Rabbitohs revelling in Maguire revolution
He’s the quiet man behind the South Sydney revolution, but Michael Maguire sure has made an impression on his players.
There were a few eyebrows raised when the Rabbitohs brought the former Melbourne assistant coach back to Australia from a successful two-year stint with Super League giants Wigan.
But the 38-year-old, who only turned up at Redfern after Wayne Bennett decided against joining the club to take up a four-year deal worth $6 million from Newcastle, has impressed in his first season in the NRL.
His appointment received little fanfare in comparison to the glitzy unveiling of Bennett, but his impact on the club has been huge.
“Madge (Maguire) came in and just changed everything,” Souths forward Eddie Pettybourne told AAP.
“It wasn’t just training, it was recovery stuff, proteins his staff make us take after training it’s all very different. He leaves no stone unturned.”
With a roster containing Sam Burgess, Dave Taylor, Greg Inglis and Nathan Merritt, Souths still failed to make the finals under veteran coach John Lang last year.
And Pettybourne, who leaves Souths at the end of the year to join Wests Tigers having been at the club since he was a teenager, is well qualified to assess the difference Maguire’s made.
“Everything we do has stepped up a level from how it was before,” he said.
“There is more structure to how we play, training is far more intense and we are more focused on what we are doing.”
Until 2012, little was known about Maguire outside of Melbourne, where he spent six years as Craig Bellamy’s assistant.
But he’d cultivated a huge reputation in England by guiding Wigan, who like Souths are a club with an illustrious past, to a first premiership in 12 years in his debut season.
Former Parramatta and St George Illawarra hooker Mark Riddell was part of that Wigan side and can see similarities in Maguire’s approach.
“I laugh when I hear Souths players saying they are taking each game as it comes, because that is Madge all over,” Riddell told AAP.
“He was telling us to say exactly the same at Wigan when we were going well.
“He’s all about getting the little things right, but don’t let that calm exterior fool anyone, he can blow up and spray as good as anyone.”
Souths’ season turned on Maguire’s decision to switch Greg Inglis to fullback in round four – a move he replicated in England to great success with Sam Tomkins.
Tomkins was a talented but erratic five-eighth before Maguire’s arrival, but now one of the best No.1s in the world.
“What he’s done with Greggy is exactly the same as he did with Sam,” said Riddell.
“Both are great players and it was a calculated risk switching them.
“It worked at Wigan, but there is still a long way to go in the season before we can say it has at Souths. But they are looking fantastic at the moment.”
Souths co-captain Michael Crocker worked under Maguire at Melbourne, but admitted he’s surprised at how much he’s learned from his coach.
“I knew he was a good coach at Melbourne, but I didn’t realise he’d be this good,” Crocker told AAP.
“He is always looking at new things and very passionate about how we can improve and that rubs off on the players.”© AAP 2013
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