Madge Maguire: Rugby league’s quietest achiever
South Sydney rugby league coach Michael Maguire. AAP Image/Paul Miller
The general public doesn’t know a great deal about South Sydney coach Michael Maguire, but the fanatical army of Rabbitohs fans only care about one thing – the guy is a winner.
In his first season with the foundation club, the man they call Madge has guided his players to the point where they are one game shy of the grand final, driven by a realistic chance of claiming their first premiership in 41 years.
Tactically, Maguire looks to be as sharp as the shrewdest thinkers in the modern game and overriding that, most of his calculated team selections have worked a treat in 2012.
From the outset, he decided to go with untried halfback Adam Reynolds as his team’s organiser. Tick. The kid has killed ‘em to the extent that he won the Dally M Rookie of the Year.
Greg Inglis was switched from centre to fullback and we all know the devastation he has wreaked from the rear of the field. Bigger Tick.
Nathan Peats or Isaac Luke at hooker? Peats has done a tremendous job, hard-working and reliable at dummy half, but now it’s time for a more explosive effort there and Luke was a standout as the starting No. 9 against Canberra on Saturday night. Two ticks.
Souths, circa 2012, have shown they can display the discipline required to win football games, a trait so many coaches have tried and failed to instil in the red and green men for years. Three ticks.
Maguire is a pragmatic man, fair-minded, intelligent and he is not known for being a ranter, nor a raver. A cool head will be needed at the helm as the hysteria builds for Saturday’s blockbuster GF qualifier against the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
Coach Maguire will provide that sense of calm in an atmosphere that might well border on frenzy.
He will find the right words to say to the young-bloods in the team. He will gently chew the ears of his senior, established stars to ensure they keep a lid on things and produce their best on game night.
Maguire has been pretty much a revelation in his first season at Redfern and it’s obvious that Russell Crowe and Shane Richardson knew exactly what they’d be getting when they pestered him to pack up and leave English Super League giants Wigan.
Above all, he brought the ‘D word’ to the club and it is certainly going to be needed in the week or weeks ahead in South Sydney’s exciting campaign.
Maguire, Roarers might be surprised to know, comes from a strong rugby union background.
His was educated at Canberra’s St Edmunds College, an institution which produced stars including George Gregan, Ricky Stuart, and David Furner.
His late father, Patrick, was more than a little miffed when the young Maguire turned his back on union to try his luck with the Canberra Raiders.
“My family was definitely rugby union,” Maguire said earlier in a Sydney Morning Herald interview earlier this year, “But I always had a passion for rugby league as a kid coming through. I always snuck off and played a game here and there.
“The old man was very rugby union early on but I managed to turn him around . . . “
Maguire had considerable talent as a speedy centre and was once spoken of as a possible replacement for Mal Meninga at Canberra in the mid 1990s.
Injuries, however, stymied his progress and even with a switch to the Adelaide Rams (SL 1992-98) he only played 17 top grade games in total.
He broke a bone in his neck playing a game against the Warriors and tried to make a comeback the following season. Maguire suffered another neck injury, decided not to press his luck any further and retired on the spot.
A PE teacher by profession, Maguire gravitated towards coaching.
Canberra gave him a start as a strength and conditioning man in their lower grades and he did so well that he was promoted to the role of NRL assistant by Matt Elliott in 2002.
From there, he scored an important ‘apprenticeship’ gig with Storm head coach Craig Bellamy in Melbourne from 2005-09.
The powerbrokers at Wigan learned of Maguire’s coaching potential and snapped him up for the 2010-11 seasons.
As head coach, he won 79 percent of his games there (26 wins, seven losses) en route to the Super League title as well as the Challenge Cup. He was crowned Super League Coach of the Year in 2010.
And so to South Sydney, a club which proudly (and often) points to its record 20 first grade premierships; a club that has been in drought since its last grand final success against St George in 1971.
As a first timer in the NRL, coach Maguire could easily have stolen this year’s Dally M Coach of the Year gong from the Bulldogs mentor, Des Hasler.
But, no matter. In the eyes of the red and green faithful, MM beats a Dally M hands down.
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