Robbo v Arthur: A tale of two coaches
Jack Gibson used to say winning starts in the front office. Maybe old Jack was downplaying his own importance.
Most of the time these days when a footy club is flying it's the players who get the accolades - and when times are tough it's the coach who gets singled out.
It pretty much explains what has been happening at clubs like Canterbury, Cronulla, St George Illawarra and North Queensland recently.
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But heading into Saturday's blockbuster between the Sydney Roosters and Parramatta, it's as good a time as any to acknowledge the wonderful job Trent Robinson and Brad Arthur have done.
It's fair to say that when Robinson took over from Brian Smith at Bondi he was gift-wrapped an opportunity at a club where they had the game's most influential chairman in Nick Politis - with a roster and a system that appeared ready-built for instant success.
But while people will try and make out anyone could have coached a roster like the Roosters had to a premiership, why did it take 11 years for the club to win one after Ricky Stuart in 2002, and before that under the legendary Gibson in 1974-75?
After all, Politis had been there for that entire duration putting the foundations in place.
Yet since 2013, Robinson has now won three grand finals and four minor premierships in seven seasons.
It's even more successful than Wayne Bennett's start at Brisbane.
And if they go on to win three straight this year that won't have happened at the Roosters since the 1930s, and at no other club since Parramatta in 1983.
Not only that, Robinson continues to regenerate the roster with a brilliant mix of key signings and just as crucially building depth through offcuts from other clubs - along with a tremendous development program that has given the club outstanding depth at value for money. He also has them playing a style of attacking football this year that I reckon is better than at this stage in recent years. It's just a joy to watch.
It's just as hard to believe Robinson is only 43 yet has already coached the most games in the Roosters' history.
Meanwhile, Arthur's reign at Parramatta has been exceptional for very different reasons.
When he took over Parramatta was a basket case, coming off two consecutive wooden spoons and with a dysfunctional board along with a salary cap cheating scandal that was ready to explode.
Arthur also had a roster that was not only underperforming but littered with rotten attitudes.
But brick-by-brick he has led the way back - and, by lead, I mean Arthur has lead from the front.
There were plenty of times over the years when no one else at the club had the guts to put their head up during troubled periods.
But Arthur never backed away from his obligations and continually gave the fans reasons and hope why it would eventually turn around.
Now it has.
And despite some really tough times the camaraderie that has developed within the playing group particularly points to one of Arthur's great strengths as a coach.
It is also worth acknowledging how most players seem to improve their football under him, and those little effort areas is where you see it most.
It's hard to believe this time last year Arthur was fighting to get a new contract. Now the Eels have started the season with five straight wins for the first time since under John Monie in 1986.
Arthur is also the second longest serving coach in Parramatta's history behind Brian Smith.
It hasn't been easy, but the perseverance and hard work is really starting to pay off.
They say a football team often reflects the personality of a coach. At the Roosters and Eels that is certainly the case.
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PONGA EXIT HAUNTS COWBOYS
The announcement of Kalyn Ponga's $4 million deal at Newcastle this week is another kick in the guts for the struggling North Queensland Cowboys.
As speculation mounts about Paul Green's coaching future, the decision to let Ponga walk a few years back will in time probably rank up with the great recruitment stuff-ups - in the same ballpark as Canterbury's decision to let Johnathan Thurston go to the Cowboys all those years ago.
Lachlan Coote was the club's first-choice fullback at the time but coming towards the end of his NRL journey.
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NED HAD THIRST FOR SUCCESS
There have been some great stories told this week following the passing of the legendary Noel "Ned" Kelly.
For one of the genuine tough guys in our game's history, there was no shortage of respect, admiration and warmth for a much-loved character - and a champion player good enough to be judged as hooker in the Team of the Century.
Which is more incredible when you consider that Ned suffered from severe cramp during every match he played.
A butcher by trade, the story goes Ned would knock off work at noon on a Saturday and not take another drop of water until Sunday afternoon.
In his early years in Brisbane, that would mean playing a game on the Saturday and another on the Sunday without any water to hydrate his system.
In those days, you may recall it was almost considered a sign of weakness to drink water during exercise.
So Ned went without on weekends, all the while wondering why he suffered so badly from cramp.
Originally published as Robbo v Arthur: A tale of two coaches