With Michael “Madge” Maguire set to take over the clipboard at Redfern at the start of next year, NRL fans will witness possibly the best young coach in rugby league at present. So who is Michael Maguire?
Firstly, St George Illawarra’s treble of silverware was not the only one in the rugby league world last season.
Maguire’s Wigan team were League Winners, Super League Champions, and winners of the Carnegie Floodlit Nines, a nine-a-side game featuring Super League clubs and a mixture of Semi-Professional teams and smaller national sides.
It is probably best to note at first the obvious, Maguire was not an outstanding footballer; making eighteen first grade appearances for the Canberra Raiders and the Adelaide Rams over six years.
He got to where he is today; coaching the Wigan Warriors, and soon the South Sydney Rabbitohs, through sheer determination and hard work.
“Madge” began coaching junior sides after first grade retirement in the Canberra region, before taking up the opportunity to become strength and conditioning coach at the Raiders.
He then moved to assistant coach of the Canberra Reserves, and eventually, the assistant coach of the club under Matthew Elliot.
Maguire was soon headhunted by Craig Bellamy in 2004 and was handed the reins in Storm games when Bellyache was on duty with the Cockroaches. He performed well with Stephen Kearney despite Melbourne missing key Origin players.
Maguire was an outside chance to take over from Wayne Bennett when he left the Brisbane Broncos, but the board decided on Ivan Henjak.
It was finally in 2010 that Maguire finally became a full head coach at the expired powerhouse of British football, the Wigan Warriors, and didn’t he make an impact.
Along with a ridiculous number of wins with Wigan, Maguire managed to have the highest points scored over the season, and the lowest conceded.
Maguire’s Warriors posted 922 points in twenty seven league games at just over a 34 point average, whilst managing to concede 411 points at just over 15 a game, winning 22 and losing only five in the process.
Maguire has a number of coaching talents which will help reinforce the star-studded South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2012 and beyond.
Meticulous attention to detail
Maguire’s attention to detail is something likely learned from Bellamy, with Wigan’s set plays carried out with ruthless authority, and their defensive structure second to none. All this was built into a team with some decent defensive credentials from the year before where they conceded 551 points at a 20.4 average in the regular season.
The offensive technique was exquisite from the Warriors, fuelled by youthful exuberance with solid, reliable veterans combining to form a devastating attack, and rock solid defence.
The team is drilled, and never looks to lack direction, something the Bunnies have struggled with at times, especially early in games. Every player knows their role, and have the fitness to ensure they can see them through for a full eighty minutes.
A true professional in the dressing sheds, and to the media
In the dressing sheds he is a drill sergeant, fitness is a must. Wigans set movements are hit with precision, and there are normally second and third options if things go pear-shaped mid move.
He is also renowned for looking outside rugby league for ideas and tactics to refine his style.
Maguire isn’t known for playing the media game. He enters the press conferences, discusses the football, and then wraps it up. No time for mind games, blaming referees or speculation from this man.
Good news for a South Sydney team that struggles with the media glare, week in, week out.
Preference on youth over stardom
Maguire had a fairly solid team of veterans with which he could build, but with no chance to splash the cash like he will with the Bunnies, Maguire would mould his young charges into ruthless, game-winning machines.
Piggy Riddell hasn’t been playing full matches for the Roosters this year, but he’s used to it by now, Maguire preferred his young hooker Michael Mcllorum, and Riddell was there to fill out the numbers.
The average age of the squad Maguire took over was 24.7, but his initial XVII was 27.2, with many old faces and few fresh bright ones. Many players debuted throughout the year to great success, and while the Grand Final XVII was down to 26.6, there were many bright new faces who had tasted first grade for the first time watching from the reserves.
Maguire will not play his troops unless they earn it, and is more than willing to bring up his own lads if he feels the occasion calls for it.
Some Souths players could use the shake-up.
Experience in turning a somewhat contender into a powerhouse
Wigan was not the club they used to be when Maguire took charge. One of the Premier clubs of the 80’s and 90’s, Wigan had fallen on hard times, not winning the Super League trophy since 1998, and their last piece of silverware was a Challenge Cup in 2002.
The club had repeatedly failed to make it past the semi-finals, and consistently had an aura of also-rans.
Maguire changed this in a big way, he was coach of the year, Wigan was team of the year, Pat Richards won the Man of Steel award, and Sam Tomkins won the Young Payer of the Year accolade.
Wigan had four players named in the 2010 dream team, evenly spread out with Winger (Pat Richards), Five-Eighth (Sam Tomkins), Second Row (Joel Tomkins) and Lock (Sean O’Loughlin), demonstrating a team built to dominate all areas of a game.
Indeed, “dominate” is a superlative that does not do justice to how the Warriors tore through their opposition in 2010.
Defence, and performance under pressure
Wigan has had a reputation in recent years for failing to hold on to leads, and choking in big games (does that ring any bells for the boys in the Burrow).
Maguires culture shift ensured that Wigan belted the Crusaders (finished 8th) 38-6 in their first game, and remained top of the league table all the way to the finish. They beat Warrington (finished 3rd) 22-20 at Halliwell Jones stadium, which lifted a curse, their first win at the ground which opened in 2003.
They managed some beltings of decent teams too, with a 48-24 win of Hull FC (6th), and a 32-6 win over the Hull Kingston Rovers (7th).
They punished wooden spooners, the Catalan Dragons 58-0.
Wigan then beat St Helens (2nd) 22-10 in the Grand Final, a fixture which the Saints had lost in the previous three years as well.
Don’t let recent results fool you, Maguires current Wigan outfit which has lost four of its first eight games is ravaged by injury, and should bounce back in the next few games.
While the general public are generally unaware of him, Madge he is held in high regard by Craig Bellamy, Mal Meninga and Matthew Elliot as well as new Rabbitohs superstar Greg Inglis.
Souths are assured a solid candidate to break the Premiership drought in Michael Maguire, and should see a healthy injection of young talent to boot.