RUGBY LEAGUE Meet the mas­ter of Rebels fate

Youngjohns filled with hope for sea­son as group shows good signs

The Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW ELK­ER­TON matthew.elk­er­[email protected]­lyex­am­iner.com.au

RUGBY LEAGUE: As a ded­i­cated group of play­ers weave their way be­tween a tight group­ing of train­ing poles, Craig Youngjohns looks on with ad­mi­ra­tion.

Apart from a raised breath­ing rate – cour­tesy of his own at­tempt at the re­cent shut­tle sprints – the new South Grafton coach is filled with joy as he ob­serves the build­ing foun­da­tions to a suc­cess­ful Group 2 sea­son.

A stranger among the flock of faces in red and white, Youngjohns has quickly made him­self at home among the play­ing group.

And he is quickly gar­ner­ing their re­spect, which is ev­i­dent in the fact more than 30 play­ers showed up for a pre­sea­son ses­sion de­spite the sea­son not kick­ing off for an­other six months.

Youngjohns brings a pro­fes­sional ap­proach to his ten­ure at the bush footy club after more than a decade-and-a-half in the Wyn­num-Manly coach­ing sys­tem.

It was one of the ma­jor rea­sons he was the first name on the Rebels hit list after first choice Tye Inge­brigt­sen pulled the pin be­fore his ex­pected ar­rival last month.

“I have only been down a few weeks, I moved down from Bris­bane,” Youngjohns said. “I’m happy with my early time at the club. (The play­ers) are putting the ef­fort in al­ready and it seems like a lot of the boys want to start the pre-sea­son on the right foot.

“We are just wait­ing for a few more num­bers, but it is still early days.”

Youngjohns has also taken many lessons from his time work­ing with cur­rent NRL coach Paul Green – when they took Wyn­num-Manly to the In­trust Su­per Cup pre­mier­ship to­gether in 2012 – as well as a few high-pro­file men­tors.

“I have been for­tu­nate enough to have a few coach­ing men­tors over the years in­clud­ing Shane McNally, who coached in Eng­land for a num­ber of years, and cur­rent Aus­tralian as­sis­tant coach Michael Ha­gan who is a close friend of mine,” Youngjohns said.

“Those guys have given a lot to me over the years, and I have been quite for­tu­nate to learn from them. I have taken heed from how they op­er­ate and it has made my coach­ing ca­reer quite suc­cess­ful in that re­gard.”

As for the big­gest les­son he learned from all three, well it’s rather sim­ple.

“The big­gest thing I have learnt is to keep it sim­ple,” he said. “Once you get the ba­sics right, you can get the guys play­ing for each other. But they need to have a level of trust in you, to know you are on board with them.

“That trust takes time to de­velop, but that is one of the ar­eas I work re­ally hard on. I need to also de­velop the play­ers, this is not all about win­ning. This is about turn­ing these foot­ballers not just into out­stand­ing play­ers but also out­stand­ing men and women who are will­ing to give back to their com­mu­nity.”

The Rebels are look­ing for a resur­gence in form after the first grade side missed out on the Group 2 fi­nals se­ries fol­low­ing three sea­sons of grand fi­nal ap­pear­ances.

But it is the cul­ture of the club, de­vel­oped by pre­vi­ous coaches Dal­las Wa­ters and Ron Gor­don, that Youngjohns wants to build upon.

“This is all new to me, it is go­ing to be a chal­lenge, but I am ex­cited to take it head on,” he said. “I just want to get 100 per cent from my play­ers, and to give them 100 per cent of me in re­turn.”

Youngjohns will work along­side re­serve grade coach Josh Na­gle, as well as un­der 18s and ladies league tag coaches Ron Gor­don and Heidi Dal­ton.

The Rebels will have two more weeks of pre-sea­son be­fore they break for Christ­mas.

Photo: Matthew Elk­er­ton

HIGH STAKES: South Grafton Rebels coach Craig Youngjohns is ready to take on a new chal­lenge of bush foot­ball and he has a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy to do it.

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