Wane answers the questions you always wanted to ask!
Is it hard releasing a player? Who makes the final call on signings? Shaun Wane answers the questions you may have always wanted to ask a Super League head coach...
Why do rugby league coaches sit in the stands, and football managers stand on the touchline?
“I never understand why they do that. I don’t get it. I go down to the pitch-side before half-time, so I can get into the dressing room quicker, but I can’t see a thing of what’s going on in the game. I think Sam Allardyce once went and sat in the stands but I don’t think football fans like it, they like to see them animated on the side of the pitch. The next time I meet a football manager, I’m going to ask him.”
Is it a similar protocol to football, with managers shaking hands and having a chat afterwards?
“We do if you know them; certain coaches I don’t know, some I do know. I’m friends with Lee Radford (Hull FC) and Brian McDermott (Leeds).”
When was the last day no one mentioned rugby league to you?
“Before 2010. Even when we went on holiday to Dubai I had a text or a call every day... but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like it.
“Unless someone says something stupid.”
How do you turn a blind eye if someone says something stupid? And how do you make sure players ignore criticism, in person and on social media?
“I’m quite strict with the players on this. At the end of the day, people have opinions, and whether you agree with them or not, they hold those opinions. So if I go to Chadwick’s (in Standish) with Lorraine and someone comes up to me and starts giving me their view, I’ll never be rude to them.
“I say this to the players; none of them hear as many different opinions as I do, and I’m never rude to anyone. I’ve told the players that it’s part of the job. We live in a town which is obsessed with our sport and that should be embraced.”
How hard is it to tell a player he has no future with the club?
“It’s not hard. And that’s because we’d have had many conversations along the way, and so he would have half-known it was coming. The key to that is being honest along the way – I’d like to think a player couldn’t say to me, ‘You lied to me’ and it was a shock... being honest with them is the key.”
Do you ever pin up quotes from a rival to motivate players?
“I have done, but not for a long time. Most coaches try and be smart, and don’t give other coaches ammunition.
“I watch the documentary America’s Game, and in one episode there was an NFL coach who was going to dinner with his missus. On the way, there was a radio phone-in discussing who was going to win the game, and the coach called up and said, ‘We will win the ball-game’. And all the players were thinking, ‘We’re under pressure’, thinking he’s signing cheques he doesn’t know he can cash. But it had an effect on the rival team – they did things they wouldn’t normally do – and the coach was right; they ended up winning the game. Have I ever done that? No! But I do like looking for other sports for ideas.”
Time-wise, how much do you spend analysing your last performance, and how much on your opponents?
“Last season it was probably 60-40. This year it will be more about us, and not the opposition. We’re going to have a shift in terms of the footage we show, it’ll be a lot more about us, than them.”
Can you watch a regular game as a fan?
“No. Never. My missus and my father-in-law go mad, because it can be a Thursday night game on Sky and we’ll all be sat there, watching it, and I’ll see something and pause it, rewind it, watch it again... a normal game will take two and a half hours!”
Have you ever changed call signs when players depart, to prevent them telling their new clubs?
“We change them every so often, just to freshen it up, but not because players leave. We have a certain way of doing things here, and if someone who leaves can explain to their new coach the detail of what we do and how we deliver it, good luck to them. Iestyn (Harris, ex-assistant) went to Salford and took everything we do, but it didn’t work. It doesn’t worry me about them knowing.”
Different positions have evolved over the years – which change do you like the most?
“I like how wingers do a lot more than they used to. It’s far better. When I was playing it was a middle’s job to get the set started, now the wingers do a lot of the hard yardage carries.”
Who has the final say on player movement, in and out?
“I do. I’ll say, ‘I want him’, and Kris (Radlinski, rugby director) and Ian (Lenagan, chairman) try and make it happen.”
When you’re looking at signing a player, and you’re confident he is a talented player, how interested are you in what they are like off the pitch?
“Massively. He has to be a decent person, or he won’t be here. I look at what he’s done in the past but I’m more interested in how they are now. I want players who are decent fellas, so that – for example – when we go down to Wales to work with Red Bull, they show respect, they have good manners, they take their plates back after meals...
“If I don’t like a player’s attitude, he won’t stay long. And it’s not about me being judgemental, it’s about what kind of person I want to be with every day at work. It’s partly to do with ensuring they don’t affect the culture, but it’s more about having a good, happy workplace. I want to be in the gym with a player who’s a decent bloke.”
How much contact do you have with referees?
“None. During the week or on game-day. We’ll speak to Steve (Ganson, referees’ boss), but that’s it. The way I see it, if a referee has a good or bad game, we can’t let it be a reason for our result.”
Do you adapt your game depending on who the referee is?
“Yes. There are certain refs who are hot on policing offside, some are hot on interference at the ruck.”
How conscious are you that the cameras are on you?
“Not at all. The only time is at half-time, when I’m on the side of the pitch and a cameraman gets right into my face.... other than that, I’m not aware of it.”
Given the hire and fire culture in sport, why on earth would an assistant coach want to become a head coach?
“Everyone is different but for me, I was a poor assistant. I supported Madge (Michael Maguire) but I was never comfortable being an assistant – I much prefer being a head coach. It’s a lot of pressure, but I like that.
“I like the pressure. This could be my last year or I could have another 10 years here – that motivates you to work harder, longer, smarter.”
How much family-support does a head coach need?
“A lot. From the very start, in 2010 when I went to assistant, I dropped two-thirds of my salary to take that role – I had a good job away from here, I was 45 with two kids and a mortgage. But I spoke to (wife) Lorraine and she said, ‘Do it.’ When I tell people that, they say, ‘I’m not sure my missus would have said the same.’
“There are a lot of sacrifices, my family suffer but they’re supportive and I try and get a balance, I try and get out with them. That’s why, with the players, while they work hard and we ask a lot of them, it’s important for me that those with young kids get decent breaks and spend some quality time with them.”
It’s a Friday night game. You drive away from the stadium... then what happens?
“I’ll go home. I’ll watch the game again. Then I’ll usually try and get some sleep, and I won’t be able to, so I’ll often go through the game again and clip some more footage. We’ll be in for a recovery session the day after, often I’ll review the game with the players, then we’ll clip individuals over the weekend so that, on the Monday morning, I can call the players in and go through everything I’m happy with and not happy with. It’s an obsession. If you want to win things, you need to let it take over your life.”