Article by Michael Maguire on PlayersVoice Don’t assume Wests Tigers are going to play a certain way next season. Not even I know what style we’re going to use at this stage. It’s yet to be decided. That process will begin in earnest when I physically take charge of the team at training on Monday. We’ll work it all out over the pre-season. I don’t come with a style and force it upon a team no matter what their playing roster looks like. I coached Wigan one way and South Sydney another way. This year I came at it from another angle with the New Zealand team. I adapt to the people I’ve got within the team. The aim is to continually evolve as a group. If you can do that, the skills of the players improve and they develop into better players, which allows you to go further and further towards becoming a better team. That’s the exciting part of coaching. I’m looking forward to sitting down with each individual player of the Wests Tigers over the coming days and weeks. We must be a strong defensive team. That needs to be instilled or you can’t hope to be successful. In attack we’ve got a number of players with different skills and approaches. There’s Luke Brooks, who plays a straight and fast game, and Benji Marshall, who plays a bit sideways. Josh Reynolds is a real competitor, Moses Mbye comes out of the back and chimes into the line in different ways and Robbie Farah has a variety of skills out of dummy half. Plus there are the guys who go through the middle. I’m looking forward to getting a thorough understanding of each of those players and working the best of what they do into the game-plan we design. A NEW DAWN The aim is to play finals footy. That’s why we do what we do. I’ve got ambitions and expectations beyond that for my time at the club, but first we need to work really hard in the pre-season to put ourselves in a position to create opportunities moving forward. So I’ll be hitting the ground running on Monday. I’ll have done bits and pieces over the weekend after flying in on Friday night and that follows on from communications I had with Wests Tigers staff from over in England. My focus was obviously on the Test series, but I was still able to put a lot of things in place and some of that was based around a lot of young kids starting training last week. The more senior players will start the same day I do. I can’t wait. I feel refreshed. I’m keen to impart my knowledge on the team. I’ve had a bit of a break from club coaching, which wasn’t intended, and I’ve spent a lot of time in my year off just working with many different departments and leadership groups at the NRL. I’ve learned something new and met a lot of good people and really enjoyed it, but now it’s time to get back into club-land and I feel very fortunate to be able to do that at an organisation like Wests Tigers. I see a huge amount of upside in it. When you’re sitting a season out as a coach you look at different clubs and think which one might suit you. I just felt that when the opportunity came around at the Tigers it was a really good fit for me to get back in. I’d been looking for something like this and suddenly it opened up. It’s a club that has really solid foundations, with strong management off the field and great potential on it. My job around that as a coach is to build it up to be a successful club and winning grand finals. The club’s youth will be a big part of us moving forward. The junior scope Wests Tigers have is enormous. Working on creating pathways is something I’ve really enjoyed in the past. I’ve been able to bring through a number of promising young players at my previous clubs, so I’m looking forward to bringing through the next generation of Wests Tigers kids from the local competitions. I don’t come with a style and force it upon a team no matter what their playing roster looks like. I coached Wigan one way and South Sydney another way. This year I came at it from another angle with the New Zealand team. The aim will be to bring the community along as well. If you can get the supporters to come on the ride with you it plays a big part in the club achieving success. People talk about a new coach arriving at a club and it not being ‘his’ squad and that he’ll re-shape it over time. Well, that’s not how I see it. I’m here now, so this squad is my squad and if we all work really hard together then we’ll achieve something – together. I consider myself to be in a privileged position as Wests Tigers coach. The expectation people have of me is that I should be able to take this squad forward. I have no problem with that. It’s my expectation as well. If I didn’t like the make-up of the squad I wouldn’t be here. CHATTING WITH KLOPP, WENGER Before flying home I attended a leadership conference in London and spent time with a fantastic group of coaches and leaders that included Arsene Wenger and Sir David Brailsford. It was conducted by an organisation called Leaders and it was the second time I’d been invited. The first was in 2015. I thought it was a great opportunity at the back end of the tour. It was a two-day conference and I came in on the second day. There were 17 of us in a room and we went through a whole range of topics related to coaching and leadership. People’s philosophies and experiences. Arsene spent what seemed like a lifetime as coach of Arsenal and Sir David runs the Team Sky cycling team. You can’t help but learn even in general conversation with people like them about what it takes to lead a group to major success. How strong a personality you have to be and how much belief you must have in your methods. I’d been in Arsene’s company before. He’s a great fellow. He has enormous experience and his philosophies around success and winning are very convincing, so it’s great to talk to people like that. I was also fortunate enough to spend some time with the Liverpool coach, Jurgen Klopp, on this trip. We talked for half-an-hour about coaching, maintaining relationships with players, that sort of thing. Again, you’re always going to learn something. We spent a day training at Liverpool and the Kiwi players got to connect with all of the Liverpool players and their coaching staff. Jurgen’s in charge of one of the biggest football clubs in the world and he was happy to sit and talk about his coaching life and experiences. The great thing is that it was my first year in charge of the Kiwis and I could see the team building. We had a big win in the third Test and that was very satisfying. I knew the boys had that performance inside them. The way they applied themselves despite the fact they were two-nil down in a three-Test series was a real credit to the team leaders and everyone else in the side. They turned things around in that game and we can now build on that. I think international footy is really alive. I’ve spent the last six months around the Kiwi team, starting with the mid-season Test against England in Denver, and the pride they have in playing for the jersey is palpable. They play for their country, their family and the people in their communities who support them and they really want to take the jersey to the top. There’s a lot of work to do between now and the next Test we’ll play, but I feel we’re in a good place.