Todd Payten is on pace to finish among the coaching greats, with the rookie clipboard holder’s short career already producing compounding irritation at the rate of dog years.
Despite only two games as a full-time coach, Payten is already being mentioned in the same breath as master mentor Craig Bellamy after racing from zero-to-varicose veins in record time.
Should the Cowboys maintain their current deflating form, the former Warriors stand-in could even surpass the famous record set by Wayne Bennett, which currently stands at 846 consecutive NRL games with the cranks.
Payten cut a forlorn figure in the sheds after Saturday’s defeat to the Dragons, a loss in only in his second week. But if you think that looked bad, you should’ve seen him after his first.
While not as demonstrably insane as the Storm coach, Payten has barely concealed the utter despair of coaching by publicly naming and shaming million-dollar players and treating losses like funerals.
When pundits declared “this bloke could be anything” following his magic stint with New Zealand, they were right. Not only for prowess, but also the potential to reach mid-season looking like Bobcat Goldthwait.
Payten’s use of the hairdryer in his first week is an impressive trajectory of surliness for a coach, especially considering that at the same point in his career, Bellamy was only experiencing mild indigestion.
It all points to the 42-year-old being rugby league’s next great stress-head, with his name set to join illustrious company like Geoff Toovey, Ricky Stuart and others who have experienced premierships and/or an ECG.
As we know, coaching is an industry renowned for being a harsh mistress, causing many mighty men to fall victim to crippling indignance and pattern baldness before seeking refuge in commentary or Newcastle.
The only exception to the rule is Cranky Zen Bennett – who is 104 years old but doesn’t look a day over 106 – and Trent Robinson, who smokes.
Payten’s rapid transformation from temperate to pruney Brian Smith has proven again there is one guarantee in coaching: nothing cures sanity better than coaching the Warriors.
But after criticising Jason Taumalolo in his first week and questioning his side’s courage in the second, how will his season look at his current rate?
Week 3: begins weekly phone call to Graham Annesley to “seek answers”.
Week 4: issues Annesley with a beeper and a sentinel.
Week 5: blows close finish at home by messing up his interchanges after being too busy slapping Michael Morgan in front of the grandstand.
Week 5: lightens up and invites fans to training, but only so he can kick chairs at them. Apologises, pleading ‘I’ve 17 blokes hurting in there.’
Week 6: rips change-room door off hinges and begins speaking in tongues. Hair returns in stunning bouffant.
Week 7: attends press conference openly weeping.
Week 8: attends press conference with slide guitar to lament in a depressing country music warble. NRL slaps him with $10,000 fine for disrepute.
Week 9: issued show-cause notice for regularly fogging up coaches boxes – and that’s only at training.
Week 10: demands an investigation.
Week 11: uses team-list Tuesday announcement to publicly challenge Cowboys CEO to an arm wrestle.
Week 26: finishes season in top eight or a straight jacket.