.
“The younger guys are slightly different. When I came up, ‘shut your mouth, get on with it.’ When I had my first game for New South Wales, we had people like Brad Haddin and Stuart Clark, it was a real old-school mentality of keep your head down and get going.
“But the kids coming through today, they’re a bit different. I find them a bit more sensitive, so even when I talk to them, I have to actually talk to them a bit different. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I think you just have to understand that they’re all different. They’re all coming from different generations.
“You have to try and relate to them on their level which is really important. A coach can be successful from different eras, he just has to understand how to relate to the different players.”
Former rugby league star Bryan Fletcher believes that there is still a place in the modern sporting world for a “hard-nosed coach” but there’s one critical ingredient that ensures their success and without it, like the Tigers showed, it will end in tears.
“You can have that hard-nosed coach, but you need those hard-nosed senior players,” Fletcher said.
“If that’s the message you want to get across, you need at least four or five senior players to back the coach up.
“We saw what happened in Tales from Tiger Town last year. I was astounded after a game, they got beat by about 30, and Madge was furious, so he should be. No-one said a word. The coach left and they just sat around.
“In my day, a senior player would have spoken up. It just shocked me that it didn’t mean enough to them.”
Craddock concluded: “I just don’t reckon you can go back to these old-style coaches. There are exceptions who have better connections with the young ones, (Craig) Bellamy does. But a lot of them don’t.”
However, recently retired NRL stars Corey Parker and James Graham took a different viewpoint.
NRL 360 host Braith Anasta posed the question that Maguire’s supposed reputation for being a hard taskmaster was what ultimately cost him his job, but Parker didn’t quite agree.
“I don’t think so, Braith,” Parker said on NRL 360.
“Whilst Madge has this persona of being a hard taskmaster – I’ve never been coached by him – but in rugby league, you need to have that. Particularly with a group that, in my opinion, a softer underbelly, that being the Tigers.
“To suggest that Madge is a hard taskmaster, come on.”
Graham noted that even if a coach is perceived as slightly softer, it wouldn’t equate to the players giving anything less in training.
“Everyone trains hard,” Graham said.
“It’s not like a new coach is coming in and you’re sat there in the playing group and going, ‘We’re going to have it easy now.’”