The Bay of Plenty Stags might not have the same kudos as Manly, Wigan, Queensland and New Zealand. But the lowly provincial league team now have something in common with those giants - the coaching services of Graham Lowe.
Lowe has dusted off the tracksuit to help out the Stags, who will be the definite underdogs in league's low-key, six-team provincial competition when it kicks off in August. Bay of Plenty secretary Jenny Nahu was even struggling to find a coach to take them on until she made a call to Lowe.
He's so enthusiastic about returning to coaching, he drove down from Auckland on Saturday to watch two games of local club football and intends to repeat the trip every weekend between now and the start of the competition, plus once in midweek to oversee training.
"I couldn't let the history and tradition that is in that area just fade away so when Jenny rang I was only to keen to help out,'' said Lowe.
His verdict on yesterday's football? "It certainly wasn't NRL standard,'' he laughed. "They can all show natural skills over the first two or three metres, but over 15 they run out of juice. They've got natural talent and they are passionate about footy.
"I can't wave a magic wand but if I can capture that enthusiasm it's a good start.''
Lack of numbers, the large geographical spread of clubs in the district and the relative strength of Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury puts the Bay at something of a disadvantage and Lowe says, carefully, that his target will be to "make sure everyone has fun''.
And any secret moves from his illustrious and lengthy career, which brought tests wins over the Aussies, Challenge Cup successes to Wigan and a State of Origin to Queensland? "I'm not sure I can remember them all myself, so I couldn't expect the players to,'' he says.
- Sunday Star Times
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